Our entire community working together

By Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

NCRA President Sue Terry

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has announced that it will begin using IBM Watson Captioning, a form of automatic speech recognition, for their local television news stations. NCRA feels strongly that this decision is not in the best interests of the end consumer, and we are working diligently to do all we can to protect consumers and educate broadcasters as to the importance of quality captioning provided by a stenographic captioner.

This decision has alarmed everyone in our profession, but it is also serving as a catalyst to bring our association of professionals together to assist our deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This isn’t just about captioners and the effect that such a decision has on our work. Court reporters and captioners are not resistant to using technology to improve our lives; in fact, we are on the cutting edge of technology and are using the best platforms available to efficiently provide accurate court records and captions.

This decision is about the consumers: the millions of people in the United States who use captioning to absorb vital information, information that will now become garbled, untimely, lacking speaker designations, and often unintelligible, in addition to omitting sound effects, laughter, and music. While automatic speech recognition is evolving, it cannot match the expertise and skill of a trained and certified captioner. The deaf and hard-of-hearing community should have nothing less than full participation in programming. Using automation to disseminate vital information to millions of Americans who rely on accuracy in captioning is not only irresponsible, in our opinion, but potentially dangerous to the end users of our product: quality captioning.

NCRA’s Government Relations Department Manager, Matthew Barusch, is working with our NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee to handle this new development. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we have full confidence in their work to address this, but we still need your help. Sign our petition urging Sinclair to change course. If you are in an area with a local Sinclair television news station that has transitioned to IBM Watson, watch the news and closely critique the captions. Enlist the help of your friends and family in doing the same. If you see the captioning is inaccurate, register your formal complaint with the FCC. With your help and our entire community working together, we can make a difference.

Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is NCRA’s 2018-2019 President. She can be reached at president@ncra.org.


Immediate Past President’s final address to the membership at 2018 Convention & Expo

Chris Willette

The following is the speech given by Immediate Past President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, Wausau, Wis., during the Aug. 2 Annual Business Meeting at the 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La.

Five minutes is not nearly enough for me to tell you about the accomplishments of NCRA’s volunteers, Board of Directors, CEO, and staff. I will do my best! My apologies in advance to Andrea Couch, our captioner today. I know she will forgive me. Besides, she’s got amazing skills.

Shortly after the last time I stood in front of our membership, the room went dark. I knew then that it was going to be a fantastic year since we had just received a fresh jolt of electricity!

As many of you know, leadership has its ups and downs. I am a firm believer that there are no mistakes in life … only lessons. Challenges present opportunities. By choice, I apply lessons learned and move forward in a positive and constructive manner.

Allow me to share just a few of our accomplishments over the past 12 months.

Immediately following convention, the board set out to vet and hire our new CEO. More than 100 candidates applied. The Board sought a leader with the skill set to get our finances under control and lead our association through a needed transition to position NCRA for a successful future. Marcia Ferranto became a full-time employee of NCRA in October. Marcia brings extensive experience, analytical and fact-based decision-making ability, and a keen focus on success. She possesses an energetic, positive attitude, filled with passion for what she loves to do: manage associations.

Next, on the Board’s agenda — a new Strategic Plan. Vision 2018 was upon us, and we needed a new plan to define who we are, where we are going, how we will get there, and what success looks like. The Board, together with Marcia and staff, debated, brainstormed, and deliberated for countless hours, and we approved the final Plan in May. The SP has three key priorities with specific deliverables and accountability.

The Annual Firm Owners conference — the largest attendance ever — featured an influx of fresh content and networking opportunities.

NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp was completely revamped. Due to the continued philanthropic work of our Foundation — NCRF — it was a highlight of my year and with great humility that I conducted a Veterans History Project interview of Purple Heart Recipient and United States Marine Veteran Rob Jones at the United States Library of Congress. Google him!

Both the CRC and the CLVS certification processes were updated and brought online for easier member access. A CRC certification fast track was approved for experienced professionals in the captioning field, and a guidebook was also created. Most recently, the Board has approved offering an advanced captioning certification.

The process for schools wishing to gain NCRA approval has been improved and expanded to allow more schools to become NCRA-approved. Speaking of schools, the NCRA A to Z program is doing a fantastic job of getting students into those schools. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who have given their time to facilitate A to Z classes. We have also created an online course so that anyone anywhere who is interested in learning about the magic of our stenographic skill can do so.

As I said in last year’s address, the financial position of NCRA was of great concern and a matter on which I intended to focus. With Marcia’s expertise, and in conjunction with the finance committee and our CFO, the Board has adopted a new approach to assessing and monitoring our finances. I am quite confident in the new measures in place. In fact, as reflected in our second quarter financials, we are currently tracking on budget for the first time in years.

National Captioners and Reporters Association — NCRA — the proposed name change is the result of in‐depth strategic plan dialogue and the Member Needs Assessment. The new name supports our goals of attracting people to the captioning and court reporting professions and creating a greater awareness of who we are and the beneficial services our members provide. It better reflects the current and future status of the profession. The new name gives better recognition to a growing segment of the Association’s membership: captioners.

Including a tagline to our logo — “Steno: The standard in capturing the spoken word” — maintains our focus on representing the professionals who use a stenographic machine to earn a living.

Change is rarely easy but often necessary. The transition to reality of the current state of our profession requires perseverance and confidence that the future can be better if we apply what we’ve learned and move forward.

The NCRA Board of Directors consists of 14 passionate individuals. My thanks for your dedication. Together with NCRA staff, we create a dynamic and diversified team of subject matter experts. I ask membership to have confidence and understand that we are all in this together. We all seek success and a bright future.

It is hard to believe that a year has gone by. Some days seemed to last forever, while others were gone in the blink of an eye.

I want to express my gratitude to those who have provided encouragement and inspiration. You know who you are! The messages, hugs, and thoughtful gifts brought a smile to my heart and motivated me to persevere. My life has been enriched by the interactions I have had with members, board colleagues, and staff.

I thank God for the ability to work hard, the compassion and drive to give back in service to others, and the perseverance and patience to guide me. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to serve my profession at this level. I am confident that I have contributed to the advancement of our association, and I am proud of our accomplishments. Indeed, it has required hard work, service, and perseverance. Thank you for the honor.

President’s address to the membership at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo

Sue Terry

The following is the speech given by 2018-2019 NCRA President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, at the 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., during the Aug. 3 Premier Session.

Good morning. First, I want to thank each of you for your presence here this morning to kick off the year for our association.

I’d also like to thank and recognize my family for being here with me this morning and for the years of endless support you’ve given me, and a very heartfelt thank-you to my husband of 49 years, Keith, who has been my rock since the age of 13. I’d also like to thank my many friends who have supported me, guided me and placed your faith in me. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to each of our board members who came to the table and shared your passion and wisdom in each of the decisions we were tasked with making this year, and there were many.

How can I begin to tell you all the things that need to be said in such a short time this morning about us and I do mean us! We are all NCRA.

While trying to come up with just the right words to inspire you, I found myself at the Google search bar looking for that inspiration, even resorting to random, silly searches like www.greatinspirationforsueterry.com.

I’m sure that every president of this association before me has stepped into their board experience with a vision of how their leadership is going to make a difference, how they are going to improve the profession and better the organization. I know in my heart that is true, and I thank every, single past president of this organization who has stepped up to serve and given freely of their personal time. Thank you. Would every person who has ever served on a state or national committee, board, or task force, please rise. All of you are our true unsung heroes.

I’d like to briefly share with you a bit of my background and passion for reporting. My career began like many of yours. I graduated from a local, small-town court reporting program. The program I attended was self-pay, so I had to write a check monthly. I struggled to make those $65-a-month payments and wondered each time I wrote the check if I could hang in there just one more month. I’m so thankful I did stick with it, because it was a life-changer. My final total investment in a phenomenal career was $845, plus the cost of my first new steno machine, a “manual” blue Hedman Stenoprint at a cost of $135, which I paid $90 down and the remaining balance spread over three months. It included a dust cover and two-year warranty. My, how times have changed!

Students here today, listen up. That initial investment has afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with people in every walk of life, from gang members to factory workers, from environmental specialists to the top physicians and surgeons in the world. I’ve been able to be the ears of hard-of-hearing professionals by providing realtime translation for them to enable them to “hear” their meetings and conferences. My $845 investment also afforded me the opportunity to serve as a realtime reporter producing transcripts for President Obama and Vice President Biden at Camp David. How incredible is a career in court reporting!

Each of us can tell our own inspiring stories, and we all have similar experiences we can share. We must begin to look for opportunities everywhere to tell our stories. Your story may just be the one that motivates someone to join our ranks or inspires a student to pass that next speed hurdle.

That’s what I’m going to ask you to help the NCRA board with today, shaping our future, writing our stories. I can’t do it alone, and neither can this board. We need your help.

There are challenges we face as an industry, and I’d like to discuss at least a couple of them this morning.

  1. Shortage of new students into our profession. While NCRA has undertaken some innovative solutions to address this problem, such as disseminating information on our Discover Steno website, providing brochures, aptitude tests and other tools to aid our schools, what we can’t do is be the eyes and ears in your community. We’d ask you to go to the Discover web site and review the materials, then go into your communities and host informational events to promote our A-to-Z initiative. It’s going to take a hefty grass roots effort to increase our numbers. I know many of you have gone into high schools, church youth groups. The National Honor Society has estimated there are over one million students participating in their organization. Think of it; one million of the nation’s brightest students. Will you consider sponsoring a small reception at their induction ceremonies to celebrate and mingle with them, their parents and their teachers? You can offer to caption their induction ceremony speeches so they can actually then experience firsthand the vital services we perform. This would give us access to students who have already demonstrated both an academic GPA of 3.5 or above, and also the character of the four pillars of the National Honor Society; scholarship, service, leadership and character. It would give us access to exactly the kind of student we are looking to recruit and gain wider awareness of our profession.
  2. NCRA governance. We are an organization ripe for culture change. We must begin to think differently and find ways to build upon our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses. I believe we can greatly improve NCRA governance, and I will be working hard to do that this year.
  3. My first order of business as NCRA President was to work with Max, our President-Elect, and Marcia Ferranto NCRA’s new Executive Director and CEO, to restructure NCSA into what we hope to be the Congress of Court Reporting. We believe the states and their leaders are the cornerstone of NCRA. I, along with our Board, believe in our members, and that together, we can create a stronger NCRA. New regional directors have been selected, and we will be asking them to work with us to craft a new framework for NCSA, designed by you, our states, that will add much additional input to the NCRA board to guide us in our decisions so that we are cognizant of your concerns and desires when deliberating. This new NCSA will have a much stronger voice in the affairs of your
  4. Exploring new markets for our services. There are many new and unexplored opportunities in the captioning industry, and it promises great growth. I will work with Marcia Ferranto and our board to explore some of those opportunities in some new markets this year. I read one survey recently of businesses who estimated their captioning needs for video would grow by 74% in the coming year. There are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. Almost five billion videos are watched on Youtube every, single day. Let’s be sure we are at the forefront of these video captioning opportunities.
  5. Protecting our officialships. We must remain vigilant and aggressive in providing education and building relationships that assists us in keeping steno as the preferred method of capturing the record so that we can protect the rights of all litigants who pass through the courtroom doors.
  6. Provide strong support for our freelance community by providing educational seminars and resources to enhance their businesses, as well as encouraging and promoting better communications between our freelancers and the firms they serve.

In closing tonight, I would say that this board has navigated some very rough waters this year. However, I’ve learned that in life, the things that go wrong are often the very things that lead to change and bring greater successes that couldn’t even have been imagined without the newfound wisdom those experiences teach us. This year, I plan to listen a lot. There’s going to be immense talent around me, and I plan to spend a lot of time listening as this board arrives at the very best decisions they can make for you. I plan to listen to you, our members, for without you, we cease to exist.

I would ask you to spend the remainder of our convention celebrating one another, not as captioners or freelancers or firm owners or videographers, but as professionals, united in our purpose and supporting our association. Thank you.

From the President: NCRA announces new Strategic Plan

By Chris Willette

NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC

It is with excitement and pride that I announce that the NCRA’s Board of Directors has adopted a new Strategic Plan. We will unveil our new plan on Aug. 2 during NCRA’s Annual Business Meeting. The months-long process included collaboration, debate, and envisioning exercises by the Board and NCRA staff as they relate to the changing industry, the need for growth, and the health and direction of the Association. Throughout our conversations, Executive Director and CEO Marcia Ferranto encouraged us to find and focus on our “true north.”

Although the entire Strategic Plan will remain under wraps for a few more weeks, I want to provide a brief overview of the highlights. The Plan will be supported by three pillars: financial sustainability, branding, and certification. The financial goal will seek to balance the budget over the next three years, and a big piece of that will include NCRA’s Corporate Partnership Program. Branding will consist of updating the image of stenography and creating greater awareness of the court reporting and captioning professions. Certification – and here I pause for emphasis – is our true north. NCRA’s certification program is truly how we showcase steno as the standard for capturing and converting the spoken word to text. Centering our future on certification means both encouraging members to seek and maintain their certifications and informing our consumers that a certified stenographer is the best method for their needs.

The new Strategic Plan will establish the direction for the Association for the next three years, and we are looking forward to all the success that this plan will bring to our members. Please join us at the Annual Business Meeting on Aug. 2 during the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo to learn more details.


In honor of Memorial Day: VHP Video

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to pause to remember all who have served in the armed forces over the years to protect and preserve our freedoms. NCRF and NCRA would also like to thank everyone who has participated in protecting and preserving the stories of these war veterans by participating in the Veterans History Projects across the nation in the past 15 years.

Rob Jones interviewed by NCRA President Chris Willette as Tricia Rosate transcribes and Joe Donahoe videos

During NCRA’s 2018 Legislative Boot Camp, NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, Wausau, Wis.,  had the opportunity to interview double amputee Rob Jones at the Library of Congress as part of its Veterans History Project. In addition to providing a court reporter and CLVS to record the interview, Planet Depos, based in Washington, D.C., created the following promotional video about NCRF’s involvement with VHP.

Watch the video.


Letter from NCRA President Addresses Third-Party Contracting

By Chris Willette, NCRA President

I would like to take this opportunity to address the third-party contracting issues as they have developed over the past few months.

In February of 2018, when NCRA was presented with the request to testify in Virginia regarding their legislation, a statement was issued. That statement was created based on conversations in which I have participated over the past eight years with NCRA members and my personal knowledge of the industry. A message was crafted by me and reviewed by NCRA’s Executive Committee. The message was provided to NCRA’s Executive Director and CEO, Marcia Ferranto, for delivery to the listservs. That message was not approved by the entire Board. As president, I take responsibility for that statement.

At a meeting held on April 5, 2018, the Board voted to remove all references to the February 2018 statement from the NCRA website. At the same April 5 meeting, the Board voted to rescind the policy adopted by the Board and released to members following the March 9, 2018, meeting. Further, the 1997 Policy in Support of Enactment of Anti-Contracting Laws or Regulations has been amended to add language stating that NCRA will refrain from providing public testimony. NCRA’s model legislation and all reference materials will remain available for use as needed by members.

A complete statement prepared and voted on by the Board in an April 16, 2018, meeting can be found at NCRA’s upgraded and newly designed website. Be sure to have a look around! I would like to thank the Board for the tremendous commitment and deliberation I have witnessed surrounding this issue.

I have had many conversations with members over the past few months. It is my personal belief that this topic, while emotional, convoluted, and important, must evolve to reflect the industry as it exists in 2018 and moving forward. However, the immediate need to build awareness of the stenographic profession, recruit and graduate new reporters and captioners, promote certification, and provide quality continuing education opportunities so we are a bright reflection of our industry remain my key priorities as I close out my term as 2017-2018 NCRA President.

Thank you for your continued dedication and support of our profession.

NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, can be reached at president@ncra.org.

Read more on this story:

Board of Directors Statement on Third-Party Contracting


Board of Directors Statement on Third-Party Contracting

The NCRA Board of Directors apologizes for the confusion surrounding its recent discussions regarding contracting. At our meeting on April 5, 2018, we voted formally to remove the February 2018 statement that appeared on the Government Relations page of the NCRA website. The Board formally directed this removal because there was never any Board motion or vote taken at the November 2016 Board meeting as was suggested.

Also at our April 5, 2018 meeting, we voted to rescind the Policy adopted at our March 9, 2018, meeting. This action was taken because the March 9, 2018, vote was interpreted by some as signaling that NCRA was rescinding or superseding our 1997 Policy Statement.

Our actions on April 5 make absolutely clear that the only change that the Board has approved to the 1997 Policy Statement is that NCRA will refrain from providing public testimony. No other changes in the nature or level of NCRA’s activities were discussed, and NCRA’s model legislation and all toolbox materials will remain available as in the past.

See this statement on NCRA’s website.

President’s address to the membership at 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Willette_HighResThe following is the speech given by 2017-2018 NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, at the 2017 Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.

Because some of my fellow board colleagues and I visited the Mob Museum earlier this week and since we are in Las Vegas, I have a strange question for you before we begin:

Show of hands, how many of you have heard of Jimmy Hoffa?

Jimmy Hoffa was the head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest labor unions in the United States. He did some time in prison for tampering with a jury, and he didn’t attempt to hide his ties to the Mafia and organized crime. Even as shady characters go, Jimmy Hoffa was pretty shady.

In July of 1975, Jimmy Hoffa mysteriously disappeared. His body has never been found. In the 42 years since his disappearance, there have been many theories about where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is buried: Perhaps the end zone of a sports stadium in New Jersey, underneath a tattoo parlor in Tokyo, a cement barn floor in Michigan, or in the Florida Everglades.

I can’t tell you where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. But I can definitively tell you where he is not buried.

You see, I grew up on a beautiful lake in northern Wisconsin. I lived on a resort: Whispering Pine Lodge, which four generations of my family owned and operated. It’s where people came to relax and unwind. Boating, fishing, tennis, snowmobiling … you get the picture. St. Germain, Wis., a town I can nearly guarantee no one in this room, outside of my family and Wisconsin colleagues, has ever heard of. It’s a small town. 1,500 people during the serenity of winter swelling to 15,000 in the summer. I no longer live in St. Germain, but it will always be home for me.

While none of you have heard of St. Germain, you know who has?

The investigative crime unit of The New York Times! That’s who!

Let me take you back to what promised to be like any other peaceful, cold Wisconsin winter night in 1976. My mom had taken me to ice-skating practice. Upon our return home, we were greeted in our kitchen by several men in dark suits questioning my dad and grandpa.

Take one guess what they were looking for!

You got it. Someone had fed The New York Times a tip that Jimmy Hoffa was hiding at a lodge in northern Wisconsin. Sorry, guys, wrong lodge. After several hours of persuading conversation, they moved on. And though it might be interesting to tell you that my interest in the legal field — and specifically, court reporting — was somehow related to my exposure to this strange encounter at the age of 11, that is not the case.

The truth is, however, that I did learn about court reporting at Whispering Pine Lodge. Whispering Pine Lodge was a resort much like the one where “Baby” meets Johnny Castle in the movie Dirty Dancing. If you haven’t heard of Jimmy Hoffa, you probably haven’t heard of Dirty Dancing, either.

There was a guest who returned to Whispering Pine Lodge each summer with her family. She would spend time proofreading while lounging on the beach. I remember asking her what she was doing. She shared her story and answered my many questions. I was immediately captivated. With encouragement from my mom and my favorite business teacher, Mr. Check, my court reporting journey began.

When I graduated from court reporting school in the spring of 1985, I was ready to take on the world. After 32 years in this profession, I am still amazed by our skill each time my fingers hover over my keys awaiting the first word. I have heard some people call it magic!

So, no, I didn’t learn anything about Jimmy Hoffa’s final resting place during my childhood at Whispering Pine Lodge. Instead, and even better, I learned about court reporting.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. What I’d like to do now is extend a sincere welcome to my colleagues, guests, and family.

I also want to thank and acknowledge our outgoing president, Tiva Wood.

Last year in Chicago, after her motivational speech, Tiva looked me in the eye, and said, “Well, only 52 weeks left!” The work that Tiva has done over the past year to support and advance our profession has been inspirational. Tiva, thank you for your dedication and leadership! You are an incredible mentor, colleague, and friend.

Last year, Tiva talked about how important it is for each of us to tell the story that lead us to court reporting and how fascinating our career can be. Tiva talked about how ridiculously hard court reporting is and that the challenges we face as a profession are, likewise, ridiculously hard.

While we have made progress, our challenges remain formidable. Our work as a profession and as an Association must rise to meet those challenges. Yes, we have challenges that were decades in the making, and we’re not going to fix those challenges overnight. However, if we are to achieve any level of success, we must meet those challenges together with hard work, service, and perseverance.

I also wish to congratulate and thank the new NCRA Board of Directors for their service and commitment to tackling these challenges. Our new opportunities for improvement will require hard work, service, and perseverance.

NCRA is an organization that relies heavily on the contributions of volunteers. An understood component of volunteerism is that you are giving your expertise and, of course, your time. Over the next year, I will invest my time and energy to do the best I can to make this profession and Association thrive. I proudly and gladly sacrifice this time and energy. But in so doing, I must first do something that for me will be ridiculously hard. There are some very special people in my life who are here today. They have been so understanding of the time I have sacrificed with them while I serve a profession I love.

These people are an indelible part of my story: my cousin Kari and her husband Geoff; my aunts, Kathy and Mary Kay, who have served as babysitters, role models, and friends; my parents, Rosalie and Gary, who exemplify the true meaning of love and dedication, who taught me what hard work, loyalty, integrity, and caring for others means. I’m so pleased that our children Shawn, a mechanical engineer, and Andrea, a CPA and financial analyst, are here this weekend. My husband, Mike, and I are incredibly proud of them.

And, certainly most important, and unfortunately sometimes last, Mike, my husband of 31 years. Mike, along with my dad, is one of the most patient and supportive people on earth. Whether I’m traveling, spending yet another night on a conference call or physically in Mike’s presence but with my attention glued to a computer on my lap, he takes it all in stride, respects my call to duty, and knows that this is a labor of love.

I love you all very much.

Now, let’s go back to Whispering Pine Lodge because it was at that resort where I was exposed to not only court reporting, but also hard work, service, and perseverance.

We lived in the main lodge at Whispering Pines. This required 24/7 availability to deliver the services our guests expected. It required that four generations work together as a team. I learned about being kind, thinking of others, and that anything worthwhile took time … that perseverance meant having the focus and patience to get there one step at a time.

I don’t have to tell you about perseverance. We all experienced it in court reporting school, making progress one step at a time. And our work as a profession and as an Association must be no different.

Early in my career, while I was getting established as a new professional, I was drawn to the concept of service to my profession, but I couldn’t immediately find a way to get involved.

Sometime in the ‘90s, I got an email from the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association president. She asked if I was interested in filling a vacated spot on the WCRA board. I thought, “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?”

But here it was, my opportunity to serve. It was my time to give back to the profession that had given me so much. Did I have the spare time? Not really. I was busy working as a reporter, managing my firm, and raising two very active teenagers. Still, I felt the strong urge to step up and give back. I said yes!

At my first board meeting, I sat in awe of the talent in the room. I couldn’t believe the opportunity in front of me. Before I knew what hit me, I was asked to represent WCRA at NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. I thought, “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?”

While there, I met state leaders from across the country, and my awe grew as I saw the lengths to which others would go to serve this profession. I was incredibly inspired by the passion of those who served at the national level. I shared their passion. I shared their pride for our profession.

I worked and persevered for the profession back home, doing what I could to advocate and serve Wisconsin court reporters. I was doing what I knew. You guessed it: hard work, service, and perseverance.

Then in 2010, the phone rang. No, it wasn’t The New York Times looking for Jimmy Hoffa. It was the NCRA President, who was asking me to fill a vacated position on the NCRA Board of Directors. And this time, I didn’t just think it, I said it out loud: “Me? Really? What could I possibly offer?” I humbly accepted.

In 2014, after four years of board service, I chose not to seek a leadership position on the NCRA Board. Mike and I were moving. We had two college graduates getting settled into their adult lives and scattering to different parts of the country. I wanted to spend more time with my family. And, of course, I had my firm; my reporters and my business needed my attention. I didn’t believe I had the time to serve at a higher level.

But a funny thing happened. That hard work … that perseverance … that commitment to serve my profession — I couldn’t just turn it off. I felt like I’d left something undone.

So, in early 2015, when I was a mere seven months into my NCRA Board “retirement,” and I was asked to run for NCRA Vice President, I didn’t hesitate. “Me? Really? Yes! I know I have something to offer.”

So, I stand here today, with equal parts pride and humility, as your NCRA President. “Me? Really? Yes.”

I have no magic wand like our keynote speaker Steve Wyrick. I have no innate ability to create change with a snap of my fingers. What I do have is you. And I’m asking you to join me on our journey. Engage. Volunteer. Take a stand for our profession.

We are all busy. You know who gets the most done? Busy people.

Our NCRA Board consists of 14 people. We have a staff of about 30. We have hundreds of volunteers serving on NCRA committees, serving at the state and local level, and volunteering at local outreach events. But the challenges in front of us demand that more people get involved. I ask each of you to summon something more to serve this profession during a time of intense need.

Are you thinking to yourself, “Me?” Yes, you. “Really?” Yes, really. “But what could I possibly offer?” That answer lies within yourself. Choose what part of the profession interests you. Choose how you want to serve. Find your passion and apply that passion in some meaningful way. We need your hard work. We need your service. And we need your perseverance.

Oh, and let me tell you a little secret about volunteer service: It’s not just about giving. You also get something in return. You learn new things. You make new friends. You open doors you never knew existed. You get an immense feeling of satisfaction knowing that you took part in changing our profession for the better and that when your profession needed you most, you stepped up.

Let’s talk about a few of the opportunities for you to get involved:

It’s no secret that our profession needs replenishing. Three years ago, we published a study that showed that within five years — two years from now — the demand for stenographic reporters would exceed supply by more than 5,000. Whether you’re one year from retirement or one year from graduation, the court reporting shortage will affect every person in this room.

Last year, we introduced NCRA’s A to Z steno program as one way to perpetuate interest in the court reporting field. It’s a way for prospective students to learn a basic court reporting theory before committing to school. We’re asking state Associations, firm owners, and individual reporters to take the time to set up a local A to Z program in your areas. Twenty-four hours is all it takes to make a difference.

Get out and advocate for our profession. This year, representatives of NCRA have attended numerous events. Among those have been state conventions, judicial conferences, and conventions for the Hearing Loss Association of America, the National Career Development Association, and the American School Counselors Association. This fall, NCRA will be represented at the Military Order of the Purple Heart convention, the Court Technology Conference, and the conference for the Association of Late-Deafened Adults. We’ll be looking for local volunteers. This is your opportunity.

More options? Take advantage of the ready-to-use resources available to members through Take Note, Discover Steno, and the NCRA websites to recruit students. Or how about mentoring a current student?

All of these choices, and we haven’t even touched upon the opportunities to improve your professional worth through additional certifications and educational offerings.

This year, we will be rewriting our strategic plan. We will be formulating a plan that will guide us through the next three to five years. Frankly, I don’t foresee much change in our key priorities and goals. The path is clear: We must examine our budget and live within our means with a realistic vision of what we can accomplish. We must grow our membership. We must recruit students and help them graduate. We must create value for all segments of our membership and make NCRA the place we all call our professional home.

We must find common ground, set common goals, and settle on nothing less than success. The future of our profession demands a new level of hard work, service, and perseverance.

I ask you now to consider where you are, where you’ve been, and where you could be. What do you possibly have to offer? You — yes, you — can make a difference.

Feel the pride. Embrace the passion. Make it contagious. And always remember: The magic is at your fingertips.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

President’s address to the membership at 2016 Convention & Expo

The following is the speech given by 2016-2017 NCRA President Nativa P. Wood, RDR, CMRS, at the 2016 Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill.

When you look at me, which type of athlete do you think I was in high school – a basketball player or a figure skater?

I ask because on many occasions, the Dauphin County Court Administrator would introduce me as “Oksana Baiul,” the slight, graceful Ukrainian figure skater who won the gold medal at the 1994 Olympics.

I know what you’re thinking, “How could anyone confuse Tiva with an Olympic figure skater?”

It’s because this court administrator was amazed –mesmerized – at what I did every day. What I did as a court reporter, she said, was the equivalent of landing a triple axel, triple toe loop combination — and I made it look easy. You and I know differently. We know that it can be ridiculously hard.

As I accept the responsibility to serve as NCRA’s president, I want to be clear: What we have ahead of us as an organization and profession is exactly that — ridiculously hard.

Think about how hard we worked to get through school. Think about the passion and the energy that is present among us. And think about what we can accomplish together if we can harness that passion and that energy  and then put it to practical use.

This isn’t figure skating. It’s not an individual sport. We need to be a team and no one can sit on the bench. Each of us has a role to play.

Earlier this year at NCRA’s Firm Owners Executive Conference, I was inspired by a speaker who talked about the power of storytelling.

People love stories. More than facts and figures, a great story can deliver a powerful message; it can inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Each of us knows what it is like to face something ridiculously hard, meet that challenge, and come out on top. It’s part of our stories.

There are three areas, three priorities, where we must excel, where our story can lead us to success. The first priority is getting more students enrolled in court reporting programs. The second is getting a higher percentage of court reporters to be NCRA members. The third is for all of us to improve our Business IQ.

Court reporters have played a vital role across history as guardians of the record.

  • Our story includes the court reporters in Nuremberg, Germany, who did the crucial work of keeping a verbatim record of Nazi war tribunals.
  • Our story includes the court reporters doing similar work during the Rwandan trials in Arusha, Tanzania.
  • Our story includes the reporters who provided realtime captioning on 9/11.
  • And our story incudes court reporters who today are taking down every word at terrorist proceedings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There is honor in what we do every day. We play a key role in ensuring that every person has access to justice, access to basic services. It’s not all glamorous. We have front-row seats for some of the most gruesome, most heartbreaking parts of life – murder trials, rape trials, child-custody battles, and every manner of civil proceeding. At the same time, many of us take part in depositions that have real impact on not just our legal system, but on the global economy. Captioning? We are in the center of the action.

Every day someone finds new applications for our skills, such as helping presidents and presidential candidates practice speeches and debate skills, companies providing instant-access to transcripts of press conferences, helping some of the world’s most interesting people capture their memoirs, sharing their stories.

None of this happened easily. At times, it has been ridiculously hard.

It has taken resolve, limitless patience, heroic fortitude, endless endurance, a sharp brain and – yes – those very nimble fingers.

And we do it in a seemingly effortless way with no grandstanding, no spotlight. We just do the job.

We have much to be proud of from our past. But if we don’t invest some real energy – some substantial effort – in our future, there won’t be enough reporters for our profession to continue playing such a substantial role in our society.

So, priority one – and this is critical – is student recruitment. Two years ago, NCRA commissioned a study, the Ducker report, which illustrates our challenge in stark terms. Just three years from now, there will be a gap of 5,500 between the population of stenographic court reporters and the demand.

Without a steady supply of new reporters, every facet of our profession will be negatively affected. The door will be opened for alternative means of capturing the spoken word to prevail.

After the Ducker report was released, NCRA launched an aggressive awareness campaign for the profession, known as the CRTakeNote program. It was effective in raising awareness, but it was only a beginning. We must cast even more attention on our profession and then convert those prospects into students.

NCRA has developed a toolkit to help schools do just that.

But converting prospects to students can’t just be the schools’ responsibility. If you and I truly care about our profession, it is our duty to play a role.

Here’s what we know: a working reporter reaching out to prospective students, and telling our story  – that scenario makes the biggest and best impression on prospective students. Using our individual stories as a marketing tool to high school students, middle school students, school counselor associations – any group from which we can get an invitation – that is what we need from all of you.

It’s our story, and it resonates. Talk about the remarkable places this profession has taken you – which we’ll celebrate Saturday night. Talk first-hand about how this is a technology-driven profession, how it has provided financial stability for your family.

Schools are eager to have your involvement, to access and leverage your story.

What’s my story about getting involved with court reporting? Well, it involves a water tower, several cans of spray paint, two very unhappy parents who paid for my prank, for which I had to reimburse to them, and the attorney who lived across the street.

Well, maybe we won’t use that story! But your story —your story will work. Your story will encourage someone like you to enroll in school.

We don’t have to do this. The easier route would be to say that time has passed our profession by. We could ride out our time in court reporting together and take no responsibility for the profession’s future.

But I don’t want to do that. Neither do you.

It won’t be enough to get energized here in Chicago. It won’t be enough to write a check and feel like you’ve made your contribution (although NCRF is always happy to take your check as a charitable donation).

This is going to be ridiculously hard. But, as an organization and as a profession, we must rise to the challenge.

It will take an urgent and sustained effort to repopulate our schools and replenish our ranks. It will take a full community effort.

For that community to be at full force to take on such a formidable challenge, we need more NCRA members. That is priority number two.

In the digital age, membership growth is a challenge for many organizations. But there is no question that the problem is more acute for NCRA than for other organizations. Our challenges require that we access the voices — the passion and the energy — of every court reporter.

You and I are in a unique position to lend a hand. Our stories about how NCRA has connected with us personally, how it has enhanced our careers in many different ways, those first-hand stories from fellow reporters can connect in a profound way to supplement NCRA’s efforts.

Some think one-dimensionally about NCRA. It’s just a magazine. But they are wrong. It’s so much more:

  • It delivers information you can’t get anywhere else,
  • It’s a community, yielding career and business opportunity,
  • It’s an advocacy body, protecting our profession,
  • And it’s a connection to best practices.

Your engagement shows that you care about your profession.

Why did I join NCRA? A seasoned reporter asked me to get involved in my state association, which then led to my involvement with NCRA. That’s all he had to do: He asked me.

He then mentored me for 30 years until his death last year. He showed me his love for the profession and how being connected could make a difference, but it also was my responsibility. His professional colleagues were his family, and so they became for me. His dedication was infectious; igniting a spark in me to get involved.

Now, I encourage you to share your stories about NCRA to convince others to join.

The third priority I’d like to talk about is Business IQ.

My siblings work in careers that involve sales either primarily or secondarily. They value their reputations, how their colleagues perceive them. They’re always looking to get better, to keep pace with the competition.

I used to thank God I’m not in sales. But I am in sales – and so are you. I’ve been in sales my whole career:

  • Convincing judges and commissioners that a stenographic record was best.
  • Encouraging colleagues to embrace technology.
  • And, now, as I have migrated to the freelance side of the business, using sales to acquire clients.

Whether you’re a firm owner, a contract reporter, official, or captioner, you can up your game with regard to your Business IQ. Come out from behind the machine and be better sales people. We should be out there every day promoting our skills, our repertoire of services, our profession. We should be looking at business metrics, aspiring to meet standards of best practices; exploring new types of services; making investments in technology; and finding new applications for our skills. We should care about how our profession is perceived among those we serve. Each time we go above and beyond to please a client, each time we find innovative solutions, we take one step forward in protecting and enhancing our profession as a whole, telling our story.

We have a great story to tell. Use that story to enhance your career. Use that story to help NCRA recruit a new member. Use that story to help our schools recruit more students, strengthening our profession at its greatest time of need.

Let me finish with one last story. Our son, Patrick, just graduated from high school in May. As a family, we were personally invested in Patrick’s experience in school. Patrick might say perhaps a little too much.

As it is with a lot of things in life, the day-to-day grind sometimes obscured the progress Patrick was making.

It wasn’t always easy; sometimes it was ridiculously hard. There were times when it felt like together we took two steps forward and one step back.

But he got there. And I don’t know that I have ever been prouder than watching Patrick receive his diploma. So, there I am, sitting at his graduation and the motto of the school keeps running through my head: Ad summum bonum. “For the greater good.” I couldn’t help but think about how that is such an appropriate motto for NCRA and for our profession.

Each of us needs to find new ways to harness our energy and passion, to utilize the immense pride that we have for our profession. We need to take active steps to protect, preserve, and advance our profession – not just for ourselves, but for those following in our footsteps. We need to summon our energy and passion to do those things that are ridiculously hard – and do so for the greater good.



2015-2016 NCRA President Steve Zinone sitting on courthouse stepsBy Steve Zinone

I am very appreciative and honored for the faith that you have in me to be your president. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for this opportunity of a lifetime to serve in this role. But I need everyone’s help. That is, I’m asking every one of our approximate 16,000 members for help. It’s not an impossible task; in fact, it’s quite doable. I need everyone to get one — that’s right, one — new member to join NCRA. One. Not two. Not three. But if you want to find more than one person to join NCRA, that’s okay, too!

One new member. We all know a nonmember, whether at work or socially or in business, one person we can approach and ask to join. One + one = won! If we all get one new member, it will make an incredible difference for our profession and for our Association. So I urge everyone to get your one. We will have special recognition at our annual convention in Chicago for those who have brought in one new member, so that everyone knows that you got your one!

We all know that many of us will be retiring in the near future. Therefore, it is imperative that we act now and grow our membership, so that we can meet the future job demands that will be placed on our profession, as well as our Association.

Thomas Hughes of Florida, who left us too early in life, offered this quote from Theodore Roosevelt at the 2008 Tampa Bay Area Information Exchange: “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.” I included it in my emails after Thomas’ passing for two reasons: One, I want to be constantly reminded of my friend Thomas and what he stood for. And, two, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our timeless profession. Thomas was the epitome of Roosevelt’s quote, always giving back, always there to help out, and always there to do whatever was necessary for anyone, at any time.

Now, it is our time. It is our civic responsibility and our moral responsibility as members to get one. Let’s have some fun and get our one. Let’s blow up social media with this effort and show off our one and show off ourselves that: I got my one!

And it’s not just reporters that you can reach out to: Videographers, scopists, proofreaders, paralegals, office managers, attorneys, judges, and court administrators can all be members of NCRA. It is time for us to ask them to help us and to join (or rejoin) NCRA because we are all in this together.

This is an organization that advocates for all of us. This past NCRA Legislative Boot Camp was an incredible success. Leaders from all over the country went up on Capitol Hill and advocated for the Training for Realtime Writers grants, which is part of the Higher Education Act. Our government relations team and our members are creating opportunities that will enable all of us long-term continued success in our industry. But we have to reach out to everyone and bring them into our Association.

So let’s turn everything around and grow NCRA to 32,000 members this year. Let’s everyone get one. Just one.

Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, is NCRA’s President. He can be reached at president@ncra.org.