Sunrise Rotary learns about Veterans History Project

NCRA member Jill Layton, RMR, an official court reporter from Toledo, Ill., was featured in an article posted April 12 by the Effingham Daily News, about her volunteering to record the stories of Illinois veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Read more.

New Professional Spotlight: Tracey L. Tracy

Tracey Tracy

By Rachel Barkume, RPR

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

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

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

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

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

JCR |   What is the ultimate goal in your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCR | What do you love about your career?

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

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

Court reporting is rarely dull for people who enjoy learning!

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

Remembering Bobby Joe “B.J.” Davis

Bobby Joe “B.J.” Davis, passed away March 29.

Bobby Joe Davis was born Sept. 30, 1938, in New Albany, Miss. He died after a battle with cancer on March 29. He and his wife, Ann, resided in Goodlettsville. He is survived by Ann and his two sons, Greg and Brad, and their families.

B.J. started court reporting in 1965 in Dallas, Texas. He was a principal in a large reporting firm in Dallas, United American Reporting, before “retiring” and moving to Tennessee to join Cleeton Davis in 1995, where he worked until taking a break in November of 2017 to receive treatment for his cancer. B.J. was a friend, encourager, and mentor to many, many reporters from Texas to Tennessee.

Celebration of Life Service: Saturday, April 20, 10 a.m. visitation

Luton United Methodist Church

8363 Old Springfield Pike

Goodlettsville, TN 37072

Donations may be made to Adoration Foundation, 545 Mainstream Drive, Suite 412, Nashville, TN 37228

NCRA A to Z Alumna Profile: From A to Z to RPR in two years

Taylor Lauren Nirschl

Next month, NCRA will have its first known court reporting program graduate who started in an NCRA A to ZTM  Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program. Taylor Lauren Nirschl from Combined Locks, Wis., will be graduating in May with an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Court Reporting from Lakeshore Technical College, and she will also have another credential behind her name: RPR. Nirschl has some advice for students who are considering taking an A to Z program.

JCR | Is court reporting your first choice of career?

TLN | I would say yes, since my dad has been talking to me about court reporting since seventh grade. My dad works at a workforce development center. I did change my mind a couple of times, but I would always come back to court reporting.

JCR | What attracted you to learn more about it?

TLN | My dad told me how much money court reporters made.  As a seventh grader, that really got my attention. But as I got older, my attraction was more about the technology they use on their job, being in a courtroom, and just thinking about how important their job really is.

JCR | How did you hear about the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | My parents mentioned that I should go sit with someone to see if this was something I wanted to do. I went back to the school to see if I could get a recommendation on a local court reporter to shadow, and that’s when I met Lori Baldauf.  While I was asking questions about shadowing a court reporter, Lori gave me a flyer about the program.

JCR | What prompted you to sign up for the program?

TLN | I had already signed up for the court reporting program [at Lakeshore Technical College] before I signed up for the A to Z program. I was waiting for school to begin. When Lori shared the information, I decided to sign up.

JCR | What surprised you most about learning steno in the A to Z program?

TLN | How you must learn a whole new alphabet; and the letters are not on the keys. The way you learn how to remember the keys. 

JCR | How soon after completing the A to Z program did you enroll in Lakeshore Technical College?

TLN | I took A to Z in the spring of 2017 and started court reporting school in the summer of 2017. I’m waiting to graduate next month!

JCR | Did you test for any NCRA certifications while in school?

TLN | Yes, I did.  I took the three legs of the RPR certification from October through December 2018 and the Written Knowledge Test in January 2019.  I passed the Written Knowledge Test my first time taking it. When I passed my Lit leg at school, I took the Lit leg of the RPR. It took me two times to pass the Lit leg, but only one time to pass the Jury and Testimony legs. I found testing for the RPR after I passed my legs in school helped me stay on track. I also had an added incentive from my teacher: get my RPR and I’m done with classes.  

JCR | What do you plan to do when you graduate – official, freelancer, broadcast captioner, CART provider?

TLN | I’d like to take a little break since I’ve gone straight through school. However, I would love to work in the court where Lori works, but they don’t have an opening yet. I’ve thought about doing CART.

JCR | What would you say to others considering career choices to encourage them to enroll in the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | I would definitely encourage anyone interested in court reporting to take the NCRA A to Z program. I think that is what got me through school so fast. It gives you a great head start above everyone else. You already know your letters, so you are able to focus on your short forms and theory. I also think I had more confidence when I started the program and when I attended orientation. When I attended orientation, we got an opportunity to write on the machines. I remembered my letters and easy words like “egg.” I also already knew a few people from participating in NCRA A to Z, which provided me with a ready-made community.

Taylor is currently working toward earning NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. For more information on the NCRA A to Z program or to learn about the court reporting and captioning professions, visit DiscoverSteno.org.

Serving as the honorary bailiff for the Kansas Supreme Court

By Mary Kay Howe

Mary Kay Howe

It was a great honor to be chosen to be the honorary bailiff for the Kansas Supreme Court for a special session it was having in Lawrence, Kan. 

Since 2011, the Kansas Supreme Court has conducted 16 special sessions throughout the state where court representatives have traveled to all areas of the state to argue some Supreme Court cases, which allowed members of that community to come see them in action. Since 2015, those have been evening events, which brought a bigger attendance. Prior to our event in Lawrence, the largest crowd was 700 people. The attendance in Lawrence was more than 800 community members.

Whenever the Supreme Court has one of these special sessions, they reach out to the chief judge in that city and ask that the chief judge pick a person who would be a great example of the judicial system, someone who has long-standing employment with the state and would be willing and able to take on the role of “honorary bailiff.” Consequently, having worked for the Kansas judicial system as a court reporter for over 43 years and my love of the court system and all it stands for, I was asked by the chief judge if I would be willing to do the job.  Well, I am always about promoting court reporting, and I thought this would be another great opportunity for just that. Our Office of Judicial Administration contacted me and asked if they could do an interview of me that they would then do a media blast on. I, of course, obliged, once again to get the career of court reporting promoted. 

Following the interview and my approval of the same, the published article went on the state judicial website, and it also was sent to our local newspaper that was published online and in print. It was then put on my own Facebook page, as well as our KCRA Facebook page and the NCRA Facebook page. So based on all of that, hopefully, a few or a lot more people saw “court reporting” in a positive light.

As far as the event itself, my job was to pronounce the entry of the Supreme Court justices: “All rise.”  (Then a rapping of the gavel three times.) Then I said: “Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye, the Supreme Court of the State of Kansas.” There was further text they had me say, but it was in front of me, and I don’t remember it all. At that point, the chief justice took over and then honored me as a loyal Kansas employee and a court reporter for our state since 1975. I’m sure there was some gasping when people heard that, because they probably think I should be dead by now. At the adjournment, they had me further say, “All rise” to the crowd as they exited. 

Following the session, there was a reception for all of the justices to meet and greet the community members. There were many from the legal community especially that came up to me to congratulate me for my service.

This was the first time I’ve ever been invited to do such a thing, and I felt honored to be chosen. Following that, I received a very nice thank-you letter from the Kansas Supreme Court chief justice for being the honorary bailiff and for my state service.

If any opportunity like this ever presents itself to any of you, please take it. There is no better way to present ourselves publicly and what we do. The only regret I have is that they didn’t ask me to bring my machine because we all know how that always intrigues people and they want to know how it works.

I love court reporting!

Mary Kay Howe, RMR, is an official court reporter based in Lawrence, Kan. She can be reached at mhowe@douglas-county.com.

Retired Lifetime NCRA member Terry Lynn Jones passes

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported on April 3 that retired NCRA member Terry Lynn Jones, Jackson Hole, Wyo., an official state court reporter for 38 years, passed away on March 26.  

Read more.

NCRA members find working as extras helps promote the profession

Working as an extra on a TV show or movie is a great way for NCRA members to promote the wonderful work being done by court reporters and captioners every day. It can also be a lot of fun. Two NCRA members recently told the JCR Weekly about their experiences being extras.

Helga Lavan

Helga Lavan

Helga Lavan, RPR, is a freelancer in Woodbury, Conn.

JCR | What show were you an extra in and when?

HL | The Code, premiering April 9 on CBS. It was filmed in November of 2018.

JCR | How long were you part of filming?

HL | The courtroom scene was filmed for 13 hours on one sitting. One of the leading actors (Anna Wood) had to walk past me as she cross-examined a witness in a courtroom scene.

JCR | Can you give us a description of the scene?

HL | It was a courtroom scene at Judge Advocate General Headquarters in Quantico. Everyone was in Marine uniforms. A star witness is being examined and cross-examined, and the jury is given closing arguments. I kept writing everything I heard, and new words and names of places would come up that weren’t in my dictionary. Of course, I wasn’t plugged in and by the tenth hour my battery died. But it was the same lines over and over again. It brought me back to my school years practicing the same tapes to get it perfect!

JCR | Did you provide your own equipment?

HL | Yes, I provided my own equipment. I get a “bump” of extra compensation by bringing my own equipment. After being in holding for quite some time, I was called down and directed to set up behind a huge square desk, far, far away from the witness stand! I already was dismayed at that. The scene director pointed me to my place, the far end of the room near to where the bailiff was stationed. Clearly not a good setup in the real world but this was TV land, and so I began setting up. He asked me to set up the machine on top of the table. This may sound funny, but I told him it’s not done that way. I have a tripod. And so I set up, and the table I was at totally blocked everything from my chest down. If I would’ve set the machine up on the table (without the tripod), it would’ve been at neck height. Set director came back around and said, “Oh, is that how it’s done? It’s on a tripod?” I said yes. So the whole scene was shot and my machine was under and behind a huge desk the whole time!

JCR | Can you give us more details about how filming went, if you interacted with the actors, would you do it again, and anything else you would like to share?

HL | I would totally do this again. I had to be fitted and wore a Marine uniform complete with medals. I haven’t been able to accept other casting calls, one of them Billions, because of the busy lifestyle I have of owning a business. I’m still freelancing as well as training for marathons. But if another opportunity presents itself, I surely would do it again. Some of the cast members, especially Wayne Duvall, were so intrigued when they realized I was a true court stenographer. Many of the cast members saw me, a new person, on set and went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome me. They had so many questions and couldn’t believe a real court reporter was on set. What I noticed most was how energetic, gracious, and professional cast members were, filming into the wee hours of the night, and yet they kept a positive attitude, had fun between takes by making each other laugh, and never complained. They had perseverance. I got to see the not-so-glamorous side of filming, and at the same time everyone cooperated and did their jobs. A truly wonderful yet exhausting experience!

Kate Cochran

Kate Cochran

Kate Cochran, RPR, is a freelancer and CART captioner in Decatur, Ga.

JCR | What show were you an extra in and when?

KC | The show is Insatiable, a Netflix series still on today. It was March 22, 2017. A friend and colleague of mine shared on social media that a casting agency was looking for a court reporter. Heck, why not?

JCR | How long were you part of filming?

KC | I was lumped with all the extras. We were there all day. Super early for the hair, wardrobe, and makeup people to assess you. However, you bring your own clothes and makeup for them to decide on. It was at least 12 hours, most of which was waiting in the wings. Similar to how it can happen at work, there was a lot of downtime. I was prepared with transcripts and proofreading that kept me busy the whole day.

JCR | Can you give us a description of the scene?

KC | It was a court scene in a rather large courtroom. I was to sit in an old wooden chair in front of the judge, witness stand, etc., which was a real place of prominence over all the other extras, who merely filled a row or two in the room. Ironically, I’ve never worked in court, but this was just pretend, of course.

JCR | Did you provide your own equipment?

KC | Yes, I brought my own equipment, for which I was compensated a very small amount. I was told they had a writer that was probably older than myself. But, honestly, the whole point of my signing on to do this was to promote an accurate image of our profession and show that we don’t all look like old librarians.

JCR | Can you give us more details about how filming went?

KC | I was actively on set for about two hours, during which they filmed the same two-minute scene over and over again. In this instance, every time you get a new camera angle in a given scene, it was another shoot with another lens. It makes for a very tedious process. My biggest surprise: The actors’ microphones are so sophisticated that they barely spoke above a whisper. I couldn’t hear half of the lines! My solution was to create my own dialogue in my head and just keep typing away. Again, pretend.

While on set, nearly the whole production team (first director, second director, etc.) came up and said hey to me. They all said, “You really do this for a living? That’s amazing!” Everyone was impressed despite not seeing me actively doing anything but typing on my keys. If only I could have given them a realtime feed! 

We were fed really well on set. Morning meant breakfast and coffee. Lunch and dinner were nice catered events (extras go through last). And midday meant snack time of hot quesadillas. Oh, and there’s a candy stand too!

Spending all day with full-time extras was entertaining. It was a funny collection of 20-somethings and retirees. They loved sharing stories about their experiences, rattling off lists of what shows or movies they’ve participated in. Us newbies were cautioned to not expect to get in the frame. No matter how close you get to the actors, it just never happens. Atlanta has a huge movie/TV industry, so you can really fill your schedule being an extra. The casting company said they’d love for me to register at their office, as there is steady work being a court reporter extra. However, I felt like I paid my dues for now. I really give the production company credit for making the effort of filling the spot with someone authentic.

Did I get on the show? The show didn’t drop on Netflix for at least a year. I haven’t watched it because it looks kind of silly. My husband found my episode and discovered that I did earn a brief shot on screen.

NCRF scholarships – open to qualifying students at any court reporting program

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships for students, as well as applications for the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for all of these awards is June 1. Beginning this year, all NCRF scholarships are open to NCRA student members enrolled in any court reporting program, not just NCRA approved programs. The New Professional Reporter Grant is now open to qualifying graduates of any court reporting program.

The Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students nearing the end of their court reporting program who meet a number of criteria, including current student membership in NCRA, having passed at least one Q&A test at a minimum of 200 wpm, and a GPA of at least 3.5 based on a 4.0 standard.

 “This [scholarship] has given me an extra boost of motivation and confidence I needed while I head into my final semester,” said Megan Baeten upon receiving the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship in 2018. “It will help me with the cost of schooling for this last semester without the added stress of how I will pay for it. It will also help me with some of the start-up expenses upon graduating, as well as the certification fees.”

The New Professional Reporter Grant is given to a promising working reporter in his/her first year out of school who meets a number of criteria, including current NCRA membership, a graduating GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 standard, and a recommendation from the person’s current employer.

Students looking for scholarships can also consider the CASE scholarships and NCRA A to Z ™ scholarships. Deadlines for these two scholarships, which are also supported by funds from NCRF, have been extended to April 19.

More scholarships and other NCRF programs can be found by visiting NCRA.org/NCRF.

Angel Donor Profile: Marjorie Peters

Marjorie Peters

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

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

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

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

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

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

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

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

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

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

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?   

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

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

New Professional Spotlight: Cathy Carpenter

Cathy Carpenter

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

JCR | What was life like as a student?

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

JCR | What is your next big career goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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