New Professional Spotlight: Tracey L. Tracy

Tracey Tracy

By Rachel Barkume, RPR

Tracey Tracy, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Tacoma, Wash. She graduated from the online court reporting technologies program at Green River College in June 2017, attained her RPR in July 2017, and her Washington CCR in August 2017. She’s a true go-getter who radiates positivity and enthusiasm with a smile that is downright infectious. At the close of her first full year of reporting, she’s navigating through being a new professional with grace and tenacity.

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

TT | During high school I was exposed to the field of court reporting by my aunt who worked as an official court reporter in my home town. I had considered following her path early on, but life had other plans for me. I spent the next several years raising children, working as an administrative assistant, and even had a stint as a barista at Starbucks.

With our youngest son approaching high school, I decided it was the right time for me to finally go back to school and accomplish my dream of becoming a court reporter. I set a personal goal to finish and be certified by the time he graduated. Well, it’s June 2018, our senior just graduated, and I’ve been working as a freelance court reporter now for 10 months.

I graduated in June 2017 at the age of 46, so I’m proof that you’re never too old!

JCR |   What is the ultimate goal in your career?

TT | I would say it’s too soon for me to predict my ultimate goal, but this first year’s goal has been spent learning the business side of being a freelance court reporter. We are essentially running a small business, which includes implementing a bookkeeping program to track all expenses and incoming revenue, preparing taxes, employing scopists and/or proofreaders, and time management.

Although the workload of a freelance court reporter can ebb and flow, I quickly discovered that work life can get so busy with transcripts that you have time for little else.  However, with a solid business foundation in place, a freelance court reporter can be successful in having a healthy work-life balance.

JCR | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

TT | Every day as a freelance court reporter has been a “cool experience.” Prior to court reporting, I never had a job where I could honestly say, I love going to work every single day.  As a freelance reporter, no two days are ever the same. We play a critical role in producing an accurate and verbatim record of proceedings, and we have a front-row seat into the most important legal matters of people’s lives.  Thus far, I would say the best experience has been the realization that no machine will ever be able to replicate the accuracy of the human brain for synthesizing speech and converting it to text.

JCR | How has involvement with state and national reporting associations benefited your career thus far?

TT | As an online student and now a professional reporter, I am very passionate about the importance of being involved with your state reporting association and the NCRA. One of the benefits of being involved with state and national reporting associations is attending the yearly conventions and seminars, which allow for many connections and reconnections with students and professional reporters.

My first experience with an NCRA convention was New York City in 2015, where I was honored as the recipient of the CASE scholarship award. I was welcomed, supported, and encouraged by all of the professional reporters I met while I was there, and I even had a couple of them who would continue to mentor and e-mail me along my journey in school, which reminds me: Debbie Dibble and Irv Starkman, if you’re reading this, I did it!

Through my state and national reporting associations, I enjoy promoting the field of court reporting through career fairs and other venues that actively encourage new students, such as the Discover Steno video with NCRA and the Career Outreach video with WCRA, which has benefited not only my career, but hopefully some new recruits!

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

TT | When I’m not reporting, I love spending time with my husband, family, and my grandson, who calls me Noni. We enjoy anything that has to do with the outdoors, entertaining friends, music, and traveling.

JCR | What did you do to remain positive and motivated while in court reporting school?

TT | As an online student, you are somewhat isolated, so it was important for me to be involved with my state and national reporting associations. I had some amazing teachers, reporters, and fellow students along the way who mentored me in a way that both inspired and motivated me to keep pushing and never give up.  These same people continue to mentor and encourage me today as a professional reporter.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

TT | There are many benefits about this rewarding profession.  We truly have a one-of-a-kind career where we get to utilize our skill that is rare and in great demand worldwide.

As a freelance court reporter, I enjoy the benefits of schedule flexibility, a great income, job security, opportunity for professional growth, and the adventure of being presented with a new assignment and location every day.

Court reporting is rarely dull for people who enjoy learning!

Rachel Barkume, RPR, is a freelancer and CART captioner in Alta, CA. She is a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee and can be reached at rachel.barkume@gmail.com.

Hone your advocacy skills at NCRA’s 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp

Hurry! Registration closes April 5 for NCRA’s 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp taking place May 5-7 outside of Washington, D.C. This event promises attendees the ultimate in training to help them become highly effective leaders and advocates for the court reporting and captioning professions.

The cost to participate in the 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp is $225 per NCRA member and $175 for a second member attending from the same state. The nonmember rate is $325. Registration ends on April 5. Attendees are encouraged to book a room at a special rate of $239 per night at the host hotel Embassy Suites in Old Town Alexandria, Va. The special rate includes a cooked-to-order breakfast along with a nightly reception with appetizers and drinks. Remember, staying in the host hotel helps keep the registration costs of NCRA events low, so book now. The deadline to book in the room block at the special event rate is April 11.  To take advantage of this special rate, see the link at the end of this article.

A major component of successful advocacy is building good relationships through communication with lawmakers. NCRA’s Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp devotes a significant portion of the program’s focus to helping attendees learn the ins and outs of doing just that by providing the groundwork to design strategies and offering the opportunity to test those strategies through role-playing. Attendees will be broken into groups, given roles, and provided with a scenario so they can practice their lobbying skills. They will also have the opportunity to participate in mock hearings and earn prizes for the best presentation.

Other highlights on the 2019 schedule include a session about the do’s and don’ts of lobbying that will be led by Mike Goodman, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C. Goodman, former chief of staff for Rep. Ron Kind (Wisconsin), will teach attendees how to speak to legislative staffers and their bosses and what to do and not to do when advocating for the profession. Additional sessions will focus on the nuts and bolts of association work; politics 101; understanding NCRA’s 2019 federal initiative; the state of the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions; how to mobilize a membership; successfully use grassroots advocacy; and more.

Click here to read more about what the 2019 Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp has to offer as well as more about the presenters.

Remember: Registration closes on April 5, so don’t wait! Secure your spot now.

To take advantage of the special host hotel rate, click here or call 1-800-EMBASSY and reference group code: MLV.

Angel Donor Profile: Marjorie Peters

Marjorie Peters

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) supports the advancement of the court reporting and captioning professions through education, scholarship, recognition, and programs critical to preserving the past, enriching the present, and securing the future of the profession. NCRF is able to do the great work it does with donations from individuals and organizations through various donor programs, including the popular Angels program.

Each month, NCRA will highlight one of the more than 100 Angels who support the National Court Reporters Foundation year after year. This month, the column kicks off with a profile of Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, who also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.

JCR | Let’s begin with learning where you are based and what you do.

MP | Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. I am a freelance reporter and small firm owner covering complex realtime and all types of litigation, large and small.

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

MP | Since the Angel program started, nearly 15 years ago!

JCR | Clearly being an Angel is important to you. Why?

MP | I did not attend college, but having a skilled trade that has become a career has offered me the opportunity to achieve goals and work in places with people I never would have imagined. It has given me freedom of choice and flexibility in my life. I want everyone to realize their own goals as well, and the Foundation programs offer those opportunities to others as well.  How can I not support that!?

JCR | Are you involved with the Foundation in other ways?

MP | I am on the Angels Gatherers Committee! Ask me about being an Angel! It’s not as hard as you think. After I was an Angel for the first couple of years, I realized it was a commitment that I would always make to myself and others because NCRF’s programs really do help others. Foundation programs empower!

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?   

MP | Well, the easy answer is the Oral Histories Project. It is a labor of love and the best day you will ever have. The Foundation programs support education through scholarships, support reporting firms by offering legal education resources, and of course the Corrine Clark Professionalism Institute supports fledgling reporters and firms. The Foundation lifts students, reporters, and firms to success personally and professionally.  

Learn more about the NCRF Angel Donors program, or become an Angel.

New Professional Spotlight: Cathy Carpenter

Cathy Carpenter

Cathy Carpenter, originally from Buffalo, N.Y., currently lives and works as a freelance court reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla. She graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and from the court reporting program at Sheridan Technical College in 2015.  She’s a member of NCRA and FCRA and has served on the board of directors of FCRA as the southern director and is currently serving as secretary.  When she’s not reporting and fulfilling her association duties, she enjoys concerts, boating, and going to the beach.

JCR | What was life like as a student?

CC | Life was busy. I worked full time while in school and attended class online in the evening. I would practice before and after work and on weekends.

JCR | What is your next big career goal?

CC | My next big career goal is obtaining my RPR.  I have one leg to go!

JCR | What career would you have chosen had you not gotten into reporting?

CC | I previously worked in the construction industry and really enjoyed it. I would probably still be in the same field had I not learned about court reporting.

JCR | What are your “can’t live without” items in your steno bag?

CC | The obvious things, such as my machine (love my Luminex), laptop, microphones, and backup recorder, but aside from those basics, I would have to say my tilting tripod. I’ve been using one for about three years, and I can’t imagine writing on my machine without it.

JCR | If you could sum up your first year in one word, what would it be and why?

CC | Exciting. Even though we are continuously learning as court reporters, every day really was a new experience that first year. I was terrified and intrigued and looked forward to a new challenge every day.

New Professional Spotlight: Brad Benjamin

Brad Benjamin

Brad Benjamin is a new freelance court reporter in Chicago, Ill. A graduate of MacCormac College, he covers various types of work including court hearings, municipal board meetings, and depositions.

JCR | How did you become interested in becoming a court reporter?

BB | Court reporting always fascinated me. I remember watching the movie Drop Dead Fred when I was a teenager. Phoebe Cates plays a court reporter who gets fired in one of the first scenes. The judge fires her right before a hearing because she is late to court. I remember thinking, ‘Well, who will they find to replace her on such short notice?’

It wasn’t until I was 33 and looking for a career change that I came up with the idea to pursue court reporting during a brainstorming session with a friend. He had recently become a bailiff and encouraged me to consider the legal or law enforcement fields.

After researching a few programs, I concluded that I would complete the whole court reporting curriculum in about six months. I was wrong. But that’s another story.

JCR | Where did you first start working once you graduated/certified?

BB | I started working at Sullivan Reporting Co., a Chicago court reporting agency that has been around since 1937. Although Sullivan is no longer run by court reporters, they are extremely supportive of their reporters, and I feel I could not have thrived as a reporter had I gone a different direction when starting out. In addition to a few other agencies, I am happy to say I am still working with Sullivan today.

JCR | What do you love most about being a court reporter so far?

BB | Despite some pretty long hours, nothing compares to being my own boss. Nothing.

JCR | What advice do you have for students who are near the end of their education?

BB | Get out there and shadow professional reporters. Pretend like you are the reporter hired for the job and accountable for producing a transcript. I shadowed reporters and scoped their transcripts for over a year while in my higher-speed classes. It kept me engaged and enthused about the industry I was about to enter and, more importantly, not intimidated by my options when I reached the end of my education.

JCR | What’s your favorite gadget that you bring with you to every job?

BB | I always have my jump drive with me, and I’m always backing up.

JCR | How has certification helped you in your career thus far?

BB | I have my Illinois CSR and am planning to earn NCRA certifications in the future. My CSR has enabled me to work in a state where there is a massive demand for court reporters and desirable jobs are widely available.

JCR | Any other thoughts?

BB | Well, ok. If you insist, I will admit my education took a while, not the six months I deliriously envisioned at the outset. However, I do not regret a single day of it and would do it all over again to have the career that I have.

Michael Hensley, RDR, a freelance reporter in Dublin, Calif., is the chair of the NCRA New Professionals Committee. He can be reached atstenomph@gmail.com.

The Men of Court Reporting

By Rich Germosen

Rich Germosen and Anthony Frisolone

Have you ever noticed that court reporting is a field dominated by the lovely ladies?  No? Oh, I have. When I first started this journey in September of 1990, I was one of six males in two theory classes with a combined 106 students. As you can imagine, as a young man, this was a beautiful thing. It is something that I got used to very quickly. I know back in the 1950s and 1960s, court reporting was a male-dominated field. Not so today.

This year as 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week approached, I had a thought: Wouldn’t it be great to highlight the Men of Court Reporting on Facebook? I started the week with a post indicating that I was going to be highlighting some of the Men of Court Reporting. I started by posting pictures of my male court reporting friends who I’ve met at the conventions every summer the past several years. Then the idea sort of took off, and I started to highlight and post a picture of every male court reporter that I knew.

Some comments from a couple of female court reporters suggested that highlighting the men of this great field was something that was long overdue. It started to become a group effort as some male court reporters such as Lance Boardman, RDR, CRR; Michael Bouley, RDR; Reid Goldsmith, CRI; Mike Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR; and others started sending me suggestions to post this gentleman, or we need to post this gentleman as well.

Carlos Martinez

If you go to my personal Facebook page, the “Men of Court Reporting” posts are all there with a public setting, so that anyone can view them all, and I also used the hashtag #CRCW2019.

I thought it really made the week very special for all the hardworking men who are in this female-dominated field. There were a lot of men who I didn’t post since I don’t know everyone, but I gave it my best shot. Thank you, men of court reporting!


Dave Collier

Also in the back of my mind, I was thinking that other young men might perhaps see how many men there are in court reporting and would think of going into this industry.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, is a  freelance court reporter from North Brunswick, N.J.


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)

What court reporters want to say but can’t, part 2

A recent post on our Facebook page attracted a lot of interest.

We all had some fun coming up with even more responses which led to “What court reporters want to say but can’t, part 2.”

Thanks to everyone who helped, and we would love to see what you can think of for part 3! Go to our Facebook page and comment with your suggestions.

Dear TV: I Have a Closed Caption Habit (And Apparently Many Others Do, Too)

TVLine.com posted an article on Jan 23 about why television viewers who are not deaf or hard-of-hearing keep closed captioning on.

Read more.

Q&A: Checking in with Joe Aurelio

Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR (Ret.), has always had an attraction to the English language, first as a court reporter and later as a professor of English. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from Boston University. After he retired from reporting because of a hearing loss, he became a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston area. He teaches a variety of subjects, but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology. He will be teaching a live webinar, Homonyms & Pseudohomonyms: The Nemesis of Reporters, Part 3 on Jan. 30, 6-7:30 p.m. ET. The JCR caught up with him to find out a little more about his background and the reason behind his interest in this topic.

Tell us a little about your career.

I started night school at the Boston Stenotype Institute, and on the first night I met a girl, Josephine, who later became my wife.

I ranged all over Massachusetts during my career. During my 39 years, I had a wealth of experiences. I took some important cases (my first murder case was my first case in Korea!) I met some dynamic attorneys while working at the state labor department. My job at the federal agency was to travel around New England taking the testimony from disabled applicants for Social Security aid (some of that was sad). My first case in Superior Court was a criminal case (I was to take many of those). Other than some horrendous murder cases, possibly the two most important cases that I took in Superior Court: one involved the New England Patriots football team and the other, of course, was the Boston Strangler. In a sentence, I’ve had an interesting reporting career with fine memories and opportunities to meet and/or report important persons.

When did you become an NCRA member?

I became an NCRA member, I believe, in 1957. I did so because I believe in unity. When reporters gather together and unite, they have strength and can chart their future course or at least help to chart that course. When reporters join, their dues help to pay for professional advice and lobbying efforts. It’s patently unfair for unregistered reporters to have the benefit of all of the strides that their fellow registered reporters have worked hard for. I am solidly aligned with local, regional, and national unions!

What started your interest in learning more about language than just what you needed for court reporting?

Even as a little kid of 10 or so, I would fool around with language (I’ll be back in a flash with some cash in my sash). Later I remember saying such things as “She would feint a faint.” I was always very interested in homonyms (such as made/maid) and what I would call pseudohomonyms (accede/exceed). In short, I was interested in language many years before I started stenotype reporting. I remember when I was about 14, there was a manual typewriter at the train station where I used to sell newspapers, and I used to put in a quarter to unlock it so that I could type on it for 30 minutes.

If you remember your days from your master’s and doctorate, what did you find was the difference you brought to your studies as a court reporter?

I went back to school late. I was almost 50 when I started my serious studying. My bachelor’s was 1983, the master’s was 1985, and the doctorate was 1989. What I think I brought to my studies was a deep focus that I had to use as a reporter: listening very carefully to every word spoken. In other words, because I was so serious about listening to and capturing every single word in court, I think that that held me in great stead in listening to my professors.

Frankly, it was very difficult to earn three degrees at night while working full-time in a busy court. How’d I do it? By being very motivated because I saw the handwriting on the wall: my hearing loss was making my daily job hard to do. I only succeeded in performing a creditable job in court by having a lot of speed (I passed a 280) and knowing and liking a great deal of English. And that’s how I lasted until 1990. (I wanted to teach in college, and to do that, one needs a lot of degrees.)

You’ve given one seminar for NCRA members recently, and you’re planning another one. What do you hope court reporters and captioners learn from your sessions?

I’ve done one webinar, and soon I’ll do another. I know that a lot of people, including reporters, have great difficulty with English, especially homonyms and pseudohomonyms. Mistakes are being made daily, and the reporters who commit them are not even aware that they’re using the wrong word or spelling a word incorrectly or malpunctuating a sentence. Well, even though I haven’t touched a stenotype since 1990, I still consider myself a reporter, and I feel that it’s my duty to correct or to help correct those who make those types of errors — and I want to do that until I hang up my skates. What I hope reporters will learn from these webinars is that I’d like all of them to learn and use the correct word or punctuation always.

Is there some advice that you would like all reporters and captioners to take to heart?

My advice to all reporters and captioners is to have the highest respect and fealty to the art and profession of reporting. It is an honorable profession. Think of it: Reporters are responsible for taking and transcribing all of the words of everybody. What could be more important than that? I rest my case.