How an “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” figures prominently in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Maxyne Bursky

By Maxyne Bursky

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is a great impetus for veteran reporters to head into reporting schools and give both students and newbies a taste of what successful and amazing careers lie ahead of them. As experienced professionals, we have the privilege and advantage (and obligation, I would offer) of being able not only to show them a living, breathing sample of what’s possible, but also to give them a leg up on the mistakes, errors, or omissions (yes, omissions) we have made and bring this whole industry into perspective for a new generation of verbatim reporters. We are the face of the past and present, and they are our future.

On Feb. 9, I, along with my husband, Richard, a reporter of nearly 45 years, was honored to present a film I wrote and produced called “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” to students at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The film is a 43-minute spoof of a deposition in which the star commits 47 professional infractions, any one of which could have gotten her dismissed from her job and many of which could have potentially ended her career.

Just to give you a little taste, the court reporter is 15 minutes late to the deposition, and she offers no apology or excuse. In fact, within the first five minutes, her actions clearly point to the fact that the attorneys in the film are in for a very, very long day.

Every time over the past five years that I have presented this film — as well as its sequel, “Evil Zombie Vampire Lawyer from Hell” — I watch it from beginning to end along with the attendees. I never tire of hearing students and veteran reporters alike gasp and giggle at the evil reporter’s bad behavior. It heartens me to know that the principles of preparedness, professionalism, and propriety, not to mention common sense, are ingrained in the majority of court reporters.

Even so, there are those who have come up to me at the conclusion of my lecture at a reporting school or even at a state convention and complained that the film is misguided in that, for example, not being prepared with exhibit stickers, extension cords, and the like is not so bad, or showing up 15 minutes before the start of a proceeding is acceptable. I typically arrive 45 minutes to an hour early, and when a student is shadowing me, I require them to meet me 60 minutes before the scheduled time so that we can chat about what is going to transpire once we are on the record.  My usual response to these naysayers is, “Well, you keep doing that, and next time those clients will call me, not you.”

Each person who watches the film receives a list of those 47 sins that evil reporter has committed, and I encourage everyone to hold off looking at the list and write on a separate piece of paper the number of bad behaviors they observed and then compare that list to the distributed material. I am so pleased to say, when we got to the lecture portion of the session at Brown College, the students were able to volunteer more than half of the unprofessional antics demonstrated in the film.

Brown College requires my book Talk to the Hands, a practical guide for the newbie, to be used by students in their career development class, which is one of the courses offered just prior to graduation. At each film presentation, I supply a workbook for that book, along with exemplars of cover, appearance, and certificate pages, among others, for students to use as a template when first entering into the court reporting workforce.

As a proud participant in NCRA’s online mentoring program, before I get off the phone with a dedicated court reporting student who’s stuck at 150 wpm or who has just emerged from theory and is feeling overwhelmed, I make sure that they know I went through the same angst, managed to get through it, and love (nearly) every minute of my workday.  And the paychecks aren’t bad either!

Because our profession has expanded so rapidly through technology, one of my mantras at every “evil” film presentation, on every mentoring phone call, at every meet and greet for new students, is realtime, realtime, realtime. That skill is what separates the proverbial men from the boys and expands our opportunities for personal and professional growth. In fact, the “evil reporter” is vehement in refusing to provide realtime to the movie’s attorneys.  In my early days of doing realtime, I felt as if I were sitting in the conference room in my dirty pajamas, and everyone present could plainly see how incompetent I was because of a misstroke here and there. I’m not afraid to share this and other similar observations with newbies, to let them know that with time and experience and a commitment to attaining higher speed through practice even after graduation, these insecurities will fade and be replaced with a satisfaction and acknowledgement of one’s own competence that will give rise to that new generation of professional court reporters.

Maxyne Bursky, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter from McDonough, Ga. She can be reached at bullymax1@aol.com.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

NCRA’s weeklong National Court Reporting & Captioning Week kicked off Feb. 9 with state associations, schools, and firms sharing how they are celebrating the week. This is the seventh year NCRA has hosted the event designed to help promote the court reporting and captioning professions to the public by hosting demonstrations, open houses, and more.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives’ official record. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Iowa is expected to deliver a similar speech from the House floor later in the week recognizing the event.

Arizona

Official proclamations have also been secured in the following states:

Arizona

California

Idaho

Illinois

Iowa

Mississippi

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Iowa

Eugene, Ore.

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Wisconsin

What the states are up to

The California Court Reporters Association (CCRA) is hosting several events throughout the week for its members including a “Spread the Love” submission contest via its Facebook and Instagram outlets with a prize of a one-year association membership. CCRA members are also encouraged to share their steno talent at a career fair or volunteer to mentor a court reporting student to mark the week. Throughout the week CCRA will also dedicate one day each of social media posts to highlight members who are official court reporters, captioners, and freelancers. The freelancers’ day will also feature a digital “mixer” via Facebook where freelancers can connect and chat. CCRA is also auctioning off a new ProCat writer on its Facebook page and is hosting a live broadcast about NCRA’s A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

“Court Reporters, the Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a poster the Florida Court Reporters Association has developed for its members to display in their courthouses and offices. The poster provides information about broadcast captioners, CART providers, realtime captioning, and court reporters.


President of the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA) Jennifer Olsen, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter from Topeka, and other association members marked Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a presentation to local county commissioners in Shawnee County in Topeka. KCRA members will also be handing out information and treats all week to attorneys, judges, court staff, administration staff, and building staff in at their courthouse.

In Iowa, members of the Iowa Court Reporters tagged NCRA in one of their Facebook posts, and to date it has reached more than 22,500 people and generated more than 3,500 engagements and 220 shares. In addition, members are posting daily photos of their board members in super hero apparel and encouraging others to share photos of themselves with their machines either with or without super apparel.

President of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) Terri Sims, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Clinton, Ohio, submitted a letter to the editor to all major newspapers in the state about the important work court reporters and captioners provide. In addition, OCRA members are being invited to participate in a Sip & Paint social event being held on Feb. 17.

In Oklahoma, members of the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association are hosting “A Day at the Capitol” for legislators that will include live demonstrations by court reporters and captioners as well as speakers.

Schools the celebration

Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., is hosting an on-campus Court Reporting & Captioning Exhibition in conjunction with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners. The event will feature demonstrations of state-of-the-art technology, tours of the school’s captioning lab, and short presentations. In addition, industry leaders representing realtime captioners and court reporters will also be on hand for the festivities. There will also be pizza, steno cake, coffee, soda, and prizes.

Faculty from the court reporting and captioning program at Green River College in Auburn, Wash.,  have tasked students with going out into the community and setting up their machines, practicing, and taking photos to try to spread the word about how great a career in court reporting or captioning is. Students will also be armed with information and be posting on social media throughout the week. In addition, one student will be traveling to Italy with her machine and will provide pictures. The photos will then be collected and used for a calendar. To further help students celebrate the week, Byers & Anderson, a court reporting firm in Tacoma, will be hosting a tour of its facilities and host a brunch and a Q & A session with working professionals.

Firms are celebrating too

AB Court Reporting & Video in Denver, Colo., branded a flyer designed by NCRA to help promote the week and the important work that court reporters and captioners do that the firm will share on its social media outlets throughout the week.

For the second consecutive year, Planet Institute, a division of Planet Depos, based in Washington, D.C., is offering three $1,000 scholarship opportunities to qualified students and recent graduates of the nation’s court reporting schools. Those who qualify to apply for one of three $1,000 scholarships are, specifically, students near completion of the program or who completed a court reporting program within the past three months.

And don’t forget the prizes

The NCSA State Challenge is a friendly contest among state associations and individual NCRA members to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning. The 2019 NCSA State Challenge marks the fifth year the gauntlet has been thrown down. Winners will receive a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education.

This year, NCRA has issued its own challenge as well that calls on all state affiliates to help celebrate this year’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week by securing an official proclamation recognizing the week by their state governor or a state lawmaker. States that submit a copy of their official state proclamation to pr@ncra.org will be entered into a drawing to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration.

A downloadable sample proclamation is available on NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning resource page.

For additional resources, visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page. No matter how you celebrate 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, be sure to share your stories and photos with NCRA’s Communications Team at pr@ncra.org.

Read more about what others are doing to celebrate NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Nominations open for awards and scholarships, including the all-new NCRA A to Z scholarships

It’s time to recognize someone special! Every year, NCRA offers members several scholarships and awards to bring attention to the people who are contributing to the profession in important ways. In addition to the annual scholarships managed by the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the National Court Reporters Foundation has initiated an all-new scholarship to help students who have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Machine Shorthand program with the next step in their training. Scholarships are supported by funds from the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF).

Nominations are now open, so consider nominating individuals for these special opportunities:

CASE scholarships.Five scholarships are available. Students attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program and writing between 140 and 180 wpm are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. Teachers and mentors, let them know that you see their potential. The nomination period opens Feb. 15 and nominations close April 1.  

NCRA A to Z ™ scholarships. Up to 10 students will receive a $500 scholarship. Qualified applicants must have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program as well as pass a skills test writing between 60 and 100 wpm, among other eligibility requirements. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

 CASE Educator of the Year. This special award is for a court reporting instructor. Was there someone special who inspired you, who got you through the ups, downs, and plateaus of your court reporting classes? If your teacher was an incredible influence in you getting started, now is the time to say thank you by nominating that special someone for the CASE Educator of the Year Award. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters. If you know a dedicated court reporter or captioner who has contributed to the profession in a big way over the years, nominate that person as a Fellow. Candidates must be active practitioners in the field and have at least 10 years of experience. Criteria for nomination include the publication of important papers, legislative or creative contributions to the field, and service on committees or boards. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

Share these videos to promote the profession

“I can go to any city I want,” Isaiah Roberts

Just in time for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning week, NCRA has  released a series of shareable videos that promote the profession from the perspectives of a variety of stenographers with different stories about how they got started, why they love what they do, and how the profession has enhanced their lives.

Share these videos on social media and email them to your friends to spread the word about the opportunities in this field. It’s a great thing to do this week or anytime you want to promote the profession.

Just in time for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning week, we have new videos ready to share. You might have seen them on the NCRA Facebook page this week. The videos show NCRA members saying why they love what they do. They highlight the different reasons being a court reporter or captioner is a great career choice.

We urge you to share these videos on social media to spread the word about all the opportunity in our field. It’s a great thing to do this week or anytime you want to promote the profession.

The videos are:

Nothing can compare to this job with Pam and Danielle Griffin

I was so lucky to stumble upon this job with Nancy Hopp

It’s a career that I absolutely love with Charrise Kitt

Seated close to former President Obama with Steve Clark

You can grow this career to anything you need it to be with Merilee Johnson

I can go to any city I want with Isaiah Roberts

If you know people interested in taking the first steps to a career in court reporting or captioning, send them to ncra.org/discoversteno.

I love my job (my love affair could be yours, too)

By Brenda D. Blackburn, RPR

Brenda Blackburn

I have proven myself to be resilient, determined, and steadfast in my profession, and I have embraced many technological advances throughout the 35 years I have reported.  In 1979 I was majoring in English when I agreed to go with a friend to the business school at Ole Miss to check out something. I was killing time and without direction. When we entered the room in the business school, it was filled with these strange little machines. That was the first time I had seen a shorthand machine, although my dad had made me aware of the profession a few years before.  He had known a man that was a stenographer. When I saw that machine, the next thing out of my mouth was, “I want to do that.”  I guess it was love at first sight, and it has lasted.

Working as a waitress in college, I struggled financially to say the least. When it came time to buy a $500 manual shorthand machine, I was also short. I borrowed most of it from my roommate. I am certain she never expected to see the balance. I know I felt I would never make it. By the grace of God I made it beyond that to complete my shorthand requirement, 225 words a minute, and began freelancing in Memphis, Tenn. About six months later, I was appointed as an official in Chancery Court; and later Circuit Court in Mississippi. Sometime in the ’90s, Mississippi created a CSR board and required its reporters be certified. I was grandfathered at that time, based on my years, but took and passed the Registered Professional Reporter exam in 2004.  Around that time, I also qualified in the Magnolia Cup Speed Competition held in Tunica, Miss.: 96.5 percent accuracy, 200 wpm Legal Opinion; 95.7 percent on 200 wpm Literary; 96.2 percent on 250 wpm Jury Charge. After all these years, I keep striving to improve.  As I always say, “I’m not dead yet.”  I practice every day.

I have heard matters of child support, divorce, murder, city annexations, patent cases, and, most famous, the estate of Robert L. Johnson, the blues singer. I have taken the testimony of the medical examiner who determined that, yes, Elvis is dead. Most importantly, I know that each time I have reported the ordinary everyday type of case, I have remembered to put myself in that person’s place, whether defendant or victim, or parties in a civil matter. I always remained impartial regarding the record, and stood up against small-town public opinion at times to maintain the integrity of the record with regard to defendants’ rights.

Brenda Blackburn in 1979

The years I have had in this career have been a great gift. They have taught me a lot about others and myself, and they definitely remind me each day how blessed I have been through the good times and bad. I retired in 2015, after 32 years as an official. I felt a little lost at first because this work has been so much a part of my life.  I began freelancing again, and I am learning something new every day, regardless of my experience.

I volunteer for an NCRA program called the
A to Z™ Intro to Machine Shorthand program , and I have begun to try to encourage some young people into this profession that I hope will develop the same love I have for that little machine and fill some of those vacant positions we have in Mississippi.  What an awesome profession when you can work 35 years and not want to stop.

I don’t know why I had not done this before, but I recently attended my first national convention in New Orleans, La. I am glad I checked this off my bucket list. I was definitely inspired.  I also made some very special friends. Our profession is filled with such a unique and creative group of people. I am so proud and thankful to be one of the proud, the few, the brave in the most unique profession in the world.

Interested in joining the ranks of the elite and becoming a court reporter?  E-mail me to find out where A to Z classes might be held in Mississippi:  lakesidereporting@outlook.com.

Brenda D. Blackburn, RPR

Mississippi Delta (Greenville, Mississippi area)

Alternatives to traditional college: Become a court reporter

An article posted by Forbes on Feb. 1 features an interview with M. Alexis Stephens, president of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., about the benefits of attending court reporting school versus a four-year college.

Read more.

Remote CART at University of Wisconsin-Madison

By Kris Wurgler

I am a CART captioner at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Within the last two years, our team has consistently been providing more remote services to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students as an option for their captioning accommodation. The purpose of this article is to highlight what remote CART looks like at UW, how it’s coordinated, and the advantages and disadvantages of it from the perspective of both the students receiving the accommodation and the captioner.

It takes a village

First of all, let me provide some details regarding the CART team. The McBurney Disability Resource Center is responsible for providing academic accommodations for all university students. These accommodations encompass everything from extra time on tests to wheelchair accessibility. Within this spectrum of accommodations, students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (who are referred to as DHH students) may request the following accommodations: American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, CART, C-Print, captions on all media shown in the classroom, FM systems, seating preferences, etc. Options for CART services are on-site (student sits next to provider in the classroom), on-site wireless CART (student and provider sit apart and connect remotely), and remote CART (only student is in the classroom and provider is back at McBurney). UW-Madison employs three full-time CART providers, a full-time ASL interpreter, a DHH accommodation specialist/CART coordinator, an assistant director for DHH Services, a remote/media captioning coordinator, and students to sync captions from CART transcripts for videos shown in the classroom.

Streamlining the process

As more and more students preferred and requested remote CART, the process had to become more streamlined. Once students register for classes and request a CART accommodation, our remote coordinator needs to assess where those classrooms are on campus, investigate if the classroom has an existing audio source like a podium with a microphone, and then potentially get tech support involved to update and configure a classroom with Wi-Fi and microphone accessibility. 

To caption remotely, you need a platform on which to stream the captions. After trying out a few different services, we are currently using StreamText. Our remote CART coordinator sets up sessions for each remote class, such as Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11 a.m. Biology in Ingraham; Tuesday, Thursday 12:05 Chemistry in Humanities, etc. 

The students also have to complete a few tasks before the semester starts. They are required to attend a training session on how the remote setup works, pros/cons of remote, and its setup in the classroom. Students also need training on how to actually see the captions during class. They need to log into a web browser such as Chrome or Safari, go to the Streamtext platform, log into their session, let the CART provider know they are present, and start watching the captions. 

At this point in time, our remote coordinator has been able to ensure the accommodation utilizing the audio sources in the classrooms such as a podium with a microphone. However, as remote CART becomes more requested and we encounter classrooms with no microphones and/or podiums, we’re anticipating that students will have to bring a portable microphone to class and hand it to the professor to wear. That would then become the audio source for the CART provider back at McBurney.

Remote CART studio    

We needed a quiet space to avoid distractions and interruptions when captioning remotely.  McBurney transformed a traditional office space into the remote CART Studio. There are three stations. Each of us has noise cancelling headphones to hear the audio in the classroom. Let me point out a couple interesting things about this remote setup. The left computer screen is displaying the professor’s PowerPoint for that particular class session. There is a foot pedal below my steno machine that allows me to advance the slides as I’m following along with the class. We have a very good relationship with professors on campus and more often than not they share their PPs in advance of each class so that we can use that to prep for terminology. The yellow handwritten notes are my prep for that class which contains specific words for the class and potentially the steno strokes corresponding to troublesome terms.  

On the top left of the right computer screen, there is the Skype connection from which I receive the audio feed from the classroom podium. The foreground screen (right) is the StreamText screen that the student sees. We can also chat to each other through that platform. The background screen (left) is my Eclipse file for the class.

Advantages of remote CART

Let’s list some advantages from the student’s perspective. First and foremost, the student is completely anonymous. No one else in the classroom can tell that they are the one receiving an accommodation. There is no “old” person sitting next to them with a clunky machine and laptop.  They look like every other student in the classroom taking notes on an open laptop.  Another advantage is that they have immediate access to the transcript in realtime and after the class is over. 

There are also many advantages for the CART provider. We can take more back-to-back classes.  The UW-Madison is a huge campus. Without having to rush from one building to the next, remote CART is similar to disconnecting one call and making another call. I even have time to run to the washroom! There is less wear and tear on the equipment. All of the standard activities that we do — from bumping down the sidewalks to tearing down and setting back up — take a toll on steno equipment. Also there is less wear and tear on the CART provider’s body due to walking all over campus. 

Disadvantages

For the students, very occasionally Wi-Fi issues can arise. You can imagine 50,000 students logging into the Wi-Fi at the same time can cause quite a traffic jam. Another issue we’ve encountered is if the professor forgets to turn on the microphone or the batteries die. In either case, it’s up to the student to make the professor aware that a fix is needed.  Also students need to know that using a platform like Streamtext does not allow for all the Greek and math symbols to appear.  So the CART provider might need to write those symbols out in English (for instance using the word pi instead of them seeing π[JS1] ), which can be difficult for advanced STEM students.

From the CART provider’s perspective, we can only hear the voice speaking into the microphone. If there are any student questions, the professor needs to take the extra step of repeating those into the microphone. Sometimes the placement of the microphone can be problematic and you can end up hearing what sounds like the muffled teacher from Charlie Brown. Lastly, there is a great benefit in being able see what’s going on in the classroom, such as what the professor is pointing at or even being able to read their lips.

In conclusion

Remote CART accommodations are on the rise here at the UW-Madison. Not only is the UW CART staff handling more remote classes, but our overflow work goes to remote agencies as well to cover the classes that we cannot. DHH students will experience remote CART in one form or another now and upon graduation. We need to ensure that they become familiar with how remote CART is delivered and the technology they need to see it. These students must become their own greatest advocate. They eventually need to transition out of this environment where all of these CART details are handled for them and, as if by magic, they have immediate access to the spoken word, to, instead, gaining the skills to confidently request CART for their future needs such as graduate school or employment accommodations and proclaiming “I need a CART accommodation in staff meetings” and this is how it’s done. It is only through this self-advocacy that we will have considered our Remote CART process here at UW-Madison a true success.

By Kris Wurgler, RPR, is a captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis. She can be reached at kristen.wurgler@wisc.edu.


 [JS1]Make sure the symbol comes up; if not, rewrite

Cleaning up messy notes and misstrokes

By Kay Moody

Kay Moody

Many students and educators think that developing speed and skill in machine shorthand is accomplished by working on dictation material 20 to 40 words a minute over their goal speed. (Goal speed is 10 or 20 words a minute over the highest five-minute speed test you’ve passed with 95 percent accuracy or higher. In other words, if you passed a five-minute test at 80 words a minute, your goal speed is 100 to 120 words a minute.) It is true that this is how students increase their speed; but many times when students are limited to taking super-fast dictation, they lose control and develop sloppy notes that cannot be read or correctly translated. There are a couple of ways students can eliminate this problem and clean up their messy notes.

Gaining control and cleaning up messy notes from straight-copy material:

Research has proven that this is the most effective way to develop clean notes. Straight-copy practice, writing from printed material as opposed to writing from live or audio dictation, is also for students who want to prevent losing control. It is recommended that all students spend at least 10 to 15 minutes a day working on straight-copy material. 

Select an article or script that you want to practice. This can be from the newspaper or a magazine, a textbook, a printed transcript, or something positive or inspirational. The daily editorial, the sports page, or gossip columns are good sources in that they contain proper names, numbers, and great material for captioning. Straight-copy practice can also be a good way to study material for an academic class. You can also select lyrics from a song, your favorite poem, or a Bible passage.  Pick something that’s positive and makes you feel good.

In addition to the straight-copy material, have a red pen and a highlighter pen. If you get the material off the internet or your computer, format it so it is double spaced, and print the material in a font that is easily read.

Preview the material. Quickly read through and highlight the preview words with the highlighter pen. As you read through the selection, add additional words that may cause you to hesitate when you write. Look up difficult shorthand outlines you are not sure of in a shorthand dictionary.

Practice selected preview words. Practice the entire list of words five times. Print your shorthand notes, read the preview words from your shorthand notes, and make corrections with the red pen. (Read “The importance of reading back shorthand notes.”) Continue practicing the list until you can write it with perfect steno outlines.

If you are tired or tense, take a few deep breaths during your practice session. Learn to inhale deeply and exhale slowly when practicing from straight copy. Keep your eyes on the printed material. Do not look at your shorthand notes, your fingers, or your steno machine when writing on your shorthand machine. Instead of using your translation software, read back from your shorthand notes from time to time.

Practice the entire selection. If it is long, practice one paragraph or eight to 10 lines at a time. Focus on correctly writing every outline. If you misstroke an outline, use the asterisk (*) key, and write the correct outline.

Again, print your shorthand notes and read back from them. With your red pen, correct each incorrect outline every time you misstroke a word.

Make a list of words that are misstroked. Practice the entire list five or six times until you can write all the steno outlines perfectly. Don’t forget to read back this list. Continue to practice the entire list from the first word to the last one until you can write the list error free.

Practice the section again. Continue to practice and read back the selection until you can write the entire selection with 100 percent accuracy.

NOTE:  When working on straight-copy material, don’t time yourself — focus on accuracy, not speed.

Gaining control and cleaning up messy notes from dictation material:

There is an abundance of dictated material available at your school, on the internet, and other sources. To get perfect notes from audio dictation, take a selection that is at least 20 words a minute below your goal speed. If you can vary the speed, use a selection that you have worked on for speedbuilding; otherwise, select material that is considerable slower than what you use for speedbuilding. Follow the same directions that are listed for straight-copy practice:  Preview words, write the selection, print your shorthand notes, read and correct the notes, and repeat until your steno outlines are perfect.

In conclusion, ideally students should balance their practice schedule with fast material that is 20 to 40 words a minute over their goal speed and straight-copy material or dictation 20 words a minute under their goal speed with the goal of writing 100 percent perfect notes! Think of speed and skill development as being like the pendulum on a clock:  Go back and forth — back for accuracy and forth for speed.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at kay.moody@ccr.edu.

Get your beads during NCRA’s Mardi Gras Student Speed Contest!

In celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week, the NCRA Student/Teacher Committee is sponsoring a Mardi Gras-themed speed test that will be offered to all students at varying test speeds. The tests consist of five minutes of dictation at a speed level that each individual student is either currently working on or has just passed. In order to be eligible to win, students must pass the test with 96 percent accuracy. One literary and one Q&A test will be offered, and the faculty at each school will be responsible for dictating and grading the material.*

How to win: All students who pass a test are eligible for prizes; winners will be drawn at random for first, second, and third prizes.

  • First prize (gold): NCRA’s RPR Study Guide ($125 value)
  • Second prize (purple): Choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value)
  • Third prize (green): $25 Starbucks gift card

All students who participate in the contest, even if they don’t pass a test, will have their names and schools published in the student newsletter and the JCR. NCRA wants to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions.

Let’s have some fun and showcase your school’s name as well as your own! We had an impressive number of students participate last year. Let’s see if we can make that number even larger in 2019! Pull out those Mardi Gras beads for good luck and give these skills tests a whirl! Whose school will have the most participants? Will it be yours? (Students, you would be remiss not to come up with brief forms for: Mardi Gras, Louisiana, and New Orleans. Don’t worry about all those “krewe” names. We’re not going to make this hard, so long as you can write carnival and festival. You’re going to get this!)

For more information, please contact Debbie Kriegshauser at deborah0841@att.net or Ellen Goff at egoff@ncra.org.

*Full details and rules for the contest will be sent to your teachers, so please make sure they know you would like to participate. The contest will run from Feb. 9 through Feb. 16.

Sharing her enthusiasm and her realtime

By Jessica Wills

Jessica Wills, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., volunteered to boost her school’s recruiting efforts by putting on a realtime demonstration at a local high school career fair. She was nervous at first, especially when she found out her realtime was being projected on a large screen. But she soon won over her audience with her speed and accuracy.

Jessica Wills

I attended Wheeler High School’s career fair on behalf of my school, College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind. I wanted to help promote the profession and help students get a better understanding of what court reporters do. Upon agreeing to speak at the career fair, I thought I would set up a booth and provide information to the high schoolers about court reporting and, of course, bring my machine along to show them what it looks like. Little did I know that I would be providing realtime while Nicky Rodriquez, the Director of Admissions for CCR, did all the talking!

As a student, I have never had the need to have my CAT software enlarged on a projector to show my realtime. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous! However, Nicky assured me it would be just fine, and that translation and realtime capability is part of what interests students so much and will hopefully draw them in to wanting to learn more about the profession.

While Nicky explained the role of a court reporter, I wrote every word she said while the realtime came up on the overhead board. I found that although my notes weren’t perfect, the students hardly knew because they were so fascinated by the skill and how steno woks. I explained to them that I can typically read my misstrokes and correct them, or I can define them in my dictionary so that they will come up correct next time. 

With each round of students, I began to feel a little more comfortable. To impress them even more, we had a competition by having them pull out their cell phones and write along with me to a 120 wpm dictation. At the end, I read my notes back, which were clean and exact, while they found they dropped whole sentences! They were amazed by how accurately I recorded each word. I think I did a good job of demonstrating how accurate and efficient court reporters are in capturing verbatim dialogue.

Although I knew that writing realtime would not be easy, I managed to get over my nerves and present a clean realtime feed. I told the students that I take pride in this profession because it’s a unique career and a challenging skill.  I truly love explaining to others how shorthand works and what I will be doing for my career. I am proud to say that I’ve worked hard to be where I am today and will always look to better my writing and improve my skills as a reporter. Through court reporting school, I gained a feeling of self-accomplishment, and I look forward to achieving even more throughout this journey.   

Jessica Wills is a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.