Working through COVID-19

Here’s a collection of materials to help you through the days ahead. We’ve also collected some from other websites.

Working remotely for court reporters and captioners

Tips for captioners about working through coronavirus

Helpful how-tos for remote depositions

Tools for web conferencing

What states allow remote and/or online notarization?

Stenograph’s blog offers tools for working during COVID-19

Your home office

Working from home while parenting

Setting up a home office

Legislative information

How the Federal stimulus bill affects the court reporting and captioning industry

What’s happening at NCRA headquarters

Stay in the know: NCRA event updates, webinars, and more

Message from NCRA President Max Curry

NCRA events that are canceled

March and April Written Knowledge Test registration and testing

March 27 and 28 spring CLVS hands-on training and production exam

May 17-19 2020 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp

Public resources

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) World Health Organization

United States Department of Health & Human Services

As various areas of the United States, Canada, and other countries have been affected at different rates and in different ways, please also consult your local and state health departments as well as your personal physician about the latest updates in your region.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow highlights the work of human court reporters

On Feb. 20, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow expressed her thanks to court reporters, saying: “It is really hard to get detailed, perfect court transcripts turned around same day so that we in the news media can read from them on the same day that court proceedings happen.”

During the segment, Maddow discussed the work of court reporters with colleague Lawrence O’Donnell. He noted the stenographers “are just miracle workers in the way they capture every word.”

“We are happy that Ms. Maddow took a moment to recognize the talents of court reporters,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CPE. “We were aware of Ms. Maddow’s admiration for the transcripts she uses regularly and the appreciation she has shown many of our colleagues working in the courts over the years. But we are so appreciative of her taking the time to recognize our hard work on national television, so that more people can recognize the importance of the official record in courts as well as the role stenographers have in protecting the public interest.” Curry also sent a letter of thanks to Maddow and MSNBC.

In the past few weeks, court reporters and captioners throughout the United States and around the world have sent articles and letters to MSNBC and other news outlets and then shared those posts through a wide variety of social media outlets to call attention to the importance of the court reporter in legal proceedings in local, state, and federal courthouses, as well as on the floor of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. These articles and posts were in response to other comments made on MSNBC by Brian Williams and former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. Many court reporters and captioners have noted that accurate verbatim transcripts happen with technology, often by providing same-day transcripts and sometimes by providing access to a record in real time. Captioners shared that they use the same technology to provide access to public hearings, classrooms, conferences, and live national broadcasts for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This grassroots campaign overlapped the celebration of the NCRA Court Reporting & Captioning Week, held Feb. 8-15, during which the Association secured official proclamations recognizing the work of court reporters and captioners by U.S. Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Rodney Davis of Illinois.

A sample of the articles referenced include:

“Thank you to everyone who supported this effort,” said NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC. “Clearly, your time and effort have helped the professions be recognized and valued for your technical skills, your quiet integrity, and your importance in providing an accurate and reliable transcript. We have always known that by working together, we have a stronger voice.”

Green River College motivates students with pins

Everyone who has been a court reporting student knows the effort that goes into achieving each new speed level. One school, Green River College in Auburn, Wash., recognizes that effort with pins commemorating each success.

The school has been awarding the pins for about 10 years for theory and each speed level between 40 and 225 wpm.

“The pins are very popular with our students,” said Sidney Weldele-Wallace, CRI, CPE, the program director of the Court Reporting & Captioning program. “They serve as tangible incentives for progressing through speed levels as well as a visual reminder of how far they have progressed, since we recommend pinning/placing them where they see them every day during their class/practice sessions. We do pin recognition during one of our CRSA (Court Reporting Student Association) meetings every fall and spring quarter. They are a ‘badge of honor’ that we enjoy giving to our deserving students to let them know how very proud we are of them!”

Weldele-Wallace said she thinks the idea was from an NCRA Teacher’s Workshop and discussions on retention and motivating students to persist and succeed. 

Some students use the pins on their personal vision boards, Weldele-Wallace said.

“I believe they are effective as a motivational tool and recognition of hard work and commitment on their part,” she said.

NCRA student member Rachel Helm is a student at Green River College and said she finds the pins motivating.

“I joke with my classmates that sometimes the thought of a shiny new pin is the only thing that keeps me going,” Helm said. “We all know how easy it is to get overwhelmed and lose sight of the end goal when we’re in school, so the pins are incredibly valuable to me and my peers, no matter how small a reward they might seem to be.”

Helm has the 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, and 140 wpm pins. She is now testing at 160 wpm in jury charge and literary and 180 wpm in testimony.

“I have them stuck in a cork board above my desk, so I look at them every time I sit down to practice,” Helm said. “We only get a pin when we’ve passed all three categories in that speed, so it’s extra satisfying once they’re in hand. You know you’ve really mastered that speed, through and through.”

2019 words of the year

Again this year, dictionaries chose the words most talked about, thought about, or worried about to be the words of the year for 2019.

Merriam-Webster

Merriam-Webster chose they as its word of the year. As explained, “It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term — a personal pronoun — can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313 percent in 2019 over the previous year.”

Oxford Dictionary

Oxford Dictionary chose climate emergency as their word for 2019. The company noted: “This year, heightened public awareness of climate science and the myriad implications for communities around the world has generated enormous discussion of what the UN secretary-general has called ‘the defining issue of our time.’ But it is not just this upsurge in conversation that has caught our attention. Our research reveals a demonstrable escalation in the language people are using to articulate information and ideas concerning the climate. This is most clearly encapsulated by the rise of climate emergency in 2019.”

Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com picked existential as their word for 2019. “We define the adjective existential in two senses. The first is ‘of or relating to existence.’ Entering English in the late 1600s, this existential is often used when the fact of someone or something’s being — its very existence — is at stake. Our second sense of existential is ‘concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.’ This existential is related to existentialism, a philosophy that affirms our individual agency in making meaningful, authentic choices about our lives,” said representatives for the company.

Court reporter can’t escape job even on sons’ hockey trips

The Norman [Okla.] Transcript posted an article on Nov. 18 about how court reporter Marla Cullison juggles her role as a hockey mom and an official court reporter.

Read more.

What’s your walk-up song?

Recently on social media we posted that Baby Shark was the song that inspired the Washington Nationals baseball team and their fans to a World Series win. We asked our followers, “If you could pick a song that played as you walked into work, what would it be?”

Here are some of the answers we received:

One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston

Linda Hershey, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Joke by Brandi Carlile

Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, Seattle, Wa.

High Hopes by Panic! at the Disco

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, Kansas City, Mo.

Bang the Drum All Day by Todd Rundgren

Leticia Salas, RPR, Houston, Texas

When the Going Gets Tough by Billy Ocean

Christa Jacimore, RDR, CRR, CRC, Little Rock, Ark.

Confident by Demi Lovato

Marie Runyon, RMR, CRR, Shreveport, La.

Rule the World

Mary Schweinhagen, RDR, CRR, Dayton, Ohio

Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels by Todrick Hall

Carissa Sabio, Fresno, Ca.

Roar by Katy Perry

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, Memphis, Tenn.

Centerfield by John Fogerty

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRC, Warren, Ohio

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, Wake Forest, N.C.

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant

Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, Caseyville, Ill.

Court reporters share their nightmares

In honor of all the Halloween scares happening this week, we asked court reporters on social media what bad dreams they have had. Here are some of their responses:

I didn’t have my machine, so I was provided a cookie sheet with refried beans spread out, into which I pushed my fingers with steno strokes. Each stroke was lighter than the prior so it would rest on top. I felt I got the hang of it until I was asked for read back. Last thing I remember of the nightmare was holding a butter knife and trying to figure out how deep to slice the beans on a horizontal plane to find the readback spot. I was worried not only if I could read my bean record but how I was not going to turn all the bean record into mush. (My husband interpreted the dream that I was too stressed and needed to take a vacation.) Duh!

Debbie Gale, RPR, Santa Ana, Calif.

I had to ask my client to drive me to deposition with baby in tow and asked him during break to feed my baby her bottle.

Donna L. Linton, RMR, Ashburn, Va.

I used to have a recurring dream when my kids were very little that I couldn’t find a babysitter. So I was in the courtroom trying to balance the baby on my chest leaning back while I was writing the proceedings.

Lisa Welch, RPR, Gridley, Calif.

I had a dream where I had to knit the testimony. And I’m a terrible knitter!

Rebecca Forman, RMR, CRR, Staten Island, N.Y.

I think a lot of us have the dream where we forget our writer, and we’re “writing” on the table while hoping to remember everything that’s said and hoping nobody notices.

Danielle R Murray, RMR, CRR, Olathe, Kan.

Two recurring dreams. One is that I am trying to write everything down with a pen and notepad because my machine isn’t with me. The other one is that I’m running an errand before an afternoon deposition and keep getting delayed or lose track of time, so I am never able to get to the deposition.

Susan Sims, RPR, Meridian, Idaho

I have had this dream several times: I am in court, and for some reason I don’t have my machine. I, however, am trying to write the steno outlines by long hand on a note pad. It’s like I am a pen writer from the old days, only I am writing in steno shorthand. Of course, I cannot keep up and am just frantic.

Laura Payne, RPR, Henderson, Texas

I have had this nightmare too, forgetting my machine and trying to write it all on paper. I’ve had it a couple times, then my last nightmare I didn’t even have paper and told them: “Go ahead, I’ll just remember it all.”

Deirdre Rand, RPR, Lehi, Utah

Mine is always walking into a room with a hundred lawyers and having to gather appearances from each one. Always wake up before I get them all!

Karen Vornkahl, CRI, CPE, Baton Rouge, La.

I also have had the dream where I am writing on my machine, and it is sinking in the sand or water.

Kelly A. McKee, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE

All 15 lawyers around the deposition table look identical and have the same last name.

Tammey Pastor, RPR (Ret.), Chandler, Az.

I had a dream in my 225s in school where the machine keys turned to razor blades! And it was finally a take I was getting. As I’m writing a steady stream of blood was going down my machine to my tripod and making a sticky pool of blood at my feet. It didn’t hurt, but I was horrified! Talk about test anxiety!

Kairisa Magee, Gary, Ind.

I used to have a recurring nightmare where I forgot my machine, so I decided I would just write down everything they were saying using a pen and paper. I then realize that I can’t keep up, so I decided that I’ll just memorize everything they’re saying and type it all out later.

Theresa Phillips-Blackwell, Lomita, Calif.

Show up to a depo with no clothes on.

Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, Olathe, Kan.

Catching up with Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl
NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2019 Speed Contest held during the NCRA Convention & Expo. His overall accuracy rate was 97.54 percent or 87 errors total. The JCR Weekly reached out to Weigl to learn more about this, his third win in the Speed Contest.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your career and where you’re working currently?

JW | I am the president of WizCap Realtime Reporting Inc., a firm I started around ten years ago. My time is currently split among business operations, pretrial legal proceedings, and onsite captioning. Onsite captioning is definitely my favorite aspect of the profession.

JCR | How long have you been working in the profession?

JW | I actually had to look this up. I’ve been a full-time reporter for 14 years now. With my career, marriage, and family, the years slip by pretty fast.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

JW | My dad, Jerry, was an official (pen writer) for many years before I was born. After that, he spent the next 11 years as the program head of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Captioning & Court Reporting program, followed by 20 years as an instructor. My sisters and I always looked forward to the annual family getaways when my parents would attend the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association conferences. I was around the profession my entire life and yet never really knew what the heck my dad did. After a somewhat miserable year at university pursuing a science degree, my dad suggested a career in court reporting. I was persuaded to check out the program and liked what I saw, which has proven to be a pretty fortuitous turn of events to say the least.

JCR | This is your third win. Does it feel like it gets easier?

JW | I actually feel like it’s gotten harder each year. I now know what to expect from the contests and how to best prepare, but each time around I’ve been dealing with the pressure of personal expectations, and that’s never helpful. While the content of the tests varies in difficulty year to year, the thing that remains constant is the talent of all of the other contest regulars. If I went in unprepared, I would have no chance at winning. That reality is a big motivator leading up to a contest.

JCR | You compete in both the Realtime and Speed Contests. As a participant, what are some of the nuanced differences you see between the two?

JW | I find them to be incredibly different. While the ability to write quickly is obviously beneficial for Realtime, the difference is in the mental processing. When writing strictly for speed, the more you think about things, the more trouble you find yourself in. You really just have to let things flow with as little hesitation as possible. Realtime is challenging because you need to be quick while at the same time processing what you’re writing – sound-alikes, punctuation, etc. I cannot effectively practice for speed while connected to Case CATalyst. Even if I have my screen turned away, my brain is unable to let go. This year, I did all of my speed practice solely on my writer and then dumped the files into Case CATalyst for review after the fact. I got a ton of dictionary entries that way. I’m still not sure that I could realistically practice toward winning both contests in the same year. Oh, and some of the speed-specific things I like to do – like dropping punctuation and speaker IDs – that doesn’t get you very far in Realtime.

JCR | Do you have a preference on which one you would prefer to win?

JW | My goal has always been to place highly in the Speed Contest, but winning a Realtime title as well would be unbelievable. Doug’s Realtime score this year blows my mind.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?

JW | Placing in the Speed Contest requires a big personal commitment and a high level of motivation to properly prepare, and I think I’ve maybe scratched that itch. But a win in Realtime would certainly be worth fighting for.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?

JW | I am a competitive person by nature, be it sports, board games, etc. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the greats of our profession is an amazing feeling. Shorthand theory is so personalized and so unique – always changing, adapting, improving. I know that how I wrote five years ago is incredibly different from how I write today, and how I will write five years from now. The feeling that I haven’t yet fully met my shorthand potential is exciting to think about.

JCR | What advice would you have for a person who has never been in a speed contest before? How can they get started?

JW | It all starts with a personal commitment to be better. Put that date in your calendar, whether it’s for an NCRA certification test or a Speed Contest. The goal is improvement, not winning. Runners train to complete marathons. I have never met someone with the goal of winning.

JCR | Do you practice for the Speed or Realtime Contests? If so, what is your plan? If not, to what do you attribute your speed?

JW | Practice? Nope, not at all. Ha ha!

I don’t care how talented someone may be, there is no chance of winning the Speed or Realtime Contests without a very deliberate and consistent practice regimen. The outline of my practice plan has stayed relatively constant the last few years, with minor tweaks added each time around. I start getting back into timed dictation three to four months out, once or twice a week. As time goes on, the frequency increases. By the last month and a half, I am practicing every single day for around an hour. Consistency of practice is key. And throughout the year, I am always looking to incorporate new briefs and phrases that can make my life easier. I find “Brief It” to be a great tool for adding new concepts to my writing.

JCR | Has your win affected you in any way?

JW | Winning aside, practicing at a high level for months at a time will make anyone better at their job. If I’m able to write timed dictation at 280 wpm, the real world becomes less stressful. And had I not caught the bug for competing, I probably wouldn’t have attended very many NCRA events over the past few years, and that would have been such a huge loss personally and professionally. I am very grateful for all of the friendships I have been fortunate enough to make along the way, particularly during this summer’s event in Denver.

JCR | Is there any advice you can give to other NCRA members on how each of us can be an advocate for our profession?

JW | I think the key is being approachable on the job and enthusiastic about what we can do. If someone shows an interest, take the time to explain to them how it all works. And if we all work toward writing faster and cleaner, we will always be the preferred method for creating the record. 

JCR | Any questions we should have asked or anything else you would like to share?

JW | Thank you to my family, friends, colleagues, and Stenograph for your support in helping me reach my goals. I hope that I can inspire even a couple reporters to work toward improving their skills like all of the previous contest winners have inspired me.

You know you’re a court reporter if …

We recently asked this fill-in-the-blank question on the NCRA Facebook page.

Here are some of the great answers:

You know you’re a court reporter if …

“When you edit and punctuate restaurant menus, church bulletins, billboards (while driving), your text messages to other court reporters, hate the AI functions on your text messaging when they get it wrong, try to publicly correct someone when they say ‘conversate,’ or ‘pacific’ for ‘specific.’ And when you walk away from a group conversation (not work related) when one person talks over another.”

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI


“You judge people based on how fast/slow they talk.

Me: I love Ms. Jones.

The bailiff: Why? She’s a horrible attorney.

Me: That’s not the point. She doesn’t speak fast and she enunciates.”

Athena Rose


“You chime in to your kids’ conversation from another room and their friend asks, ‘How did she hear that,’ and they reply, ‘She’s a court reporter, she hears everything.'”

Heidi Baptista Benavides


“You’re talking to your husband and he nods in response to a question and you say ‘I’m sorry, is that a yes?'”

Judy Harrell Wallenfelt


“You’re the only one who understood the muffled PA announcement at the airport.”

Michael Bouley, RDR


“Your husband thinks you don’t hear his conversation on the phone in the other room because you’re talking to someone else … but you hear everything.”

Michelle Yaklovich


“Your Google feed would raise questions if anyone searched the history.”

Robin L. Coleman


“You renew your NCRA membership every single year because you know they have the best interest of your profession at heart!”

Eve Rogers Key, RPR


“Your kids correct their teachers’ work.”

Crystal Ballast, RPR


“You know you’re a court reporter if you want to debate the phlebotomist at your doctor’s office about her sanitizing/swabbing technique before the venipuncture.”

Diana Miller Bengs, RPR


“When you are in the hospital for a procedure and you grill the anesthesiologist with questions until he asks if you’re a lawyer.”

Kathleen Vaglica, RMR


“If you red ink your wife’s love letters … not a good idea.”

Jim Korwan


“You’re all caught up on pages and don’t know what to do with your free time.”

Ksenija Zeltkalns, RPR


“You can’t listen to anything where people are talking over each other. Talk radio is sooo annoying.”

Dani Murray, RMR, CRR


“Spelling sound effects doesn’t scare you.”

Michael Bouley, RDR

Praising punctuation

In honor of National Punctuation Day on Sept. 24, we recently asked these questions on the NCRA Facebook page. Here are some of the responses:

What is your favorite punctuation mark and why?
“Interrobang. Not since the Selectric have I been able to use it, as our keyboards don’t have one. Oh, how swell it would be to use the ‘bang!’ Now I must settle for only uttering it aloud — delightful word to say and hear. Interrobang!”

Tara Gandel Hudson, RPR,CRR

“Semicolon; because the thoughts are connected but they are just not quite ready to end the sentence.”

Amy Quint Richardson, RMR, CRR

“Dashes, the only thing that can make sense out of run-on sentences.”

Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RDR, CRR

“Exclamation point, because it shows excitement, either happy or mad.”

Michelle Iadonisi

If you could invent a new punctuation mark, what would it be?

“I think we could use a new symbol to reflect a sentence was sarcastic.”

Ksenija Zeltkalns, RPR

“I would create a new punctuation mark called a skid mark consisting of two consecutive equals signs == for when a dash doesn’t quite capture the meaning of how abrupt the interruption is when speakers are talking over one another.”

Amy Quint Richardson, RMR, CRR