NCRA A to Z Program offered in Oklahoma

Tulsa World reported on Sept. 30 that the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association is holding a free NCRA A TO ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program beginning Oct. 8.

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DMACC professor installed as director of National Court Reporters Association

The Newton Daily News reported on Sept. 25 that Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, an instructor in the Realtime Court Reporting program at the Des Moines Area Community College Newton Campus, Newton, Iowa, was recently chosen to serve a two-year term on NCRA’s Board of Directors.

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NCRA member recognized by International Association of Women

​​The International Association of Women announced in a press release issued Sept. 25 that the organization has recognized NCRA member Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, as a 2018-2019 Influencer.

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Setting goals

By Kay Moody

portrait of the author

Kay Moody

Setting realistic, tangible goals is an essential element of completing court reporting school and developing the speed and accuracy needed to work as a reporter. When you take timed writings and read your notes, identify your weaknesses. Once you know the major reason you’re not progressing, set a goal to eliminate the problem(s) and work on them every day for five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Work on the same goal until it’s no longer a weakness. Work on drills and dictation takes until the weakness no longer exists. This article lists the five major reasons students do not progress and ways to eliminate or correct these hindrances: lagging behind and dropping words; messy notes; hesitating or missing briefs, phrases, and/or conflicts; difficult outlines or unfamiliar vocabulary; and not finding enough time to practice.

Goal of eliminating drops

When you work on speedbuilding, don’t make corrections with the asterisk (*). Leave the misstroke in your notes. Write the entire take, read back your notes, and count how many words you dropped, not the misstrokes. Take the same selection two or three times a day and focus on one thing: staying with the dictation and writing every word. Read back each take, and count the drops to make sure that you have fewer and fewer drops on each take. Continue taking the selection two or three times every day until you write the entire selection with no drops. Once you accomplish this, go on to another selection at the same speed. After you can write your goal speed repeatedly with no drops, go to a higher speed.

Please note that working on speed is different from working on accuracy for realtime, perfect translation. That is why you are discouraged from making corrections while working on speed.

Goal of writing clean notes

Drop down to a lower speed and write with the goal that 99 percent of your outlines will be perfect. Write slower dictation from something you recorded, and count all your misstrokes. Drill on writing the correct outlines for all misstroked words, repeat the selection, and use the same technique described for eliminating drops.

An excellent way to clean notes is to work from straight copy. Write an article from your textbook or the newspaper and write it at your natural speed without a single misstroke.

Goal of learning briefs, phrases, and conflicts

Instead of saying, “I’m going to learn all of the briefs in my brief book,” set an attainable, measurable goal. “I’m going to review briefs every day, and I’m going to go over one column (or 25 outlines) every day for ten or fifteen minutes until I can automatically write every outline.” This is an easily attainable goal.  When you’ve mastered that group with perfect outlines, tackle a new list or column.

Goal of being able to write difficult words and outlines

Similar to learning briefs, phrases, and conflicts, every time you hear a difficult outline or a word you’ve forgotten how to write, jot it on a sticky note, and write that word with its shorthand outline in your notebook. Practice a column from this list for five, ten, or fifteen minutes every day. This is an ongoing goal and something you’re encouraged to do throughout your court reporting skill development.

Goal of practicing more

Prepare a time management schedule, and make sure you have allowed sufficient time for practice. Establish time to work on word lists, steno outlines, drills, and other skill- and speedbuilding activities. Make a checklist, and check off all the activities that you accomplish each day. You must be disciplined! Identify your short-term, daily goals and work on them at specific times every day, at least six days a week.

To summarize the elements of goal setting:

  • Set a goal every time you sit at your machine, whether it is in class or a short practice session.
  • Develop goals that eliminate weaknesses, that develop strengths, and that are small.
  • Create goals that are positive, measurable, and specific.
  • Reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor for the College of Court Reporting based in Valparaiso, Ind.


South Suburban College to hold court reporting open house

The Illinois posted an announcement on July 10 about an open house being hosted July 26 by the court reporting program at the South Suburban College.

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What a room full of girls taught me about the profession

Merilee Johnson

By Merilee Johnson

As I looked out at the expectant, inquisitive eyes of a room full of 8- to 12-year-old girls, I came to the realization this was going to be a challenge more difficult than I had anticipated. Presenting to professional colleagues can be intimidating enough, but what could I offer these young minds whose only image of a court reporter (if they had one at all) is of a person sitting to the side of the action, “typing” quietly in the corner?

What I had envisioned as a breezy conversation (accepted on a whim) changed in focus to promoting and recruiting for the future of our profession. I needed to both capture their attention and convey that reporting is an empowering and fulfilling career. If I can’t impart that message here and now, how can we bring young people into the industry?

And how did I find myself in this position? About a month prior, a friend asked me to participate in their church’s career month, an admirable effort on their part to present the congregation’s youth girls firsthand experience with possible career paths. I’d accepted immediately as I thought of it as more of a personal favor to a friend, filling a time slot they needed filled. It was only when I walked in the church doors on that fateful Wednesday night that the broader implications became clear.

As I stood in front of these earnest eyes, I realized I needed to scrap the PowerPoint, scrap any facts and figures about the shortage we’re facing and how much reporters can make, and took a chance at speaking their language. I start the presentation with, “Raise your hand if you like creating worlds in Minecraft. How about learning another language? Who likes to play an instrument? Who likes hearing or reading stories? Who likes to learn, without having to do homework?”

Hands flung in the air with a level of enthusiasm only achievable by a group of young girls, and I shared with them that these are very much like the things I get to enjoy every day as a court reporter and captioner.

I explained that I knew a second language called “shorthand theory” and felt them lean in as I pulled out my writer. As I started writing, I showed them how I was pressing multiple keys at once, like you would a chord on a piano. I told them that I’d written a code, like you do in Minecraft, that allows my computer to translate those chords into English. As the words appeared on the screen, an audible “Whoa” could be heard. One nine-year-old exclaimed with her voice (and motioning with her hands), “You. Are. Awesome!” (which, of course, I captioned).

Having captured their attention, the obvious next step was to let them fall in love with reporting the same way the rest of us did. I invited them to come up and (carefully) put their hands on the writer and let the writer work its magic. Quickly, the concept of “carefully” was out the door as their curious faces huddled around the writer and they energetically started to push the keys. Like many of us, the moment their hands touched the writer, they had an unparalleled desire to learn how to write on it.

So, one by one, I taught each girl how to steno their own names, which elevated the thrill as they saw their names up on the projected screen. One girl’s misstroke produced the word “poop,” which, if they weren’t already in an excited frenzy, pushed them over the top and resulted in peals of laughter. It served as a reminder that in the quest to capture the attention of youth, the high road isn’t the only path. I used it as a teaching moment to let them know that even the best writers have mistrans, and that’s okay!

We wrapped up the session, and the girls reluctantly allowed me to pack up my equipment. As I did, I reflected on the fact that our profession is intrinsically interesting and, if properly communicated, can easily capture the enthusiasm of young people. Walking out the doors, I took with me a strong sense of optimism for the future of reporting and additional pride that these girls had given me. They reminded me that we can smile at our mistakes and even on our “poopy” days, what we get to do every day “is awesome.”

Merilee S. Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, is a captioner base in Eden Prairie, Minn. She can be reached at


PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: Passion for captioning and court reporting showcased at high school career day

Cindi Lynch

Earlier this spring, Cindi Lynch, training program manager for Stenograph, based in Elmhurst Ill., and Sharon Vartanian, RPR, a district sales manager for the company, spent a few hours promoting the captioning and court reporting professions at a career day held at Prospect High School in Saratoga. Calif. Lynch, who is well-known for her enthusiasm for the court reporting profession, has a sister-in-law who teaches English at the high school. She passed along Lynch’s information to one of the school’s career specialists. Lynch was asked if she would give a presentation to a group of their students, and she readily accepted. Vartanian, who represents Stenograph in the area, and Lynch also enlisted the help of NCRA member Maggie Ortiz, manager of the court reporting program at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., and Tobi Giluso, a high-speed student from the program.

Sharon Vartanian


JCR | What did you do to prepare?

SV | Cindi put the word out on social media and spoke with people working with the A to Z program and with Project Steno to get their input on similar presentations they had done in the past. Cindi took that information and then put together a brief presentation based on the information she had gathered.

CL | Sharon thought it would be a great idea if we asked the court reporting program at the local college to also participate in the presentation, and she took on the task of gathering representatives from West Valley College to join us.


JCR | What was the event like?

SV | Cindi’s presentation focused on what a court reporter is, where and how reporters, captioners and CART providers work, and the basic principles of machine shorthand.

Tobi captioned the presentation. She did an excellent job, and the high school students were able to see firsthand the skills of a reporter/captioner. (Tobi has passed all her qualifiers and will be taking the state exam this July.)

Maggie Ortiz, court reporting program manager, talked about West Valley College’s specific program and gave current information about earning potential in the local area. In 2017, West Valley also started offering a free court reporting course through Silicon Valley Adult Education. Maggie explained how the high school students could immediately take advantage of this free course before graduating high school to learn the theory of steno writing. The course is designed to give students a head start in the West Valley court reporting program.

There was a small, but very interested, group of juniors and seniors in attendance, as well as parents, teachers, and teacher aides. We were pleased that we had a wide range of panelists to answer questions during the Q&A session. Maggie addressed school questions, Tobi answered student and CART questions, and Sharon was able to address working as a freelance court reporter.


JCR | How did it go? Did people seem interested?

CL | We were really pleased with the presentation and how warmly it was received. Both the students and the adults were very interested. We were asked a lot of thoughtful, smart questions and it was clear to us that they had paid close attention to the information they’d been given.

We brought a few Luminex writers with us. At the end of the presentation, the students eagerly waited in line to have their first experience of writing on a steno machine.


JCR | You are both such professionals, you’re probably prepared for anything. But did anything surprise you? Can you tell us about that?

CL and SV | No surprises. We put a lot of effort into being well prepared. We were delighted we had male and female attendees.

One person we had consulted while preparing for the presentation advised us to bring food, especially candy for the kids. We rewarded the attendees for asking questions by giving them candy bars. While we know rewarding for candy works, we were amazed at how well it works.


JCR | What advice would you give others about telling people about careers in court reporting and captioning?

CL and SV | Show your passion for the profession; it’s infectious. The attendees appreciated the fact that all of us who spoke at the event had been around the profession most of our lives and were excited to talk about it. When you love what you do, it definitely comes through. Convey how much support they can expect from the court reporting community. Communicate how much we need them and want them to join us in this fabulous career.


JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?

CL and SV | We were well-received by the teachers and career specialist at Prospect High, and they expressed an interest in having us come back in the future to talk to additional students. They also asked for more information from Maggie so that they could partner with West Valley College. This made us very happy. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from our presentation!


Cindi Lynch can be reached at Sharon Vartanian can be reached at

Hit me with your best webinar

Since hitting the scene in the mid-1990s the popularity of webinars to share information has defied all communications trends. Their use has more than rapidly grown, thanks to the platform’s ability to allow presenters a cost-effective mode to reach large and specific groups of online viewers from a single location and offers participants the ability to interact with presenters.

Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR

NCRA offers a variety of both live and recorded webinars that members can use to earn continuing education units. But it’s not just the participants who benefit from the value of webinars; the presenters do as well.

“I love webinars,” says Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who was tapped by NCRA to present in a webinar about promoting and recruiting for the court reporting and captioning professions. “I think they are so informative and educational. Court reporters’ and captioners’ schedules are so hectic that it is sometimes hard to get away to a convention. Webinars make a very convenient and flexible way to educate and earn continuing education credits,” Uviedo said.

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS, managing partner of Lubetkin Media Companies in Cherry Hill, N.J., said he presented his first webinar for NCRA after a conversation with staff when he finished his CLVS practical test. The conversation, he said, was about how highly he thought of the program. Since then, he has produced and hosted three webinars for NCRA.

“I enjoy being able to share some of the practical experience I’ve gained producing video and managing my business. I’m proud of some of the tricks I’ve learned to streamline the work, and it’s rewarding to have peers say they appreciate the ideas as well,” Lubetkin said.

Uviedo agreed. “Lending your expertise to other reporters is one of the greatest givebacks you can contribute to the profession.  Many of us are self-employed and do not have an employer to guide and/or train us. Training and guidance via webinar is an excellent way to educate our professionals,” said the 23-year veteran of court reporting.

According to Lubetkin, depending on the topic, preparing and creating a webinar can take some work on the presenter’s part. “For my webinar on the deposition audio chain, I think I spent two or three hours shooting the b-roll I used to illustrate part of the one-hour program. For the others, I spent several hours each on screen shots and display materials,” he noted.

Uviedo encourages others to volunteer to host webinars for NCRA to help increase educational opportunities. “I would say that your webinar is imperative for the busy working reporters who are unable to attend conventions and also reporters who are looking for guidance on information throughout the year. You can just go to NCRA’s webinar website and look for the topic you need training on, and voila! It’s a win-win for both the reporter and NCRA,” she said.

“Webinars are great when people can dedicate the specific time period for the live learning, and engage in interaction with the instructor and participants, but they are also valuable as on-demand recorded programs that people can go back to over and over to review concepts and techniques,” added Lubetkin, who has been a legal videographer since 2014 and earned his CLVS in 2016.

NCRA is always looking for professionals to share their expertise with our membership. Presenting a webinar is a great way to build your résumé, gain a platform for your ideas, and contribute your knowledge to the NCRA Continuing Education library. Presenters may advertise their business at the end of their presentations and will be compensated. For more information, contact

Arlington Career Institute salutes newly certified alumni

Arlington Career Institute instructor Judy Brownlow reported that three graduates of the Grand Prairie, Texas, program recently passed the Oklahoma certification tests. “Congratulations to Amy Cummings, Karen Gonzalez, and Trulia Taylor,” says Brownlow. “Nice job, ladies. We are proud of you. See you in court!”


Prep for practice

Len Sperling, MBA, CRI

By Len Sperling

As we all know, practice is a vital and key component to attaining success while speed testing. However, most students during their studies reach points in their testing journey where they plateau, and passing tests becomes a daunting task. As this plateau continues, the danger is that students may start to spend more time and energy worrying about not passing any tests instead of focusing their energy on practice itself. A snowball effect to this dilemma can occur where the more a student struggles to pass tests, the less they practice. A line I have often used with students who reach this impasse is: “You worry about the practice; I’ll worry about the tests.” The point of my line is to help direct student energy and time towards quality practice and not the outcomes of speed tests. My contention is tests will eventually take care of themselves as long as students put in the required quality practice.

One of the keys to success for any student in a court reporting program is to have the discipline to put in the quality practice outside of class. In developing any skill, time on task is paramount. Although students realize this, they find it difficult to put in that needed quality practice. So the question becomes: What is the best way for students to plan and develop a solid practice plan required for progress?

I am going to explore one strategy to help make a successful practice plan. Financial planners like saying the following line: “People don’t plan to fail. They fail to plan.” This is the foundation of my strategy. At the end of your last practice session for the day, plan and document your practice for the next day. Besides time allotment and instructor-assigned practice, you should decide the type of dictation or other drills you plan to practice, and then pick your dictation and speeds. There are a number of reasons why I think this is a good strategy to use. I will outline a few.

1. Reflection

To make a good practice plan for the next day, you need to reflect on your current day’s work. What went well? Where did I struggle? Were there briefs or phrases or any key combinations that I hesitated on? Where did the errors occur in my practice? When I dropped, was there a specific reason? By reflecting on practice and answering these types of questions, your practice becomes purposeful and more effective. Although you want to attain both quality and quantity in practice, take quality over quantity any day.

2. Structure

Every student is different. However, I have found most students like structure and want as much as possible. By prepping for practice, you are providing yourself that structure and, thus, the chances of executing your designed practice for the next day becomes much higher. In essence, this allows you to schedule your priorities for the next day. Planning your practice the previous night allows you to easily document your practice and become much more organized. If practice material and speeds are already documented, it becomes easier to record error rates and areas of difficulty. This, in turn, provides a basis for future practice.

3. Motivation

It is hard for students who are not experiencing success at testing to stay motivated.  By prepping for practice, your focus is on your next practice, not your next test. In my experience, students at times find it hard to start practicing. Procrastination sets in, which may unfortunately turn into a slippery slope. This is especially true on weekends and holidays. By having your practice already planned, it provides motivation to practice. A good day of practice hopefully will lead to another good day of practice.

I hope these small tips will help in developing good practice habits and, more importantly, change your mindset on how to get through your testing plateaus.

NCRA Member Len Sperling, MBA, CRI, is the chair of the Captioning and Court Reporting program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He can be reached at