Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

Theresa (Tari) Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, an official court reporter from Charlotte, N.C., recently provided CART to a juror. She described the experience for the JCR Weekly.

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

JCR | Have you been the reporter for a juror before?

TK | Yes, one other time, but the juror did not make it into the jury box. This was my first time one made it all the way through the trial process.

JCR | How did you get this job? 

TK | I obtained this assignment based on my skills, equipment, and experience and because our courthouse recognizes the benefit and convenience of utilizing a certified realtime reporter. The jury services office advertises CART as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) option for hearing-challenged prospective jurors. They refer to it as a “note taker.” We have two full-time realtime reporters, and I was assigned to cover the assignment. The juror had requested someone to provide note-taking services during their jury orientation and during all phases of the trial process.

JCR | How would you describe the experience? What were you doing, and how did you do it? 

TK | This was such a rewarding experience. I can confidently say that it was the most rewarding week of my career. It’s one thing to be involved in the trial process on a daily basis, but it’s an entirely different and humbling experience to help one on one with someone who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the jury process.   

Through this experience I have realized that there are some folks who fall within a gray zone of not being deaf and only somewhat hard of hearing, people who don’t need a full-time interpreter and function well on a daily basis without any assistance. My juror was not fully deaf, has not been diagnosed with any hearing deficit, and does not read lips or communicate through sign language. She was fully capable of communicating her thoughts, articulate with her words, and responded appropriately to attorneys during voir dire. 

Her challenge, as relayed by her, came when people speak soft, there are other noises in the background, or when the speaker is not looking in her direction. The sound suddenly cuts in half, and she begins to panic. Knowing this challenge and realizing the importance of her role as a juror, she decided to ask for a note taker to fill in the gaps during these kinds of moments. 

The view from the juror’s seat

I met the juror at 8 a.m. on Monday morning in the jury assembly room. I discussed with her the services I would be providing, a little bit about the technology, and got some background on her hearing challenges. My employer provided me with a rolling cart, and I followed the juror wherever she was directed to go. She received my streaming feed through an iPad. I had two other iPads on a constant charge, ready to change out for the one she was using. I use a wireless router for the room only. While she was able to view the feed on the iPad, I noticed that my router would cut out when I moved the cart to another room. In the future, unless the juror is sitting in the jury box further away from me, I will just have them view the feed on my computer.

Eventually she was called into a courtroom and was put in the box on the first call by the clerk. I sat behind the official court reporter and provided a feed for her during the voir dire process. Shortly thereafter, she was approved and sworn in as a juror. 

When the trial began, I was sworn in as an interpreter. Having this be a new experience for myself and the judge, I took the liberty of printing out some information from NCRA, the state of North Carolina’s policies on ADA requirements for trial participants, and a few other articles. I highlighted and tabbed the areas most pertinent to the situation and handed it to the judge. It was soon determined that I would act as an interpreter of sorts. My sole job during the trial was to meet her needs. When the jury went in and out of the courtroom, I was with her. I purposely did not stay in the courtroom during the parts of the trial when the jury was gone. I wanted to remove myself from any knowledge of the case and/or any impropriety. 

She did express a desire to have me in the deliberation room because, when everyone was talking, she didn’t think she would be able to hear folks on the other side of the room. That moment came, and I got the enviable opportunity to be a fly on the wall during a jury’s deliberation process. I informed the jury of my role and that my iPad feed was just to be viewed by her, not to ask me any questions, and to treat me as if I was invisible in the room. I did, however, request that they “try” to speak one at a time. Any experienced reporter knows that this will not happen when you have 12 impassioned folks discussing an issue, but I felt I had to make the request anyway.

The deliberation takedown was fast and furious. One juror had been dismissed so it was a jury of 11 (civil case).  In my mind, that was one less voice to pick up and write. I sat in the middle of the room. My client was to the left of me. Eventually we got into a rhythm. She heard what the people were saying to her left and next to her. I wrote mostly what I heard on the right side of me. I would not write what she said. 

Logistically, I had literally five minutes to prepare for this, as the judge got the case to the jury rather quickly, so I had no time to prepare speaker IDs. As it turns out, I would not have had time to identify each speaker anyway due to the fast nature of the conversation. So what I ended up doing was adding two to three lines to my paragraphing stroke. When someone new spoke, I paragraphed and the screen went down a couple of lines. This provided space in between speakers. I know this was not the most ideal, but it’s what I had in the moment and it was my first time going through this experience.  

On a side note, I am so very thankful for the NCRA CART group inside of Facebook that I feverishly made requests in that day. Several reporters chimed in on suggestions for deliberation takedown. I have such appreciation for my seasoned colleagues who have journeyed through this before me. 

When the deliberations were finished, I had written 110 pages in one and a half hours. Mind you, this includes extra lines between speakers, but it was still extremely fast. What an exhilarating challenge that was! They threw the kitchen sink in, metaphorically, with the whole conversation. The terminology varied wildly — everything from religion to hematomas to DUI alcohol terms.

It was also interesting to observe the process. Eleven people who remained silent were suddenly full of thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently to be the next one to voice their ideas. Most folks were boisterous while the minority were a bit reserved. In the end, however, they came to a consensus as a group because members were willing to compromise without relinquishing their principles. There was some heated conversation and one member who seemed to stand out from the rest on his opinions. This all reminded me of my bachelor’s classes in behavioral science. We studied things like this — what causes a group of people to respond and make a collective decision the way they do; how do outside influences, life experiences, and core beliefs affect a group decision? I was fascinated, like reading a book, to see this process unfold. 

JCR | Did the juror say anything to you about her experience?

TK | Yes. At the end, I was in the jury room with the jurors and the judge. Everyone was speaking frankly and openly about the case and the experience. My client made it a point to thank me and the judge for allowing her to be an involved participant in the process. She said she had been very nervous about the experience (as are most prospective jurors) but especially because she had serious doubts about her ability to serve successfully. She said that my services made that possible for her. The judge also said he had never seen this technology being utilized before. He was familiar with realtime technology but not how it was used for a juror. 

JCR | How long was the case? 

TK | The juror entered the courtroom on a Monday afternoon, was sworn in at the end of voir dire, then came back the next two days for the trial. So it lasted about two and a half days.

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

TK | I would definitely like to do this again. However, next time I would tweak my dictionary a bit to have more room sound definitions than I currently have; i.e., laughter, loud noise, private conversation held. I would also only bring my laptop into the jury room (thank you, NCRA Facebook group member suggestion). When someone recommended that, I metaphorically slapped my forehead like “oh, yes!” It would have made things go a lot faster had I just provided the juror with a view of my laptop instead of everyone waiting for my technology to reboot in a different room. But I don’t fault myself for any of this because it was all new terrain for me, professionally speaking, so I chalked it up to a wonderful learning experience.

While this appeared to have been a positive experience for the juror, it was eye-opening for me how beneficial court reporters are to the hearing-impaired community. There are folks like this juror who have no idea that this opportunity exists — people who do not fit the black-and-white description of a hearing-impaired client. I wish that CART was more readily known because so many people would find a genuine benefit from this technology. I would love to be involved in creating a CART-in-the-courtroom training program for our officials in North Carolina because, when preparing for and going through the juror’s time in our courthouse, I did not find much information on how to perform my role. It would have been nice to have a crash course of sorts or a cheat sheet to take with me throughout the assignment. We also need to update the verbiage in the interpreter oath, as it did not reflect my role during deliberations. All in all, though, I would definitely do this again because the experience far outweighed the challenges.

I love my job (my love affair could be yours, too)

By Brenda D. Blackburn, RPR

Brenda Blackburn

I have proven myself to be resilient, determined, and steadfast in my profession, and I have embraced many technological advances throughout the 35 years I have reported.  In 1979 I was majoring in English when I agreed to go with a friend to the business school at Ole Miss to check out something. I was killing time and without direction. When we entered the room in the business school, it was filled with these strange little machines. That was the first time I had seen a shorthand machine, although my dad had made me aware of the profession a few years before.  He had known a man that was a stenographer. When I saw that machine, the next thing out of my mouth was, “I want to do that.”  I guess it was love at first sight, and it has lasted.

Working as a waitress in college, I struggled financially to say the least. When it came time to buy a $500 manual shorthand machine, I was also short. I borrowed most of it from my roommate. I am certain she never expected to see the balance. I know I felt I would never make it. By the grace of God I made it beyond that to complete my shorthand requirement, 225 words a minute, and began freelancing in Memphis, Tenn. About six months later, I was appointed as an official in Chancery Court; and later Circuit Court in Mississippi. Sometime in the ’90s, Mississippi created a CSR board and required its reporters be certified. I was grandfathered at that time, based on my years, but took and passed the Registered Professional Reporter exam in 2004.  Around that time, I also qualified in the Magnolia Cup Speed Competition held in Tunica, Miss.: 96.5 percent accuracy, 200 wpm Legal Opinion; 95.7 percent on 200 wpm Literary; 96.2 percent on 250 wpm Jury Charge. After all these years, I keep striving to improve.  As I always say, “I’m not dead yet.”  I practice every day.

I have heard matters of child support, divorce, murder, city annexations, patent cases, and, most famous, the estate of Robert L. Johnson, the blues singer. I have taken the testimony of the medical examiner who determined that, yes, Elvis is dead. Most importantly, I know that each time I have reported the ordinary everyday type of case, I have remembered to put myself in that person’s place, whether defendant or victim, or parties in a civil matter. I always remained impartial regarding the record, and stood up against small-town public opinion at times to maintain the integrity of the record with regard to defendants’ rights.

Brenda Blackburn in 1979

The years I have had in this career have been a great gift. They have taught me a lot about others and myself, and they definitely remind me each day how blessed I have been through the good times and bad. I retired in 2015, after 32 years as an official. I felt a little lost at first because this work has been so much a part of my life.  I began freelancing again, and I am learning something new every day, regardless of my experience.

I volunteer for an NCRA program called the
A to Z™ Intro to Machine Shorthand program , and I have begun to try to encourage some young people into this profession that I hope will develop the same love I have for that little machine and fill some of those vacant positions we have in Mississippi.  What an awesome profession when you can work 35 years and not want to stop.

I don’t know why I had not done this before, but I recently attended my first national convention in New Orleans, La. I am glad I checked this off my bucket list. I was definitely inspired.  I also made some very special friends. Our profession is filled with such a unique and creative group of people. I am so proud and thankful to be one of the proud, the few, the brave in the most unique profession in the world.

Interested in joining the ranks of the elite and becoming a court reporter?  E-mail me to find out where A to Z classes might be held in Mississippi:  lakesidereporting@outlook.com.

Brenda D. Blackburn, RPR

Mississippi Delta (Greenville, Mississippi area)

From intern to official

By Callie Sajdera

Callie Sajdera

In theory, I couldn’t wait to get to Realtime VI (200-225 wpm). In Realtime VI, I couldn’t wait to intern. While I interned, I couldn’t wait to work. Here I am, six months later, working my dream job in my dream city. I’m Callie Sajdera, an official reporter for the Second Judicial District of Denver, Colo.  I graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., in June of 2018. I have been an official reporter since October of 2018, and all I can say is that I truly love my job. 

In March, I did part of my internship in the very courthouse where I am now currently employed. I knew after I finished my internship that Colorado, specifically the Lindsey-Flannigan Courthouse, was where I wanted and needed to be. I was going to get there some way, somehow. Everyone has experienced the transition from a student to a professional, whether it be freelance, official, CART, or captioning, and we all know how terrifying it was at the very beginning. There’s no doubt that you will make a mistake along the way, there will be questions you’ll feel silly for asking, and you will fall into a “newbie  trap.” 

The hardest part about my transition to an official was finding a job. Like I said before, I knew I wanted to be in Denver and I knew I’d get there, but I didn’t expect it to happen right away. A challenge that I came across while job hunting was the intimidating factor of holding the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR).  So many times as I was filling out the application for a job, there would be a box that you check to confirm that you held your RPR. If you didn’t check that box, your application was terminated and you couldn’t move forward. That was discouraging since I was currently working on my RPR and still am, but I was not going to let that stop me.

A month later, I received an email from the Court Reporting Administrator for Denver, who is now my boss, and she informed me of a position that became open and encouraged me to apply. I was open and honest about not holding my RPR certification, and she said: “I want you to apply.” I applied; I got an interview; I got the job. I later learned the impression that I made as an intern here in March helped me land my job. My boss fought for me. She knew hiring a new grad with only internship experience could be a risk, but that was a risk she was willing to take.  

For students who are reading this, being a new professional is hard. The amount of knowledge you learn is astronomical, and at times it can be scary. As a new professional, it has been so important for me to know that it’s OK to make mistakes, just don’t hold onto them for long.  Ask every question that comes to mind, because having the correct answer is always better than trying to guess.  As for the “newbie traps,” they are unavoidable, but I have an amazing work family that picks me up and helps me through them. As I’m sure everyone has been told throughout school: “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.” If there’s one piece of advice through this article, it would be to push yourself to be uncomfortable, grow in this profession, and always practice to be the best professional you can be.  

Callie Sajdera is an official reporter for the Second Judicial District of Denver, Colo. She can be reached at callie.sajdera@judicial.state.co.us.

Q&A: Checking in with Joe Aurelio

Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR (Ret.), has always had an attraction to the English language, first as a court reporter and later as a professor of English. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from Boston University. After he retired from reporting because of a hearing loss, he became a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston area. He teaches a variety of subjects, but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology. He will be teaching a live webinar, Homonyms & Pseudohomonyms: The Nemesis of Reporters, Part 3 on Jan. 30, 6-7:30 p.m. ET. The JCR caught up with him to find out a little more about his background and the reason behind his interest in this topic.

Tell us a little about your career.

I started night school at the Boston Stenotype Institute, and on the first night I met a girl, Josephine, who later became my wife.

I ranged all over Massachusetts during my career. During my 39 years, I had a wealth of experiences. I took some important cases (my first murder case was my first case in Korea!) I met some dynamic attorneys while working at the state labor department. My job at the federal agency was to travel around New England taking the testimony from disabled applicants for Social Security aid (some of that was sad). My first case in Superior Court was a criminal case (I was to take many of those). Other than some horrendous murder cases, possibly the two most important cases that I took in Superior Court: one involved the New England Patriots football team and the other, of course, was the Boston Strangler. In a sentence, I’ve had an interesting reporting career with fine memories and opportunities to meet and/or report important persons.

When did you become an NCRA member?

I became an NCRA member, I believe, in 1957. I did so because I believe in unity. When reporters gather together and unite, they have strength and can chart their future course or at least help to chart that course. When reporters join, their dues help to pay for professional advice and lobbying efforts. It’s patently unfair for unregistered reporters to have the benefit of all of the strides that their fellow registered reporters have worked hard for. I am solidly aligned with local, regional, and national unions!

What started your interest in learning more about language than just what you needed for court reporting?

Even as a little kid of 10 or so, I would fool around with language (I’ll be back in a flash with some cash in my sash). Later I remember saying such things as “She would feint a faint.” I was always very interested in homonyms (such as made/maid) and what I would call pseudohomonyms (accede/exceed). In short, I was interested in language many years before I started stenotype reporting. I remember when I was about 14, there was a manual typewriter at the train station where I used to sell newspapers, and I used to put in a quarter to unlock it so that I could type on it for 30 minutes.

If you remember your days from your master’s and doctorate, what did you find was the difference you brought to your studies as a court reporter?

I went back to school late. I was almost 50 when I started my serious studying. My bachelor’s was 1983, the master’s was 1985, and the doctorate was 1989. What I think I brought to my studies was a deep focus that I had to use as a reporter: listening very carefully to every word spoken. In other words, because I was so serious about listening to and capturing every single word in court, I think that that held me in great stead in listening to my professors.

Frankly, it was very difficult to earn three degrees at night while working full-time in a busy court. How’d I do it? By being very motivated because I saw the handwriting on the wall: my hearing loss was making my daily job hard to do. I only succeeded in performing a creditable job in court by having a lot of speed (I passed a 280) and knowing and liking a great deal of English. And that’s how I lasted until 1990. (I wanted to teach in college, and to do that, one needs a lot of degrees.)

You’ve given one seminar for NCRA members recently, and you’re planning another one. What do you hope court reporters and captioners learn from your sessions?

I’ve done one webinar, and soon I’ll do another. I know that a lot of people, including reporters, have great difficulty with English, especially homonyms and pseudohomonyms. Mistakes are being made daily, and the reporters who commit them are not even aware that they’re using the wrong word or spelling a word incorrectly or malpunctuating a sentence. Well, even though I haven’t touched a stenotype since 1990, I still consider myself a reporter, and I feel that it’s my duty to correct or to help correct those who make those types of errors — and I want to do that until I hang up my skates. What I hope reporters will learn from these webinars is that I’d like all of them to learn and use the correct word or punctuation always.

Is there some advice that you would like all reporters and captioners to take to heart?

My advice to all reporters and captioners is to have the highest respect and fealty to the art and profession of reporting. It is an honorable profession. Think of it: Reporters are responsible for taking and transcribing all of the words of everybody. What could be more important than that? I rest my case.

Spotlight on a new professional: Melissa Case

Melissa Case

Melissa Case worked hard to get through school.  She has gone on to work in freelance and court.  In this interview, she imparts wisdom about the schooling process and what to expect when you start a professional career.

JCR Weekly |Tell me about your career path and what drew you into court reporting.

MC |I had a friend who was in court reporting already. She took me around her courthouse for a day, and I fell in love with the profession.  I was in freelance for three years and then obtained my RPR and became an official.  I’ve been there for just over two years.

JCR Weekly |What school did you attend, and how long did it take you to graduate?

MC | I went to Stark State in Canton, Ohio.  It took me just under four years to graduate.

JCR Weekly |What are some things that you like and dislike about professional court reporting so far?

MC |I love my career.  I work in a great courthouse with awesome coworkers. My dislike would be how sore my wrists, forearms, and shoulders can get during a trial.

JCR Weekly |You have done freelance as well as court work.  Can you describe some of the pros and cons to freelance versus official work?

MC |The pro of being in freelance is the flexibility in your schedule.  If you don’t want to work that day, you don’t have to.  The pros of working as an official are the benefits, vacation time, and more steady work.

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

MC |My coolest experience has been a trial about gambling.  I learned all about different table games.

JCR Weekly |What advice can you give to court reporting students?

MC |Work hard, but enjoy the journey.  You’ll fail tests.  It happens.  But celebrate every little win you can. Look back and remember when you wished you were where you are now.

JCR Weekly |What did you do to remain positive and motivated in school?

MC |I celebrated the wins!  I also would reach out to talk to as many experienced reporters in my area as I could.

JCR Weekly |How difficult was it to obtain your first job after graduating?

MC |Not difficult at all.  I had a job before I graduated.

JCR Weekly |What are some goals down the road for your career?

MC |Future goals are the RMR and CRR.

15 minutes a day for Michelle

By Rich Germosen

A few weeks after the NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, in September 2014, I started a practice page on Facebook. My goal was to get more consistent with my steno practice. I would always practice, but then life would get in the way and I might not practice for a week or so. I wanted consistency and accountability. So I started the 100-day-challenge practice page on Facebook where you would report your practice once per day in a post. Members would encourage each other to keep their streaks going.

When I first started, I posted both my exercise and my steno to the 100-day exercise page I was already part of. Anne Vosburgh, a reporter friend who was in the practice group, suggested I make a 100-day page for just steno. She told me: Make the page and they will come. After a year or so, I made the group secret and put in the rules that you will be removed if you’re not participating. We’re now a relatively small group of anywhere between 130 to 140 members.

I felt if I had a page to post my practice to, that it would keep me going so that I would not skip any days of practice. It is so easy to not practice. But, today, it feels strange not practicing. If I have a job at 9 a.m. in New York City, I set my alarm for 3:59 to get my 15 minutes in before catching the train. The rules for the group are simple, or I think they are at least: Practice 15 minutes per day for 100 straight days without missing a day and post your practice once per day; for instance, “Day 1/100: 15 minutes of Q&A at 250,” or whatever it was. If you stop practicing, you are gently removed from the page.

I keep track of everyone’s milestones, and everyone encourages everyone else. We have a handful of students on there, but the majority of the people in the group are working reporters who want to improve. Personally, I feel I’ve improved a lot. Since starting the page, I’ve received three medals total, my first at the Deposition Reporters Association’s contest in 2017, third place in the 190 wpm Q&A; second place in the Q&A Realtime Contest in Las Vegas at NCRA’s 2017 Convention & Expo; and third place in the Q&A Speed Contest at NCRA’s 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans. Likewise, just about everyone who is on the page has mentioned that they see the improvement when they practice, as well as a decline if they take time out from practice.

Michelle Grimes and the 100-day-challenge group

In 2016, one of the members of the group, Michelle Grimes from Chicago, shared with us that she had cancer. Michelle felt safe in sharing with us that she was going through treatments. Through all of this, Michelle somehow kept practicing. It was very inspiring. She completed three 100-day challenges in total. While Michelle was going through treatments, another one of the group’s members, Allison “Allie” Hall, RMR, CRR, started something new by posting an extra 15 minutes for Michelle. It inspired several other people to post “15 minutes for Michelle” in addition to their regular 15 minutes. This means people were putting in a total of 30 minutes per day: 15 regular minutes and 15 for Michelle. We had a lot of members doing the extra 15 minutes for Michelle.

On May 11, 2017, Michelle passed away. She practiced right up until a week or so of passing. The thought on the page was if Michelle could practice through all this, we should practice consistently. Going from 15 minutes to 30 minutes was extremely challenging, especially on days where I’ve been on the record for 7 hours. I find I have to get my practice done before leaving for my 6 a.m. train. It doesn’t sound like a lot more, but 30 minutes is a lot more to do for 100 consecutive days.

I started a countdown of 100 days before the NCRA Speed Contest as a Michelle Challenge. We started on April 24, 2018. The 100th day was August 1, 2018, the day of the Speed Contest in New Orleans.

Nine members participated in the Speed Contest Michelle Challenge. She has left quite a legacy: She inspired us all to never stop improving and to keep practicing. I dedicated both of my NCRA medals — one in 2017 and one this past Convention in NOLA — to Michelle Grimes. She inspired me to practice more and always to improve and get better. Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, received a medal in NOLA and also did the Michelle Challenge prior to Convention, as well as Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC. We had a lot of qualifiers, including Allie Hall and Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC.

I am confident, if it were not for Michelle Grimes and our special challenge to honor her, I would not have gone ahead and done 30 minutes per day for 100 days. I would have had good intentions, but deep down inside, I know it was all Michelle pushing us all to be better writers. I encourage you to start your own practice group and make it a goal to improve a little bit each day.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from North Brunswick, N.J. He also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.








Dreams never die

By Joshua Edwards

The JCR Weekly recently learned that NCRA member Joshua Edwards has a passion for singing and reached out to learn more about what motivates this CART captioner and court reporter from New York, N.Y.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a professional Broadway singer was the dream that brought me to New York 10 years ago. And the dream never dies. However, I knew that I did not want to follow the typical path that most aspiring singer-actors follow – a waiter or always working nightshift jobs. On a friend’s recommendation, I discovered court reporting school. That ended up being a wonderful path for me. I finished school in December 2010 and started taking depositions in New York City right away. Five years flew by. Then I applied for a job in federal court as an official reporter and spent one year there. A major reason I did not want to stay in court is that I felt like I would not have free time to pursue my artistic interests. Auditions for musicals and tours, for example, start at 9 in the morning. If you work a full-time day job, you will never have the opportunity to attend auditions. After leaving my court position, I became a CART captioner, which is now my full‑time job.

Both of my mother’s parents were music lovers. My grandfather was a minister of music in his church. I never got to hear him live, but we do have a few rare recordings of him singing church hymns. My grandmother used to love to hear me sing some of those hymns.

I only started taking lessons in college. My major was vocal performance. Part of the bachelor’s degree was to take diction classes for the four major sung languages: English, German, French, and Italian. We learned how to analyze words according to the International Phonetic Alphabet. When you study music, the foundation is usually classical. In singing you start with the five pure Italian vowels ah, eh, ee, oh, and uu. In Italian, the word for “but” is “ma.” It should be pronounced with a pure tall “ah” sound like the word “mom.” In English we have sloppier vowel constructions like “my.” That’s a combination of “ma” and “ee,” or a diphthong. But no court reporter would write the word “my” in two strokes PHA/AOE. Even more complicated are triphthongs like “our,” comprised of a-uu-er, which mercifully is written in one stroke. So to me, the study of singing in foreign languages is incredibly similar to the study of writing in steno.

Even though I learned to sing operatic arias from composers like Mozart and Puccini, my favorite music to sing is classic Broadway. The singer blends a strong trained voice with more contemporary music. I’ve performed in many plays and musicals — and even some operas. Two performances that stand out are being invited to sing “Nessun Dorma” in a packed courtroom when I was a federal reporter, and then entertaining our state convention attendees last month as the Phantom of the Opera singing “Music of the Night.” Watch the video.

Singing is incredibly rewarding. Singing, music, and any visual or other manner of art connect people on a higher plane in an otherwise chaotic world that is basically a cycle of life and death. Why do we as human beings enjoy things like good food, music, sports, entertainment, and other things which I won’t mention in this article? They make life worth living.

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a CART captioner from New York, N.Y.








Captioning a spelling bee

Chase Frazier

So what do you do when you are asked to report a spelling bee? If you have the opportunity to do so, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, of Murrieta, Calif., says that it can be a fun experience and suggests making sure you know what the company you work for wants you to do. Here, he shares his experience.

JCR | Were you on-site for the spelling bee?
Frazier | I was remote. I believe it was a state spelling bee. The kids were 13 years old and under, I believe. It lasted about four hours.

JCR | Did you get the list of words early? Did you have the list printed next to you or did you have them all in the dictionary?
Frazier | I wasn’t allowed to write the word when the judges said it. I would write: “Spell ____.”

Then, I would write everything else and then fingerspell the student’s spelling. They didn’t want there to be any way for cheating, so I was not given any prep. And when they used the word in a sentence, I had the blurb (contest word) come up in place of the word.

It wasn’t that hard to just drop the word because the words were crazy. I’ve never heard of most of them, so it quickly became natural to write the blurb.

When they spelled, I could fingerspell the word; but when the judges were saying it, I couldn’t.

JCR | Did you feel for any of the contestants when they missed or were you just too focused on what you needed to do?
Frazier | It was cool to see them do so well, but it was sad to see some go because they did so great in previous rounds.

JCR | Did you end up adding those words to your dictionary or did they seem too esoteric? Or did you pick and choose?
Frazier | Most of the words were just so far out there. They were spelling bee words, so, no, I don’t think I added any of them. I may have added a couple that seemed reasonable, though.








2018 Realtime Contest winner Mark Kislingbury shares his story

2018 NCRA Realtime Contest Winner Mark Kislingbury

NCRA member Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, owner of Magnum Steno from Houston, Texas, won the 2018 National Realtime Contest held during the Association’s Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La. It is his fifth Realtime Contest win. This win ties the record for most wins in the NCRA Realtime Contest with 2017-2018 Contests Committee co-chair Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, of Castro Valley, Calif. Kislingbury’s overall score was 99.24 percent.

Kislingbury placed second in the literary leg with a 99.20 percent accuracy rate, and first in the Q&A leg with a 99.28 percent accuracy rate.

The JCR Weekly recently reached out to him to find out more about what motivates him, how he prepares to compete, and how he learned about court reporting as a career.

JCR | In what area of the profession do you work?
KISLINGBURY | What I do does not actually fit into any of those groups! Most of my professional writing is for a national political radio program where the Web team for that program wants instant transcripts so they can post verbatim transcripts on their site. This demands accurate realtime so that I only have to make a few edits/corrections on commercial breaks and send that segment at the end of the commercial break. I also work for that same program before each particular show transcribing “sound bites” taken from television so that the host may have verbatim transcripts of those sound bites. Occasionally I still do broadcast captioning and will take a freelance job or a remote CART job.

JCR | How long have you been in the profession?
KISLINGBURY | 35 years.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?
KISLINGBURY | I was a junior in high school in a Gregg shorthand class when a rep from the nearest court reporting school visited our class and showed us a brand-new olive green steno machine with shiny black keys. She told us you could graduate in two years, make a high salary right away, and that 95 percent of the students were girls. What’s to not like?

JCR | How many national contests have you participated in?
KISLINGBURY | I competed in NCRA Speed Contests from 1995 through 2010 (16 of them), and since 1999 I have competed in 18 of the 20 NCRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | Do you compete both in the Realtime and the Speed contests??
KISLINGBURY | I used to compete in both, but from 2011 through today I have not competed in an NCRA Speed Contest. I do enjoy competing in the California DRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?
KISLINGBURY | I suppose it’s the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence seems to be a universal human value that contributes to overall happiness, self-esteem, and well-being. Since I love teaching court reporters and students to help them improve, I think that winning contests (where I have been fortunate enough to do so) lends added credibility to what I am teaching.

JCR | How did it feel to win this year?
KISLINGBURY | It felt great because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work in the practice room. There are so many amazing realtime competitors out there nowadays that it is extremely hard to win! And it’s so easy to “have a bad day” in the realtime contest. I believe only nine different individuals have won the NCRA realtime contest in its 20 years of existence! And only four have won it multiple times.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | Absolutely!

JCR | What advice would you give someone who is considering competing at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | It’s fun! Do it for the experience, for the pursuit of excellence, not “to win.” It takes the pressure off if you have the attitude: “I just want to try my best and see what happens.” The other competitors are friendly and encouraging. Your first goal may well be to simply “qualify” in one of the two legs. (Qualifying means 95 percent accuracy or above.) Qualifying means you get ranked in a group of elite Realtime (or Speed) Contest reporters!

JCR | How far in advance do you begin to practice for the national contests?
KISLINGBURY | When I was competing in speed contests, I would start at least three months ahead of time. For the realtime contest, I start practicing 365 days ahead of the contest!

JCR | What is your practice routine to prep for these contests?
KISLINGBURY | For the realtime contest, generally I write a 5-minute take at around 280 and keep slowing it down in 5 percent increments until it’s about 225. The whole time I’m striving to write each stroke instantly, without ever getting behind. The “instant” takes precedence over “accuracy.” I generally write the take 7-8 times. By the time I quit, I’m realtiming it virtually perfectly. That takes 35-45 minutes. Then I take a break. The next time I practice, it’s a new take, same routine.

If I were doing the speed contest again, I would do the same practice regimen except start much faster than 280 and slow it down incrementally until it reached 280, doing each take 7-8 times before moving on.

JCR | Do you compete at the state level as well?
KISLINGBURY | Currently, only at the California Deposition Reporters Realtime Contests, which tend to be every February. I used to compete in the Texas Speed Contest in the 1990s. For many years I have chaired the Texas Court Reporters Association Realtime Contest and continue to do so to this day.

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?
KISLINGBURY | I have started a court reporting school, the Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting, in Houston, Texas. We opened in 2011. We have both on-site and online programs. Our first nine graduates (who started brand-new with us) have averaged one year and 10 months! Four of the nine were online students. I teach students my very short Magnum Steno Theory. There are several dozen happy and prospering professional reporters in the field who learned my theory. Many of them are providing realtime and/or captioning. I am attempting to do my small part to try to fix our nationwide court reporter shortage.








Join NCRA in June and you might win a Kindle Fire

Anyone who joins NCRA for the first time in June will be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle Fire.

NCRA member benefits include:

  • A listing* in both the print and online versions of the NCRA Sourcebook
  • A subscription to the JCR magazine and the JCR Weekly online newsletter
  • Access to multiple certification programs with online skills tests designed to make you more money
  • Take advantage of NCRA member discounts for exams and premier events
  • Access discounts for a variety of suppliers, with no cost to sign up, through the NCRA Saving Center
  • Save on NCRA Store items like the RPR Study Guide, a comprehensive guide written by testing experts
  • Stay protected with Mercer insurance, including cyber liability insurance, health insurance, equipment insurance, pet insurance, and errors and omissions insurance
  • Member pricing to can’t-miss networking and educational events at the NCRA Convention & Expo (Aug. 2-5, 2018)

 

 

Parker Burton

New NCRA member and court reporting student wins Kindle

In April, Parker Burton, from Atlanta, Ga., won the drawing for a Kindle Fire 8 by joining NCRA. Burton is a first quarter student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The JCR reached out to him to learn more about why he is pursuing a career in court reporting and what advice he has for other court reporting and captioning students.

 

JCR | Why did you choose court reporting as a career?

Burton | My initial inspiration of court reporting was from my aunt who was a long-time court reporter who lived in New Orleans, La. However, since being enrolled at Brown College, my current inspirations have been my awesome instructors,  Todd Vansel and Bob Tanner, CRI, who have been guiding me and offering the best advice on improving my skills and helping guide my career paths.

 

JCR | What is your current speed?

Burton | As a first quarter student, my speed at this point is at only about 30 wpm but I am working on it daily to get that up little by little weekly.

 

JCR | What inspired you to join NCRA?

Burton | Very shortly after I started school, I joined NCRA because I am very excited to attend the upcoming convention in my hometown of New Orleans, and to network with other professionals in the field.

 

Joining NCRA is easy and available online at NCRA.org/join. Members can expect to receive their membership card via email within approximately two weeks of renewing if they have a valid email address and have not previously opted out of Constant Contact email messaging.