Remember to nominate for awards and scholarships, including the all-new NCRA A to Z scholarships

Time is running out 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 Steno 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 closes April 1.  

NCRA A to Z ™ scholarshipsUp 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 close April 1.

 CASE Educator of the YearThis 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 close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional ReportersIf 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 close April 1.

Annual scholarship to benefit students of judicial program

Twin Cities.com reported on Feb. 24 that Benchmark Reporting Agency, based in Minneapolis, Minn., has partnered with Anoka Technical College on an annual $1,000 scholarship.

Read more.

It’s an honor to be mistaken for the court reporter

Sharon Velazco

By Sharon Velazco, RPR


I was recently amused when I came across the article in which accomplished female judges and attorneys were interviewed, and they were relating instances in their career when, because of their gender, they were mistaken for the court reporter. And, although I am sure it is not the intention of the author, the tone of the article assumes that to be mistaken for the court reporter would be somehow demeaning. So, to the average reader who has probably never met a court reporter, I would like to explain what it is that court reporters do and how it is actually an honor and privilege to be a member of this niche, necessary profession which, ironically, given the theme of the article, was once mostly held by men.

There’s a common tenet in the medical community, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” referring to the importance of a written record in the care and treatment of a patient. The same premise may be applied to the legal process. The written record is the foundation of our system of justice, and court reporters are the scribes and keepers of that written record. That same written record will be needed and relied on by the jurist in order to prepare and advance her case. In our American institution of jurisprudence, the legal process is dependent on the written record — the record prepared by the court reporter.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a skill which is acquired in a few weeks or that can be performed by just anyone. This is not just a job. This is a chosen career. The uniquely qualified individual will spend an average of two to three years to complete the basic training necessary to become a court reporter. It takes about a year just to learn the stenographic theory of the writer, and then the remainder of the time is spent building speed, accuracy, and taking other classes to complement the knowledge base needed to produce a transcript. In addition to the obvious requirement for advanced English and grammar, there is the prerequisite for legal and medical terminology. It is often necessary to study a wide range of material in order to be prepared to take down the specific, vital testimony of a doctor, engineer, or other expert witness whose opinion may be crucial to a case. There is no script from which to prepare until the court reporter writes it — in realtime.

Additionally, the qualities of innate human intuition and skill combined with modern technology provides for real-time capturing of the spoken word to text in a readable, usable format, regardless of accent or subject matter. So whether that court reporter is working in a legal setting and giving realtime, immediate access to the transcript, or perhaps working behind-the-scenes doing the closed captions for a television broadcast, please know that it takes a special kind of talent, dedication, and determination to achieve the level of skill required to provide that invaluable service. And, while the closed captions are, without a doubt, appreciated by the viewer, that viewer is probably unaware that it’s all being done by a court reporter.

So, in summary, this occupation is a challenging, constant education-in-process. This occupation is flexible, exciting, and never boring. This occupation offers opportunities to travel the world. This occupation also happens to be extremely rewarding financially. So, without taking away from the successful careers and accomplishments of our respected members and leaders of the legal community whose experiences were the basis of the original article, let me turn the article’s slant the other way. I would like to ask that author, now that they know a little about what we do, who wouldn’t want to be the court reporter?

Sharon Velazco, RPR, is a freelance court reporter based in Miami, Fla. She can be reached atscribe3159@aol.com.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated big across the nation

Jane Kohlwey helps spread the word at Madison College during Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA’s seventh consecutive Court Reporting & Captioning Week event was celebrated across the nation by state associations, individual members, students, and firms, via an array of events ranging from open houses to contests to time spent with lawmakers.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted for the official record of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Illinois delivered a similar speech from the House floor on Feb. 14, recognizing the event.

Members of the Texas Court Reporters Association were at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Official proclamations for the week were also issued in 16 states including: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Official proclamations were also issued in Eugene, Ore., and Bexar County, Texas.

All states that submitted an official proclamation will be entered into a drawing by NCRA to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration. In addition, states that entered the annual NCSA State Challenge, 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, will be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education. The winners of both contests will be announced in the Feb. 26 issue of the JCR Weekly.

NCRA President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Springfield, Ohio, celebrated the event by participating in “Spread the Word,” an online event hosted by the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Terry joined other representatives from the court reporting and captioning professions to talk to students firsthand about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning and to provide motivation and inspiration to those who attended.

Other schools that marked the event with special activities included Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.; Green River College in Auburn, Wash.; the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Cuyahoga, Ohio; Madison College, Madison, Wis.; and Plaza College, Queens, N.Y.

A number of state court reporter associations reported activities such as get-togethers for members, attorneys, and judges, as well as courthouse displays, contests, social media campaigns, and more.

In honor of the week, NCRA also released several videos of members promoting the court reporting and captioning professions by sharing what they love about their careers. The first five of the series are available at NCRA’s YouTube Channel. Members and state associations are encouraged to share the videos on social media sites as well as use them to promote the profession at career days and other events where the skills of court reporters and captioners are showcased.

See the media generated by the 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

Read more.

Queens court reporting students compete for speed and accuracy in contest to prepare for jobs

Read more.

Help wanted: As court reporters age, craft seeks new blood

 (Subscription required)

Read more.

National Court Reporting & Captioning Week Showcased on Local Station

Watch the story.

Court Reporting & Captioning Week in Iowa

Read more.

Local court reporters recognized

Read more.

An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

Read more.

Planet Depos Celebrates NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Read more.

See how others celebrated NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA members gear up for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated in the media and on social media

Thanks to everyone who participated in 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and making this seventh year of celebration a great success! Mark your calendars now for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week happening Feb. 8-15.

Even though 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is coming to an end, you don’t need to stop showing your pride in being a court reporter or captioner. Keep up your activities to promote the professions year-round. NCRA has a number of resources to help members promote the profession throughout the year. Below are just a few:

NCRA’s Press Center

NCRA’s Information Center

NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Page

NCRA DiscoverSteno

Contact pr@ncra.org for more information about what’s available.

National Court Reporting Week recognizes the fastest fingers in New York

On Feb. 15, the Queens Daily Eagle posted an article that quotes NCRA member Karen Santucci, CRI, court reporting program chair at Plaza College in Queens, N.Y.

Read more.

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)