Why I love court reporting: Jamie Booker

Jamie Booker

Jamie Booker, RPR, a freelance reporter in Tacoma, Wash., recently posted the following in the Facebook group Encouraging Court Reporting Students:

Why is court reporting an amazing profession? Maybe you’ll see yourself in my story. I started court reporting school at 20 years old with a one-year-old baby. I had to do something to better our lives, and I’m thankful every day I found court reporting.

I started school full time. While in school, I had two more babies so I finished school part-time at night while working and raising small children. It took me four years to finally finish, but I’m so, so glad I did. It was not easy. I practiced with toddlers at my feet and infants crying and with not nearly enough hours in the day.

I passed my second 225 on a Thursday night, and I was working in court that following Monday as an official. I worked in an extremely busy courthouse in Philadelphia, but they had a great training program for new reporters. Even though PA is not a certification state, I got my RPR anyway. Because I was certified, doors I never thought possible opened for me.

After 10 years in Philly, I wanted to try something new. Because I was a court reporter, I could! I quit my job and moved across the country to Tacoma without even looking for a job first. As soon as I had feet on the ground in Washington, there was no shortage of freelance work. It was seamless. I could be brave, try something new, and I had an amazing career that allowed it. Six months later, I was back in court in another official position.

Here I am, more than eight years later. My youngest is turning 18, and I can look to a new chapter. I’m leaving my job as an official and am heading into the freelance arena. I just wasn’t happy in court anymore. And unlike 99 percent of Americans, I will never be stuck where I don’t want to be. With reporting, we have options. We can be brave. We can try new things, and we don’t have to sacrifice an income to do it.

As a student, your sacrifices are now. They are many. They are not fun. School is the hardest part of your whole career. But we have opportunities that will make your friends and families green with envy. STICK IT OUT! Your pain now will be so much gain later.

NCRA member passes away

The Ocala News reported on Jan. 16 that NCRA member Susan Mary Dow, RMR, CRR, passed away on Jan. 12 at her home in Ocala, Fla.

Read more.

Presenting at the NCRA Conference for the first time

Penny Wile

By Penny Wile, RPR, RMR, CRR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Professional Profile: Harmony Menier-Shierholtz

Harmony Menier-Shierholtz

By Molly Cooper

Harmony Menier-Shierholtz began her professional career in 2019 after completing school at South Coast College in just 18 months and earning her California CSR license within two years. She is a driven, qualified, and vivacious young professional who lives and works in southern California as a freelance deposition reporter.

JCR | How did you feel both going into your first assignment as a reporter and coming out of it?

HMS | When I drove to my first deposition, I was very nervous. I had the oath on my computer, I was going over all the procedures in my head, and I went all out with my outfit in order to feel as confident as I could. Right when I got to the parking lot, I got a call from the agency that it canceled. All I could do was laugh at that point because I worked myself up to not even enter the building. When I finally had a deposition that went forward, I ended up feeling surprisingly good about my performance. However, I still called my mentor with a billion questions after.

JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?

HMS | My next goal is to start practicing more on my machine and to learn how to use my software in a more effective way. People talk a lot faster in the “real world” than how we were taught in school. I want to write cleaner and shorten my editing time by learning all the functions of my software. I have also been practicing commanding the room when I’m reporting. I was nervous about this part because I started working at a young age, and it can be intimidating to give orders to attorneys that have years of life and work experience on me. However, I learned that I pay for it when I go home to edit my transcripts. I feel that I’ve been doing a better job on slowing down the deposition and getting clarification when I need it. At the end of the day, that separates court reporters from digital recording! I’m not sure of my end goal yet. I am leaning toward working in criminal court. I love law and crime so that will suit me best. Obviously, the pay and benefits are a huge plus as well. As of right now, I’m enjoying creating my own schedule and being my own boss.

JCR | Where’s your favorite place to proofread jobs and why?

HMS | I proofread my transcripts in my bed or on the couch. I need to be by myself because sounds and movement can distract me easily.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

HMS | I think this might be the most asked question. I have endless advice and suggestions, but every single student is different. Everyone has things that work for them that might not work for others. Court reporting is all muscle memory at the end of the day, and I’m talking about the speed portion. Just like sports, you need to practice over and over and over again in order to master a skill. This is no different. If I could go back, I would have sat out more because you don’t really understand all the procedures until you see it in person. My last suggestion is to spend lots of time on your software. I didn’t understand how important software was in school since we were trained to read our notes. However, I now know that software is everything. Invest in learning it because it will save you a lot of time in the future.

JCR | What’s something that you’ve learned in the field that you didn’t learn in school? 

HMS | I think my last answer touched on this question, but I learned that people don’t speak in complete sentences. I learned that you should always carry cash on you. I learned the meaning of being a guardian of the record and how important that is. Our job is important. Most people don’t understand what our job entails. Even attorneys — not every attorney — who we work with every day are ignorant when it comes to what we do.

Molly Cooper, RPR, is a freelancer in Fullerton, Calif.

NCRA member’s legal tech startup earns Fountain Innovation Fund’s second investment

Startland News posted an article on Jan. 8 about NCRA member Lauren Lawrence, RPR, Kansas City, Mo., founder of Stenovate, being selected as the second startup to earn support from the Fountain Innovation Fund.

Read more.

NCRA member shares wellness tips

NCRA member Donna Linton, RMR, a freelance court reporter from Ashburn, Va., shared her self-care tips in a wellness piece posted by The Washington Post on Dec. 30.

Read more.

New Professional Profile: Bethany Glover

Bethany Glover

By Mike Hensley, RDR

Bethany Glover, RPR, is a new professional residing in Long Beach, Calif.  Not only is she new — within her first year of work as a freelance deposition reporter — she finished school in a blazing 16 months. She is excellently poised to take the world by storm, and she has graciously shared insights with us as a newly licensed court reporter.

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

BG | I grew up dancing, moved to New York City to earn my bachelor’s in dance at a prestigious school, traveled the world performing as a professional dancer, and had to cut short my dancing career early due to a back injury. I wanted a career that would still give me the freedom to travel while also earning a good living. I also loved how crucial court reporting is for getting a record of people‘s experiences and for the judicial system as a whole.

JCR | What’s your “can’t live without” item in your steno bag?

BG | Definitely back-up USB flash drives. I always, always back everything up, because you just never know when technology is going to be cranky.

JCR | What is your biggest challenge as a new reporter?

BG | My biggest challenge as a new reporter is learning how to have a good work/life balance. I really love what I do, so I tend to get lost in my work. I’m trying to learn to step back and take time to do things for myself outside of work too. Self-care is crucial!

JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?

BG | My next goal is working on realtime. I’m learning that the cleaner that I write while on the job, the less work I have to do editing. I want to be writing realtime as soon as I can.

A long-term goal of mine is to be able to take depositions internationally. I would love to travel for work. That’s the dream.

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

BG | When I’m not reporting, I love to take yoga classes and explore new neighborhoods. I really enjoy being outside and walking. I also want to get into doing volunteer work with animals.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

BG | I absolutely love meeting new people and going to new offices every day. It’s always something different, and there are no two days the same.

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

BG | Being involved with associations has been so important for me on my journey to becoming a court reporter. I have met wonderful reporters through the associations who have supported me, cheered me on, and have been there for me for every question that I have. The court reporting community is like no other, and the reporters I have met through associations inspire me every day.

JCR | What was the best piece of advice that you received from another court reporter that helped you?

BG | The best piece of advice I ever received from another court reporter is to be confident in my skills and to not be afraid of taking charge. Being a new reporter can be a little intimidating sometimes, but you just need to walk in with a smile on your face and your head held high.

Mike Hensley, RDR, is a freelancer from Dublin, Calif. He can be reached at stenomph@gmail.com.

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.

Read more.

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.