NCRA member recognized in local newspaper

The Griswold American posted a press release on Dec. 4 issued by NCRA on behalf of Stephanie Cousins, RPR, from Griswold, Iowa, announcing that she recently earned the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) certification.

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Captioner ready for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, and her daughter Katie

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, a captioner from Mabank, Texas, recently posted the following on Facebook about an experience she had during a captioning job:

One of my favorite clients to work for was doing a college visit day for 1,300 families. With so many people, she had to keep talking while all those people filed into different places. So, she decided to have a little fun with the captioner. You know how hard it is to think of my answer and keep up with what she is saying? Nice light-hearted start to the weekend 📷

I also want to thank our realtime captionist.
How many of you have seen realtime captioning before?
Okay.
So, I didn’t realize before I started working here at [name of school] that the captionist is not sitting behind a screen.
They actually can be anywhere in the country.
So, captionist, welcome.
And where are you from?
>> Captioner: From Dallas, Texas.
The captionists are always from a warm climate.
Slightly warmer than what we have today.
What’s the forecast in Dallas?
>> Captioner: Around 60 and sunny.
I am jealous.
But I am headed down to Dallas later this month, so hopefully that warm weather continues.
Another fun thing about the captioning is that they have to type any word that I say.
So if I say, Supercalifragilistic-Expialidocious they have to type that on the screen.
>> Captioner: Very funny.
Wow, I’m impressed.
Thank you for being such a good sport.

The JCR Weekly reached out to Hinds to get more information about what was happening that day.

JCR | What is your captioning background?

 CH | I’ve been captioning since 1996. I was hired by the National Captioning Institute (NCI) while I was waiting on my Texas exam results. I packed up at 24 and headed to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where they trained me thoroughly and put me on the air. I worked for them for 10 years, VITAC for five, and then began my independent career. I captioned broadcast in the beginning of my career until I left VITAC. Then when I went independent, I found so much work in the CART side of things, so I do mostly that and moonlight with a little broadcast captioning on the side. Truthfully, it feels like the lines between these two sides of captioning are more and more blurred, so I end up doing it all. In the past few weeks, I’ve done a tech-con, a college admissions pitch, a support group for students, a nursing class, a broadcast of a video game tournament, a few college district board meetings, several government meetings of different agencies and levels, a training webinar, several hours of Fox News, basketball game arena announcements, and a hockey game broadcast — all from my home. I also went recently to caption the Dallas Hearing Foundation’s Fundraising Gala event pro bono. My friend runs the charity, so I’ve done that for the last 11 years. That little job includes my fast-talking friend (she should know better; we met in court reporting school for Pete’s sake!) and, the golden jewel of the night – a live auction. Finger gymnastics! So, yeah, I caption it all.

 JCR | How do you feel when you are captioning and the speaker addresses you directly?

 CH | When they do start to play with us, the tangle of trying to think of the answer to the question and trying to remember what they said to write it becomes the new game. I have a few thoughts that can really turn the pressure up. One, try not to make it awkward by making them wait too long for a response; two, now all eyes are on your words, so don’t screw it up! Three, this is a chance for captions to be spotlighted, meaning, not just the words, but the incredible service it is for so many people.

I love it when people “play” with us. I really do. But the pressure increases and then that magic thing we do where the words stream through our ears, almost seemingly to bypass our brains and emerge from our fingers gets interrupted. When I had to think of an answer, it now had to go through the obstacle course that is my brain. I’m a 48-year-old single mom! Entering the brain forbidden forest could mean the words wouldn’t make it out to my fingers. 

When she started talking about the captioner, my ears perked up. Here’s what I know: If they want to show off captioning, which I actually like since so many folks think artificial intelligence is putting those lovely words on the screen, they almost always play with words, and of course they’re never normal, everyday words. And one word they love to say is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The job had been fairly easy. I hate to say auto pilot, because, well, they’re never that easy. But cruising along and it was wrapping up. I was in my robe, and I forgot my fuzzy socks. It was Saturday morning and as soon as I finished that job, I had to get ready for the gala job, including really dressing and getting all my equipment there. So when I got out of bed that morning, I just threw on the robe. My toes were cold. In Dallas, we had a cold blast, but I could see the sun through my window, so I could tell it was nice and bright. I usually throw my curtains open, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t that morning. So when she asked what the weather was, I had to rely on some distant fuzzy memory of it being a nice weekend, even though clearly, it was cool. My toes were cold! I ended up guessing pretty accurately … 60 and sunny.

Most of my captioner friends have a brief for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don’t. I don’t know why, my brain just likes the clear path from hear the word to send the word to the fingers. It works for me. So I write it out in squeezed parts – SUP/CAL/FRAG/EXP/YAL/DOSHES. In captioning to an encoder, you have 32 character spaces across a line of text. That’s it. So at NCI, Darlene Parker, FAPR, director, steno, captioning & realtime relations, and Karen Finkelstein, realtime manager, had me put it in hyphenated in two parts so it could go partly on one line and partly on the next and still be readable since the word is 34 characters. So that old outline was in there and I was feeding an encoder, so I knew it had to have a break in the middle. Good ole NCI training saves the day again.

I would never ever interject unless I was being directly addressed. There’s so much thought in those moments. So many consumers want you to sort of be the fly on the wall, a simple conduit of communication. They want others to see them and interact with them, not the captioner. It’s not my role to speak for them or do anything else but convert the spoken word (and sometimes ambient sounds) to the written form so they can receive what they need to get through their day. So, it is odd when we are called on to “speak” for ourselves. But I knew what she was doing; she was playing with me and trying to be entertaining while she waited for hundreds of people to scatter and go in different directions. And I am a jokester. Sincerely, I love to banter. So I saw my chance in the right place and went for it. I could hear the laughter in the crowd.

NCRA Member wins Pengad gift certificate when renewing membership

Robin Winters

NCRA member Robin L. Winters of Loves Park, Ill., won a $100 Pengad gift certificate for renewing her membership in October.

JCR | Why are you a member of NCRA?

RW | I have remained a long-time member of NCRA for one reason, and that was to complete my last leg of my RPR so I can finally become a licensed reporter. I have had different situations that kept me from meeting this goal with a family, kids, and just life in general. But always in the back of my head, I said one day I would finish and get to be fully licensed. I have been blessed with being able to work as an official court reporter in Winnebago County with a restricted license. I am in the process of trying to pass that last leg of the RPR, the Literary. I love NCRA for their continued support and the court reporting field in general. 

JCR | Why did you decide to be a court reporter?

RW | The law and the process of the law has always interested me. What better way to get the diversity of all of the legal field than being a court reporter? I love my job, and I love the people I work with, and I will be an RPR soon … mark my words.

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

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

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Retiring Peabody clerk recommends NCRA member for job

The Salem News, Salem, Mass., reported on Nov. 12 that NCRA member Allyson Danforth, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Wenham, Mass., has been recommended for nomination by the city council to become city clerk.

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Nebraska Supreme Court recognizes NCRA member

News Channel Nebraska reported on Nov. 1 about official Court Reporter Kris Riekenberg, RPR, being recognized by the Nebraska Supreme Court for 30 years of service.

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New Professional Profile: Dorelle Scheeringa

Dorelle Scheeringa

By Selana Scott

Dorelle Scheeringa, RPR, of Highland, Ind., is a poised, intelligent, and approachable court reporter who has been reporting for three and a half years. She recently gave back to the students wishing to enter the court reporting community by attending a party for the court reporting students at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. During the celebration, she was asked a plethora of questions from intrigued students about her path through her court reporting education. Of course, many of these questions surrounded how she graduated from her own court reporting program and successfully passed the dreaded RPR examination. She was very generous with her personal experiences and shared them willingly with the students. The students were grateful to hear about her journey and to apply some of her techniques to their own journeys.

JCR |Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why you chose to become a court reporter?

DS |My high school had what they called a Career Opportunity Program set up to allow students to shadow someone in the field they were interested in. At the time, I didn’t know what career to pick. My mom had heard of a lady who was a court reporter and suggested I check that out. My school set up an appointment for me to visit McCorkle Litigation Services. After my visit, I decided that this was the path I would like to pursue. I graduated high school in 2012 and by October of 2015, I passed the RPR. After dreaming of working with McCorkle all through my court reporting training, that’s exactly where I ended up; and I’ve been living the dream and working there ever since.

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started in the profession?

DS | I wish I knew how much I was going to love it! I wasn’t sure when I started schooling if I was going to like this career. I absolutely love my career. It is a dream job! So many people out there don’t realize how fantastic a court reporting career is!

JCR | What advice would you give court reporting students?

DS | Court reporting training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want the students out there to know that through hard work and tons of practice, you will pass the certification test. And when you do, you will have the best career in the world! All the work and practice is worth it! As a freelancer, I get to make my own schedule, work as much or as little as I need. I love my job! We need you out in the field! You are guaranteed a job right out of school. Just get through it, and you will have the best career in the world waiting for you!

JCR | What do you think court reporting students are not being taught in school that they should be?

DS | One thing I wish I was more prepared for would be taking down multiple voices, multiple attorneys.

Selana Scott, J.D., is the court reporting program director for MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill.

Former NCRA member Rudolph Emil passed away

The Sun-Sentinel reported on Oct. 31 that Rudolph Emil, a former court stenographer and past member of NCRA, passed away on Oct. 7.

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Stenograph partners with NCRF to sponsor new student scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation is pleased to announce that nominations are being solicited for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship that honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, Stenograph’s founder.   Students from NCRA-approved reporter education programs are encouraged to apply for the merit-based two-year award, which is worth up to $5,000 per year and will include use of a student writer and software.

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor the newly created Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship,” said Stenograph President Anir Dutta. “We believe that by investing in our students and future students, through the NCRA’s A to Z Program, that we will positively impact the direction of this industry. It is an honor to be able to give back in this way.” 

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students must meet the eligibility requirements and submit the completed documentation listed below to qualify for the scholarship. Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

Applications being accepted through Jan. 21, 2020. 

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z ® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z ® Certificate of Completion
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record (3.5 GPA or above)
  • Have passed one skills test writing 80-120 words per minute at the time of submission 

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “Describe the role of technology in the future of reporting.”

Click here for more information or to access the application for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship.

“Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions is reflected in the company’s generous support of the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, and NCRF and NCRA are honored to share this common goal with them,” said NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews.  

For more information on the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, please contact the Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Lessons in life balance and a career in court reporting

Jennifer Wielage, RPR, CRR

Jennifer Wielage, of Bradley Beach, N.J., reached out to the JCR Weekly staff about her personal experiences with being a court reporter. She told us that, as much as she loved her work, she knew she needed a way to find greater balance in her life – and, in the process, she became a certified life balance coach.

How did you learn about the career of court reporting?

When I was growing up, my best friend’s mom was a court reporter. We were in middle school, and she had an antique steno machine in her living room. I remember staring at it in awe. I didn’t understand exactly what she did at that time, but I had always admired her. She dressed impeccably, drove a luxury car, and had an attractive house.

While she worked hard, she was home a lot, too. Sometimes, she would arrive back from work midday. I thought it was fascinating that she had a job that allowed her to go out in the field for a few hours and then back to her home office.

I saw that she made her own schedule, and this was thrilling to me.

Then, in my high school typing class, some representatives of a court reporting school came in to give a presentation.

When the reporter read back verbatim, I was immediately hooked. I knew right then and there that I was destined to become a court reporter. I graduated high school early so that I could pursue my dream career.

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

The best experience has been taking cases overseas. I have seen so much of the world as a result of saying yes to foreign assignments. Some reporters I know prefer not to leave their county, but I have always had the motto “Have machine, will travel.” Seeing and experiencing other cultures, being able to sightsee on my days off, reporting in breathtaking locations, including Greece and Italy – this has been the highlight of my reporting career.

What has surprised you about your career?

I have always been a hard worker. Work and making money are two areas in which I have always excelled, starting with my first job serving pizza at the age of 14, saving a boatload of money and purchasing my first car (1986 Toyota Celica GT, candy-apple red).

As a reporter, I have always been a very proficient and accurate writer and use my time at the job to ensure that the attorneys get the cleanest draft possible.

What has surprised me is the intensity and the speed at which attorneys want the final transcript. I have been asked to provide instant transcripts countless times in my career, and daily orders are also very commonplace.

At some point, I realized that to keep up with the demand of such rapid production, I had to learn to write without conflicts, develop brief forms for everything, and make sure I was on top of each word, no matter how technical and rapid-fire the Q&A.

I came to the realization that I could not change the intensity of my clients. I was working with the best of the best in their fields. They expected a certain level of performance, and I was willing and able to deliver.

In the process, the fast pace at which I was operating started to take its toll on my health and well-being.

I was really good at work, but I was terrible at making time for other very important things in my life, such as having real connection in my relationships, pursuing creativity. My prayer life left something to be desired, and my physical and emotional health began to decline. Eating from vending machines while sitting all day started to impact my physical health. I had asthma, Graves’ Disease, body aches, ovarian cysts, and to top it all off, heart palpitations and panic attacks that landed me in the ER on multiple occasions.

What made you start looking for a more balanced life?

That is when I knew I had to do something to bring more joy and peace into my life. As much as I loved my career, putting all of my energy into my work had me physically and emotionally drained. I needed to rest more, to slow down, to sit in stillness, to rediscover all that I had been neglecting in my personal life. Mind you, I did not stop reporting. I just was more careful not to schedule myself too thin.

My husband and I decided to buy a beach cottage, and as simple as it sounds, taking walks along the water’s edge began to heal me. We started riding bikes everywhere. I was able to sit on the sand and gaze at the ocean and actually be still. I joined a yoga class and started to feel like I truly belonged in my local community. I decided to pick up the guitar and signed up for lessons. I was put into a rock-and-roll band that, to this day, practices every week and performs at local bars and restaurants. I started packing healthy lunches for my workdays and made what I put into my body one of my top priorities: no sugar, nothing processed, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. All my ailments vanished.

How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

I know now that, as important and amazing as my work is, I have to take time for other important aspects of my life. I make balance a priority. The amazing part is that I am much more productive than ever and have massively increased my yearly income.

Most importantly, I feel as if I have plenty of time to travel and to do the things that I love: spending time with my husband and family, having brunch with my girlfriends, playing my guitar, exercising, eating well, praying and meditating, cuddling with my dog – all the while having more energy and vitality.

Do you have any advice for students?

I encourage you to pursue your dream of being a reporter no matter how overwhelming increasing your speed and building your dictionary can be. Reporting is such an incredible career choice, and it is well worth the hard work that you put into it. I also advise you not to lose sight of what you love in the process of your career pursuit. You can have a fulfilling career and also enjoy your personal life immensely. It is not an either/or. You can be dedicated to both and be happy and successful!

Do you have any advice for reporters?

As demanding, and sometimes overwhelming, as reporting can be, the good news is you get to decide how to approach your career and the thoughts that you have about it.

I choose to look at my career as a gift. I am very grateful. When we are grateful for what we have, we feel abundant, content, and at peace. What more can we want out of life?

Jennifer Wielage, RPR, CRR, of Bradley Beach, N.J., can be reached through her website, rainbowbalance.org. She is offering JCR Weekly readers a complimentary consultation.