My NCRA Boot Camp experience

By Dineen Squillante

Sen. Patrick Leahy and Dineen Squillante

I signed up for Boot Camp, because I come from a state with no association. Having limited resources and many concerns about the future of our profession, I wanted to learn how to advocate effectively and appropriately for stenography.   NCRA Interim CEO Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, and NCRA Director of Government Relations Jocelynn Moore took us through the dos and don’ts of getting our legislatures behind us, and NCRA board members took our teams through perfecting our mission through role playing.  

Our team bonded quickly and strategized together. The task that seemed impossible and intimidating became fun and attainable. We all pulled from our unique strengths and conquered our mission, each contributing in our own way. Each member of our team grew more confident as the mock day progressed. At the end of the day we were all exhausted. At the same time, we were much more comfortable in the shoes we were about to wear.

When we got to Hill Day, sadly our team had to disperse and stand on our own. But every single member of our team was ready and had an over-the-top successful day. In fact, every member from every other team I spoke with had a hugely successful and exciting day. We grabbed the ear of our representatives and senators across the United States in full force! I feel like everyone who attended and/or had a part in pulling Boot Camp together lifted all of us to a higher level of confidence in advocacy. We all had exciting stories to tell about our meetings on the Hill, and, actually, how easy it was to advocate for what we believe in. 

I had the honor to meet with the following Vermont representatives: Sen. Patrick Leahy and his legislative correspondent, Jeff VanOot; Rep. Peter Welch’s legislative aide, Alexandra Morris; and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ floor coordinator, Ihna Mangundayao. All of these folks are extremely busy and graciously took time out to hear our message.

Every one of us has taken home new friends, allies, and important contacts from across the nation. Now, more than ever, we need to be confident in pushing to make sure humans stay in the chair. 

Thank you to the NCRA board, Dave, and Jocelynn for all the hard work you’ve put in to making us stronger advocates! Together we are mighty!

Shout out to my fellow Team Hotel members! Kimberly Cottrell, Quincy, Ill.; Kimberly Duran, RPR, Albuquerque, N.M.; Pam Fuller-Goold, RPR, Blanchard, Okla.; Janice McMoran, RDR, CRR, Granbury, Texas; Debbie Peterson, RPR, Prior Lake, Minn.; Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR, Walnut Creek, Calif.

#stenoarmy

Dineen Squillante, RPR, is from Arlington, Vt.

Bringing captions to Coachella

Stan Sakai and Isaiah Roberts

By Heidi Renner

When Isaiah Roberts, RPR, Magnolia, Ill., thought he wrote the word lemon while captioning Ariana Grande’s performance at Coachella, he was a little concerned. Did she really say lemon? It turns out he was captioning the moment when someone in the crowd threw a lemon and hit Grande, which became a well-known moment at the music festival.

“I remembered writing lemon during Ariana’s performance and definitely thinking I misheard something,” he posted on Facebook. “Then my cab driver in LA today asked if I saw her get hit by the lemon, and instantly I felt a relief knowing why I did, in fact, write lemon followed by a bunch of expletives.”

Roberts and Stan Sakai, CRC, New York, N.Y., had the unique experience of captioning Coachella, an annual music festival in Indio, Calif. It is one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Then the next weekend they captioned Stagecoach, another music festival held in the same location. Roberts posted a video from Coachella that has been widely shared.

Roberts had looked at the ADA section of Coachella’s website and noticed it told people to reach out if they needed ASL or closed captioning. He sent an email asking if they offered captioning and who provided it? Coachella responded on a Monday saying they wanted to have a meeting to talk about it on Friday. Roberts called his friend Sakai, and they prepared for the meeting. Sakai had already built a website that allowed captioning to be accessed through an app. Sakai worked on making changes to his program to make it work with Coachella. Roberts said the two worked late into the night every night that week. They gave a demonstration Friday to the Coachella representatives over a video call.

“They were blown away,” Roberts said. The representatives recorded what they were seeing on the screen and then showed it to the festival directors. “We were on cloud nine,” Roberts said.

Sakai described it this way on Facebook: “After hundreds of hours of work, the Coachella and Stagecoach captioning systems are online and (nearly) ready to go! A five-server monstrosity spread across New York and California able to serve at peak 29,000 connections per minute, averaging 2,000 connections served per minute at saturation. This will be woven into their existing web and mobile platforms available to their 130,000 attendees, who will all be able to access the live captioning of mainstage performances right from their phones. As a team, Isaiah and I will be tag-teaming, between feeding out pre-scripted lyrics and live stenoing, handing off the baton depending on what’s thrown at us. And when people ask if technology will replace us, my answer to that is: no, we harness technology to keep us going!”

Because the captions were available through the festival app, they were available to everyone. All audience members were required to download the app to activate their wrist bands.

Isaiah Roberts

Roberts saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about court reporting and captioning.

“This is the thing I’m most excited about,” he said. “In trying to grow the profession, I speak to students, but does it really make the profession look appealing? Being at the major music festival really meant something.”

Rachel Meireis from Placentia, Calif., appreciated the captions. She had requested captioning at Stagecoach.

“I am late deafened,” Meireis said. “I lost my hearing in my 20s and wear bilateral cochlear implants to help me hear. But it can be iffy and makes it quite hard to know what’s going on at times. That situation gets complicated because I can sign but I am not fluent in ASL at all. Having access at the concert was amazing. I could keep up with what the performer said between songs and understand lyrics I have been hearing wrong on the radio. Having the captions stream to my phone was great too. It made me able to leave the ADA riser freely and move about the concert but still follow along. Stanley and Isaiah were so helpful and friendly though the whole process. I am very grateful they were able to make this work.”

Roberts said he had wondered who would be benefiting, and he was happy to meet Meireis. During Coachella there were 500 unique visitors viewing the captions. At Stagecoach, there were 400 on the first day. By the end of the weekend they had reached about 1,000 people.

“Hands down the best part was meeting Rachel and getting to meet a consumer of [the captioning],” Roberts said.

For the actual captioning, Roberts and Sakai would usually get a set list so they would look up lyrics ahead of time when possible. They had headphones directly hooked to the singer’s microphone. Sometimes the performer would start talking about other performers or the other people on stage with them, so Roberts and Sakai tried to prepare ahead of time for those things as much as they could. They worked together, captioning on both of their machines at the same time. Sometimes one person would write and the other would look up lyrics.

“It was as cool as I wanted it to be,” Roberts said. “I don’t know what could have gone better.”

Roberts urges other court reporters and captioners to make more of these opportunities happen. Coachella didn’t offer captioning until Roberts reached out to them.

“My takeaway is whatever event you are into, realize that under the ADA they need to offer this service,” Roberts said. “Advocate for yourself.”

Sakai and Roberts are hoping this is a beginning, and there will be more music festival work for them.

Sakai summarized the experience on Facebook: “COACHELLA RECAP: Between shoddy internet connections, knocked-over equipment from dudes getting tackled backstage, my laptop getting nailed by a flying rogue water bottle, or minor software issues, providing live captioning at Coachella was a resounding SUCCESS. Isaiah and I powered through and got the app online on all the monitors at the ADA platforms and on the official Coachella mobile app, captioned Spanish-language performers, and even spared a few moments to visit our friends. I’m still gobsmacked and star-struck by the weekend but can’t help to think that this is the beginning of something huge. We all worked hard but we’re both forever grateful for having had the opportunity to pioneer live-event captioning on this scale. A HUGE thank you to Isaiah for making this all possible, and as I’ve said before, I remain humbled and excited for what’s to come.”

The RDR is NCRA’s most prestigious certification

To mark the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, all through May we will take a look in each week’s JCR Weekly at the certifications offered by NCRA.

Lisa Mayo and Candace Covey

NCRA’s Registered Diplomat Reporter (RDR) is recognized as the Association’s most prestigious certification because it is a direct reflection of the commitment to advancement in a court reporter’s career and professional growth. RDRs are the elite members of the court reporting and captioning field when it comes to experience and knowledge of the latest technology, reporting practices, and professional practices. To date, less than 500 members of NCRA hold the certification.

Earlier this month, Candace Covey, CRR, and Lisa Mayo, CRR, added the RDR certification to their dossiers. Both women are official court reporters for a federal court in Memphis, Tenn., and now represent two of the only three NCRA members who hold the RDR in that town.

“I earned the CRR (Certified Realtime Reporter) to prove to myself I was competent to offer realtime to clients,” said Covey. “I earned the RMR just to prove to myself I was fast enough to be in court. For me the RDR was just a challenge and the next step in the progression,” she said.

“The biggest reason for taking this test was knowing there was one more out there that I hadn’t passed yet,” added Mayo. “There was a constant little voice reminding me it was still hanging out there.” 

It took multiple times for both Covey and Mayo to earn the RDR. For Covey, it was twice. For Mayo the third time was the charm. After taking the test for the first time, Covey said she swore she was not going to pay any more money to fail the tests. “So I bought the books and made Lisa study too,” she noted.

And the feeling they had when they were notified that they passed?

“My immediate thought was I can finally have a hobby!” said Covey, who has been a court reporter since 1996.

“When I walked outside of the testing room, I was so nervous,” Mayo said. “I knew I had done all I could do, but the nerves were still there. Walking to the counter to see the results flipped over, I was all butterflies. There was such joy when I turned it over and saw ‘passed’ on there. I have to admit, I hugged the sweet lady at the counter. To say I was thrilled is an understatement,” added Mayo who has been a court reporter for 30 years. 

Both agree that the benefits of earning the RDR are not just personal but could lead to more opportunities should they ever leave the world of official court reporting. On a personal level, earning the RDR gave each of them a great deal of confidence.

“The RDR has given me a sense of empowerment. I tend to not be very consistent; through getting the RDR I have proven to myself I can stay the course. Even through the fails,” Covey said.  

For Mayo, earning the RDR meant not having to study anymore and like Covey, earning her free time back.

“I feel like each certification has represented a different phase in my career,” she said. “I think this has been a great reminder to my children to keep going for it. What a better example than seeing that their mom took this test three times before passing it. She didn’t give up.”  

Covey and Mayo both agree it is never too late to work on achieving goals and said they would encourage others to never stop investing in themselves.

But first comes the RMR

To be recognized as a RDR, candidates must hold the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification and have five current and continuous years of membership in the NCRA, as well as pass a written knowledge test that focuses on the areas of technology, reporting practices, and professional practices.

RMRs have demonstrated their ability to produce a high-quality verbatim record. The certification distinguishes stenographic court reporters and captioners who hold it as being among the top contributors to the profession in terms of reporting skills, transcript production, operating practices, and professionalism.

Earning the RMR credential is quite a step forward in a court reporter’s career, especially given the amount of preparation and knowledge that successful candidates must possess to pass. RMRs are among the top stenographic court reporters in the profession and are often offered greater opportunities for challenging and lucrative job assignments. NCRA currently has approximately 3,000 members who hold this prestigious certification.

In February, Theresa Ann Vorkapic, CRR, a court reporter from Geneva, Ill., who works for Esquire Deposition Solutions in Chicago, earned her RMR certification. In March, Diana Osberg, from Malibu, Calif, a court reporter for HG Deposition and Litigation Support, also earned her RMR.

“Becoming a court reporter was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life. I am so proud to have earned my certifications and to be a member of a great organization like NCRA which recognizes and fosters the many skills needed to do this job,” said Vorkapic, who has worked as a court reporter for 30 years.

“As an agency owner with a deep respect and admiration for the profession of the Guardian of the Record, and especially with the lightning speed of advancing technology that will continue to be adapted to service our legal community, continuing stenographic acceleration and proficiency is critical to stay abreast, current, and at the top of our game,” added Osberg, who has also worked as a court reporter for 30 years.

For more information about earning your RMR or RDR or any other NCRA professional certifications, visit NCRA.org/Certification.

Court reporting featured at local career fair

NCRA Director Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Shawnee, Kan., was featured in a photo and quoted in an article posted May 10 by The Miami County Republic,  about her participation in a recent career fair held a local middle school.

Read more.

Erin Brockovich to take center stage at NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo

A press release issued by NCRA announcing Erin Brockovich as keynote speaker at the 2019 Convention & Expo taking place Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo., was posted by Yahaoo Finance on May 13.

Read more.

Remaining dates for 2019 NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program announced

NCRA’s A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program offers the perfect opportunity for potential students to learn the alphabet in steno, write on a real machine, and decide if pursuing an education in court reporting or captioning is the right choice.

This free six-week program is a hybrid course combining both live online instructor sessions with videos and dictation materials for self-paced practice. The remaining dates for 2019 course offerings are listed below:

Summer
June 11 – July 23 — Asynchronous*

Fall
Aug. 21 – Sept. 25 — 8:30 p.m. ET**
Sept. 4 – Oct. 16 — Asynchronous*
Oct. 8 – Nov. 19 — 7 p.m. ET**

*Participants complete the program at their own pace during the six weeks
**Classes are held once a week for one hour over the course of six weeks

NCRA urges members to share this information with anyone who might be interested in pursuing a career in court reporting or captioning. For more information about the NCRA A to Z program, visit AtoZDiscoverSteno.org, or contact Ellen Goff, Assistant Director, Professional Development at schools@ncra.org. You can also find more information at Frequently Asked Questions.

Take advantage of early registration savings

Don’t miss out on the special savings on registration fees for the 2019 Convention & Expo happening Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo. Register by May 15 and take advantage of the special pricing of a $50 discount on the full registration.

Attendees are also encouraged to reserve hotel rooms for the Convention at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. Staying at the host hotel not only gets great amenities for registered attendees (including continental breakfast on Friday and Saturday), but it also helps NCRA keep rates for events reasonable for everyone.

Taking center stage as keynote speaker at the Premier Session this year is the internationally recognized consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who will share insights into how she used her persistence as a legal researcher to help secure the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history. Brockovich’s story was made famous on the big screen when actress Julia Roberts portrayed her in the film Erin Brockovich. The Premier Session also serves as the venue for the installation of NCRA’s 2019-2020 officers.

“NCRA is so honored to have Erin Brockovich join us as our keynote speaker at the 2019 Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo. Her story is one of true inspiration,” said 2018-2019 NCRA President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Springfield, Ohio. 

“Her ambition to overcome numerous challenges in her life, her impact in the legal arena, and her commitment to make the world a better and safer place for others is not just admirable, it is motivational,” Terry said. “Her story is one that will without doubt resonate with our members.”

This year’s convention also features a range of exciting sessions for court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, and scopists, including the two-day CRC Workshop and CRC Exam, the ever-popular CRR Boot Camp, full-day vendor training workshops, and the Punctuation Workshop. Throughout the Convention attendees can earn up to 1.175 CEUs.

In addition to the learning sessions, NCRA’s Convention & Expo is the place to be for the ultimate in networking opportunities. These ticket opportunities include the Opening Reception, the Awards Luncheon, and the Member Recognition Gala. The annual Realtime and Speed Contests are also expected to sell out quickly, so don’t delay registering for these special events!

For more information about the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo, or to register, visit NCRA.org/Convention. Don’t let procrastination make you miss the special pricing in effect through May 15 that will get early registrants a $50 discount on the full registration.

For sponsorship information please contact Mary Petto, Senior Director of External Affairs, at mpetto@ncra.org.

Pass around the cards and Celebrate Certification Month

NCRA’s Celebrate Certification Month resource page has an array of items members can use to help celebrate their certifications and showcase their high-level skills to current and potential customers and clients, like our new certification and occupation cards.

Members can download the two-sided cards and print them on Avery brand perforated business card paper available at office supply stores. The cards are laid out with 10 to fit on one sheet of paper. They measure three-and-one-half inches wide by two inches tall. The cards are designed to help members creatively share with others more information about what they do and what their certifications mean.

Celebrate Certification Month Business Cards

There are two versions of these cards that feature either ‘May is Celebrate Certification Month’ or  ‘Celebrate Certification Month’ artwork with the website on the front side and two customizable reverse sides that read ‘Are you certified’ or ‘Ask me about my NCRA certification’.

Certification Specific Cards

Certification-specific business cards can be used all yearlong not just during the month of May. Downloadable cards include the RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and the CLVS. The backside of each card includes information about what the certification means and what it takes to earn it. The cards are also customizable. Each of these can be found at the Celebrate Certification Month resource page under the heading Professional Cards.

Occupational Business Cards

Like the certification specific business cards, these cards can also be downloaded and used throughout the year. The front side of these cards include CART provider, Freelance Court Reporter, Legal Videographer, Legislative Court Reporter, Official Court Reporter, and Legislative Court Reporter. The reverse side card includes information about salary potential, a job description, and the required education needed to enter the field. In addition, these can be customized with the user’s name and contact information or be printed with the DiscoverSteno site for more information. Each of these can be found at the Celebrate Certification Month resource page under the heading Professional Cards.

The idea for the cards was the result of similar occupational cards shared with NCRA by Linda C. Larson, RPR, CRI a freelance court reporter firm owner from Carlisle, Pa., and President-Elect of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association (PCRA). Larson said the idea came from a gubernatorial candidate who visited a committee she serves on with her local chamber of commerce. The candidate shared a pack of career cards that featured workforce careers such as different types of engineers, welding, pipefitting, and more.

“When I saw the cards, I thought of court reporting. PCRA has been putting a lot of effort into marketing court reporting to potential students, and I envisioned creating cards with Realtime Broadcast Captioner, CART Reporter, Legislative Reporter, Freelance Reporter, and Official Court Reporter, showcasing the five different types of court reporters,” said Larson.

“As President-Elect of PCRA, I shared the idea for the cards at the next Board meeting and showed them. The Board was enthusiastic about creating some of our own. I was then appointed as the Chairman of the Baseball Card Committee.”

Larson said the committee sought models for the different cards, secured the information for the back sides and then worked with a local print shop to create them. The cards were packed in packs and were officially distributed to members at PCRA’s convention held in April.

“There was quite a bit of interest in the cards,” Larson said. The packets of cards she distributed will be going to career fairs and to individuals interested in learning more about careers in court reporting and captioning.

“I’ve been carrying the cards with me when I work and handing them out to people who show interest in court reporting. Pennsylvania is divided into eight districts, and we have a district director on the board in each area that will also be distributing the cards,” Larson added.

A reminder to NCRA members who want to mark the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month by working toward earning one, from now through May 15, members can save when they register for RPR, RMR, CRR, or CRC skills tests. There’s no better time than certification month to earn a nationally recognized professional certification from NCRA to boost your skills and your career potential. During the special rate offering, students taking the RPR Skills Test will pay $65 for each leg, while members will pay $80 for each RPR or RMR Skills Test leg. In addition, members can take advantage of a discounted price of $180 for the CRR or CRC Skills Tests, while students will pay only $150 for a CRC Skills Test.

Throughout the entire month of May, members can also save an additional 10 percent on all purchases from the NCRA Store when they use the special savings code MAY10.

Be sure to visit the Celebrate Certification Month resource page to choose from the many downloadable materials designed to help NCRA celebrate their certifications.

For more information about the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, contact pr@ncra.org. Share with NCRA how you celebrate the month by sending information to pr@ncra.org.

2019 Celebrate Certification Month

Yahoo Finance posted a press release on May 1 issued by NCRA announcing that May is the association’s second Celebrate Certification Month.

Read more.

A behind-the-camera look at the CLVS certification

2019 Celebrate Certification Month is here, and as part of the celebration, we will take a look in each week’s JCR Weekly at the certifications offered by NCRA.

T. R. Hutchinson

Professionals who hold NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) certification have proven that they are experts in understanding how to set up and capture the necessary information needed in a video format by parties to a case. They are highly trained in working with video equipment to provide accurate and vital records in this type of specialized format. And, most importantly, they understand their role best serves the client when provided in conjunction with a certified court reporter.

The CLVS certification not only acknowledges the high level of skill and understanding of knowledge related to all facets of videotaping, court proceedings, and judicial procedures, and the ability to deliver accurate and timely finished video product, but also the positive impact on your business.

T.R. Hutchinson, CLVS, from Portland, Ore., is a member of NCRA and has worked as a legal videographer for the past year and a half. Prior to becoming a videographer, he owned and operated his own business. As a business owner, he understands that being competent, responsive, and reliable are major keys to success and says the change in career to be a freelance legal videographer has been very positive.

“Earning my CLVS has increased my business. I work as a freelancer, and once other firms heard I had received my CLVS, I started getting more calls for work,” said Hutchinson, who earned his CLVS in March.

“Going through the process increased my technical understanding about shooting video a little more, plus I received a better understanding about ‘professional’ behavior on the job. As I mentioned, I just wanted to work freelance, and the court reporters have commented to me more than once about how professional I am. That has led them to give my name to other people, which is why my business is increasing,” he added.

To earn the CLVS, candidates must attend a mandatory certification workshop that is held online, pass a Written Knowledge Test, and take the CLVS production test held twice a year at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Prior to the test, there is also an optional hands-on training session, also held at the Reston location.

Christine Stroia, from Minneapolis, Minn., a member of NCRA, also earned her CLVS in March. She has worked in the video industry for more than 15 years.

“Earning this certification shows that I am dedicated and prepared to work with the court reporter to capture and protect the integrity of the record and am committed to following the standards set forth by the CLVS Council of the NCRA,” Stroia said.

For more information about earning your CLVS or any other NCRA professional certifications, visit NCRA.org/Certification.