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.”

Celebrate #CRCW: How do I get an official proclamation in my state?

The JCR spoke to NCRA Board member Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, CRI, Shawnee, Kan., who succeeded in getting a proclamation in the Kansas state legislature for the last several years during Court Reporting & Captioning Week. She was also successful in securing one from the State Supreme Court one year as well. We asked her a few questions to help guide you through the process.

JCR | What office at the state level do you approach to request an official proclamation recognizing Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

CI | I have approached the governor and our county commissioners for proclamations. Our lobbyist helped us one year, but the other years we went on Google and searched for “State of Kansas Proclamation Request.” I sent them the verbiage that I got from the NCRA website about the history of court reporters and they did the rest. I did make contact with the secretary/staffer to come for a presentation.

JCR | How do you make the request? In person, in writing?

CI | I made the request through the form on the website. For the County Commissioner’s office, I contacted the county and spoke with the secretary for the chairman of the commission, and I also gave her the information from NCRA about our long history.

JCR | How soon should you make the request to ensure it happens in conjunction with the week?

CI | The sooner the better. I would send it in the beginning of January. County Commissioner’s office doesn’t take as long as the governor.

JCR | Should the party requesting the proclamation provide an actual proclamation, or does the office issuing it provide it?

CI | The governor’s office did all the paperwork, provided the proclamation, and made a few copies for us. The County Commissioner’s office prepared the proclamation and gave it to us during a County Commissioner’s meeting during Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

JCR | Is it appropriate to request a photo shoot of the proclamation being signed/presented?

CI | Absolutely. We have taken pictures with the governor and the county commissioner every time. They are politicians and they want to represent their constituents and the professions they hold any opportunity they can.

JCR | Are officials typically receptive to these types of requests?

CI | Very receptive, especially if you give them the language that you want and explain that it’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

JCR | Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share regarding securing an official proclamation?

CI | We attended the Board of County Commissioner’s meeting and provided realtime for the board, and it was very enlightening for them. The judge I work for went with me and talked about the importance of what we do and how proud he is of all court reporters in our county. If the governor cannot see you, or you’re short on time, just have them mail you the proclamation. I had no problems contacting their office and speaking to a staffer about making arrangements to go to the capitol for the presentation. It’s very quick, so don’t be offended if they don’t spend a lot of time with you.

Did you know that for the second consecutive year, NCRA has issued its own challenge that calls on all state affiliates to help celebrate 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week by securing an official proclamation recognizing the week by their state governor or a state lawmaker? States that submit a copy of their official state proclamation recognizing the week to will be entered into a drawing to win one free 2020 Convention & Expo registration. A downloadable sample proclamation is available on NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning resource page.

For additional resources, visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page at No matter how you celebrate 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, be sure to share your stories and photos with NCRA’s Communications Team at Also, remember to use the hashtag #CRCW20 when you post on social media.

Presenting at the NCRA Conference for the first time

Penny Wile

By Penny Wile, RPR, RMR, CRR

When I was asked to speak on a panel at the 2019 NCRA Conference & Expo in Denver, Colo., I was honored and immediately accepted. I never imagined I would be asked to present at a national convention. I will admit, I am a newbie at speaking to my court reporting peers. I was asked to be on a panel with three very talented professionals and speak on how we promote the profession. We had a couple of conference calls before the convention and only met one another briefly before we spoke on the panel.

Being a newbie and not knowing what to expect, before I left home to attend the conference, I typed up what I planned to speak about and arrived in Denver with my notes. My fear was how am I going to speak for a solid 10 minutes with the few notes I had compiled. It seemed like 10 minutes of content.

While in Denver my son and I spent time sightseeing in Boulder, Nederland, and Morrison. We drove up the rocks and took in the amazing views and visited some of the Colorado attractions.

Fast forward to Saturday, the day I was scheduled to present. When I returned to my room at lunchtime, I found that in my haste to keep our room tidy I had thrown away my notes. After grabbing some food to-go, I returned to my room and sat down to quickly type up what I could remember from the notes I had thrown away. I typed the notes on my iPad and ate, all the while wondering if this would be sufficient.

When I arrived at the meeting hall, I will admit I was nervous. I knew very little about my fellow panelists and didn’t really know what to expect. One by one the panelists entered, and I was immediately at ease. They were friendly, knowledgeable about the topic we would be presenting on, and all-around impressive court reporting professionals.

Each of us on the panel brought something different to the table. We spoke of promoting the profession through our presentations at the middle and high school levels, community college level, job fairs, and volunteer opportunities. We discussed resources that can be used to promote our profession and how to obtain them.

In hindsight, I feel I could have done better with my presentation. When it was my turn to speak, I began with too much of my background. I kept thinking 10 minutes was a long time to speak. But before I knew it, I had run out of time. I didn’t even use the notes I had retyped. I was appreciative of the questions asked by our audience because it gave me an opportunity to address the topic in more detail.

After attending the NCRA Conference & Expo, I came away empowered by all of the speakers from their topic content and the effortless way they presented.

I hope I will be invited again to be a speaker so I can use what I have learned from my first experience – be concise and informative! It was an honor to be asked by NCRA to be part of the conference agenda, and I truly appreciated the opportunity to speak and network with my peers and the NCRA staff who work so hard for us. Always remember, like our panel topic demonstrated, promote the profession!

Penny Wile, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and owner of Penny Wile Court Reporting. She resides in Norfolk, Va. She can be contacted at

Click to find out how to apply to present at the 2020 NCRA Conference & Expo.

What has NCRA done for captioners?

By Carol Studenmund

I live in Portland, Ore., and I am one of the owners of LNS Court Reporting and LNS Captioning along with Robin Nodland. I manage LNS Captioning, and she manages LNS Court Reporting. I began captioning in 1992. I’ve had the joy of captioning two Super Bowls for fans and players in the stadiums, and I have had the heartbreak of captioning way too many mass shooting events. In between are many hours listening to the public testify at city council meetings and inconsequential but sweet stories about kittens and puppies. I love my job and would not trade it for anything.

Evolution of a captioner

I can trace the evolution of captioning in my own personal development.

In April 1992 I attended the first NCRA realtime writing conference, held in Seattle, Wash. The staff of the National Captioning Institute and VITAC took about 200 people through the paces of writing in real time without conflicts or undefined steno. At this conference, I found a path to follow to become a live captioner. From this foundation, I and many others started our immersion into the pool of qualified live captioners.

In July 1992, at the NCRA convention in Chicago, I sat for the brand-new Certified Realtime Reporter examination, and I did not pass. I returned to take the test at the next convention and passed. Passing that test was hard, and I put a lot of work into being ready for it the second time around. I gained a ton of confidence in my writing and my ability to stay cool under pressure.

In 1994, I was asked to participate in a training conference held by NCRA. Over the next few years, I traveled the country as part of a team of NCRA members who trained even more people to become great realtime writers, and many of them joined the world of live captioning. The people I taught with inspired me to keep working on my writing, and still I consider them mentors who could help answer my questions about so many topics relating to captioning. I have benefited greatly from the training, the certification, and the networking I have found through NCRA.

Captioners were a part of NCRA from the beginning

A meme going around the social media world of live captioning asks: “What has NCRA ever done for captioning?” Trust me, a great amount of energy and hard work on behalf of NCRA leadership and members built the foundation for the field of professional, certified live captioners.

Marty Block, RPR (Ret.), then of the National Captioning Institute, provided the first live captioning on live television in the world for the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony. No faxes or emails were sent with prep material. Someone from NCI flew to Los Angeles to pick up — literally — the Oscars’ script for Marty. Marty went on to become president of NCRA and one of the founders of VITAC. Other past presidents of NCRA who are or were captioners include Joe Karlovits, RDR (Ret.); Judy Brentano, RPR (Ret.); Kathy DiLorenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; and Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC.

Karlovits became the first person to caption for a deaf lawyer when that lawyer argued a case before the United States Supreme Court in 1982. His work received a great deal of publicity across the country. Many firsts in captioning were celebrated by the community of people with hearing disabilities as more and more TV programs and other live events became accessible.

Advocating for captioning

In the early 2000s, NCRA helped obtain funding for Mississippi State University to develop a workforce development program for captioning. Jan Bounds oversaw an excellent bachelor’s degree in a court reporting program at Ole Miss. The Mississippi Congressional delegation went to bat for a $500,000 grant to create this program to train court reporters to become live captioners. NCRA threw its weight behind this effort, led by Dave Wenhold, then our lobbyist, now our Executive Director. Ole Miss hired EduCaption, Inc., out of Atlanta, to create and implement the program. Past president Judy Brentano and current NCRA board member Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, created the program and toured the country to train captioners. When I come across someone trained in this program, their résumé goes to the top of the pile. EduCaption has moved around over the years and is now known as Learn to Caption, which is run by NCRA member Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI. NCRA has lobbied Congress for retraining funds year after year, funds which helped many realtime writing programs become established across the country.

NCRA develops a certification program for captioners

In 2003, the Certified CART Provider and Certified Broadcast Captioner program began by providing CRR holders with a written knowledge test that demonstrated the test candidate’s knowledge of working in the broadcast world and/or the CART captioning world. Many captioners quickly took both exams and obtained both certifications. By 2015 the CRR became a true judicial reporter exam by becoming a testimony-only skills test. The Certified Realtime Captioner program was launched in 2015, when the two written knowledge tests were combined into one exam, and the skills portion of the certification became a test at 180 words per minute with a 96 percent accuracy rate required to pass.

NCRA has worked throughout the years to raise awareness of our certification programs, including the CRC. As a result of that work, I have replied to several Requests for Proposals that specifically required captioners to be holders of our CRC as part of the contract.

NCRA building best practices for captioning

In 2012, the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC) created a caption accuracy program that just about all live captioners — in Canada and the United States — felt was draconian and onerous. Just to state the obvious, live captioners do not control what is being said on TV. We cannot tell the weather guy to slow down. We caption what we are given. We all strive for 100 percent accuracy for 100 percent of the words. However, people talk over each other. Politicians yell at each other. It’s part of the job. The CRTC’s plan involved CRTC staff obtaining the actual audio file of a TV program and the captions that were created by the live captioner assigned to that program. The staff person then would evaluate the captioner’s accuracy rate compared against the actual words said. When I’m racing to keep up, I will drop “okay” or someone repeating themselves, those types of things. Those would all be counted as errors against my accuracy rate.

That same year, I was the chairperson of the Captioning Community of Interest. My fellow committee members and I agreed we did not want anything like the Canadian plan to come to the United States. We decided to take the bull by the horns and control our futures. We created a document that outlined the roles of everyone involved in bringing live captioning to TV. When I am working as a captioner, what are my duties and responsibilities? When I am operating in my role as a firm owner, what must I make sure happens to get my captioners’ captions to the program on time and as accurately as possible? What roles do my local network affiliates and local cable providers play in getting our captions delivered to the viewers without any technical errors? We even included a part in this process for the caption consumer to provide feedback to the FCC about their experiences watching captioned programming.

Once Adam Finkel, our then-government relations staff person at NCRA, had vetted our Best Practices with the national organizations for people with hearing disabilities, we were ready to take our best practices to the next level: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Finkel made an appointment with the FCC to share our Best Practices. Their response? “We love this.” We did not ask the FCC to grade papers. Our best practices scenario let everyone know what part of the process they were responsible for. In 2015, the FCC’s Rules for Broadcast Captioning Quality were approved and made into law.

Is there anything else I should know?

NCRA’s current president, Max Curry, RPR, CRI, wants to bring as many captioners into NCRA as he can find. The more members we have, the more work NCRA can do on behalf of us all. I urge you, if you are a captioner and haven’t earned the CRC, put that on your to-do list and work hard to pass that test. If you have already earned the CRC, continue your education. There is always more to learn about this great, big world of ours, and you never know what will come up when you caption. If you work with other captioners, encourage them to become members of NCRA and to earn these certifications. Together, we can do wonderful things.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner based in Portland, Ore., and chair of the NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee. She can be reached at

NCRA STRONG Task Force creates Toolkit for promoting court reporting and captioning

By Christopher Day

The NCRA STRONG Task Force has been working with NCRA staff to bring you the NCRA STRONG Toolkit. The Toolkit brings you a number of documents and presentations that will help you advocate for the court reporting and captioning professions and educate clients, lawyers, litigants, or other members of the public about the benefits of stenographic reporting and the risks of digital reporting. The NCRA STRONG Toolkit offers free recruitment materials to all NCRA members and serves as your go-to resource to highlight the advantages of stenographic reporting whenever you have an event, deposition, meeting, or seminar with individuals who need to know what stenographic reporting can bring to their table. Materials are conveniently available on the NCRA website at

As we look toward a wonderful new year, we want to acknowledge and thank every one of you for your own dedication to and hard work in these amazing professions. Please share these presentations, NCRA STRONG logos, flyers, and additional materials with your fellow members. We meet the needs of our market in a way that is unparalleled and personal. Our work is important. Our services are essential. Take the time out to get connected! Together, we can enhance one another’s efforts to advertise our profession.

Christopher Day is an official court reporter based in Staten Island, N.Y., and a member of the NCRA STRONG Task Force. He can be reached at

Nominations for NCRA Board of Directors sought

Serving on the NCRA Board of Directors is an excellent opportunity to use your leadership skills to help advance the premier organization that continues to empower the court reporting and captioning professions. As a Director, you will serve with others as fiduciaries to steer the organization toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure NCRA has adequate resources to advance its mission.

Declare your candidacy or submit recommendations to by Jan. 10, 2020. As a courtesy, please contact your candidate directly prior to submitting his or her name.

A web-based, no-obligation orientation will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, for anyone interested in seeking future Board service. This briefing will help you gain a better understanding of the process and expectations of serving on the Board. To sign-up for the webinar, please contact Laura Butler at

Good news from the NCRA Board of Directors Meeting

Dave Wenhold

Following the NCRA Board of Directors meeting Nov. 9-10, the Board announced that Interim Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, will act as Executive Director for the Association through 2020.

“We are pleased that Dave will remain with the Association for another year,” said Max Curry, RPR, CRI, NCRA’s President. “Not only does this bring greater continuity to the Association, but Dave’s great depth of knowledge about the profession and Association is an asset to us all,” he added.

“I am excited to continue the great work that staff and the Board have done in 2019,” said Wenhold. “Working together, we have created crucial committees like NCRA STRONG, worked with Congress to reintroduce the Training for Realtime Writers Act to increase funding for training reporters and captioners, increased transparency and trust, and we have cut expenses and will have our finances in the black for the first time in about a decade.”

“In the coming year, I plan to work with the volunteer leadership to take this organization to the next level. With 21 years of experience working with NCRA, I’m excited about this next stage and look forward to what we can do together to make NCRA even better,” added Wenhold.

In other business coming out of the meeting, the Board decided to change the name of the new certification to Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR), which better reflects the mission of supporting this latest professional certification than the initial title, Registered Apprentice Reporter. Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RSR certification supports those who are new or returning to the court reporting profession who have yet to be able to get their writing speeds up enough to earn the RPR. To earn an RSR, candidates must get a 95 percent pass rate on three 5-minute Skills Tests: a Literary leg at 160 words per minute; a Jury Charge leg at 180 words per minute; and a Testimony/Q&A leg at 200 words per minute. Testing for the RSR begins Jan. 1, 2020, and registration for the first RSR skills testing began Dec. 1, 2019.

In addition, the Board voted to reduce rates for classified ads for the print JCR to $3 per word for members (with a $30 minimum) and $5 per word for nonmembers (with a $50 minimum). Those who want to place both online and print ads will pay $5 per word for members (with a $50 minimum) and $8 per word for nonmembers (with an $80 minimum). Officialships will continue to be placed free of charge in both the print JCR and online as a service to members.

Finally, the Board approved a plan to offer value to organizations and firms who wish to invest in the Association through a planned Professional Partnership program. The program allows potential partners to support the Association by participating in events, networking opportunities, sponsorships, memberships, and support of the National Court Reporters Foundation. More details on this program and classifieds can be found by contacting NCRA’s Development Relations Manager at

Kendra Johnston wins the NCRA September membership renewal campaign

Kendra Johnston, RMR, CRR, Charleston, S.C.

Our congratulations to Kendra Johnston, RMR, CRR, of Charleston, S.C., who was randomly chosen among all those who renewed their NCRA membership in September to win a $300 Amazon gift credit. The renewal rewards continue: renew in October for your chance at a $100 prize.

When asked about why she initially joined NCRA, Johnston explained,”I became a member of NCRA (then NSRA)  because I wanted to be involved and learn all I could about my profession. I’ve attended many of the seminars, enjoyed spending time with other reporters, and learned so much from them.”

Johnston shared about her passion for the court reporting profession:

“I’ve been reporting for over 35 years and still love it, find it challenging and rewarding. I love working with familiar clients and meeting new people. I’ve had the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally. I went from typing transcripts from my notes all the way to realtime. Every job is an opportunity to improve my skills, brief on the fly, edit from my writer, learn.  It never gets boring!”

New membership rates for 2020

During the Aug. 15 NCRA Annual Business Meeting, NCRA members took up the question of increasing membership dues and voted to proceed with an increase effective with the 2020 dues. When the Board of Directors put forward the proposal, it noted that a dues increase is critical to maintain and grow the services provided to NCRA members and to continue the Association’s efforts to advance and advocate for the professions. Dues for NCRA membership last increased in 2016.

Reporter dues will be raised to $300 for Registered and Participating members and to $179 for Associate members. Student dues will be raised to $55. (The chart below shows the new dues for additional groups.) Members who opted to become Lifetime retired members before Dec. 31, 2017, and those who were granted honorary status will continue to pay no dues.

The proposed amounts take into account the various parameters put in place on dues for certain membership categories by the Constitution & Bylaws.

Reporter (U.S.) — $300

Reporter (international) – $150

Associate (U.S.) – $179

Associate (International) – $145

Retired (as of Jan. 1, 2018) – $150

Student – $55

Phipps Reporting acquires Accurate Stenotype

Phipps Reporting has acquired Accurate Stenotype, a 43- year-old Tallahassee-based court reporting firm. “Aligning with firms like Accurate who share our core values is part of our strategic plan to become one of the strongest firms in the industry. This acquisition further enhances our commitment to quality stenographic services and ethics,” said Christine Phipps, RPR, President and CEO of Phipps Reporting based in West Palm Beach.

Read more.