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.

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.

New Professional Profile: Dorelle Scheeringa

Dorelle Scheeringa

By Selana Scott

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

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

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

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

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

JCR | What advice would you give court reporting students?

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

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

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

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

Lessons in life balance and a career in court reporting

Jennifer Wielage, RPR, CRR

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

How did you learn about the career of court reporting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has surprised you about your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What made you start looking for a more balanced life?

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

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

How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

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

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

Do you have any advice for students?

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

Do you have any advice for reporters?

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

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

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

Court reporting in the Army in Vietnam

NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh
NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh

By Mervin Vaughn 

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) presented the 2019 Santo J. Aurelio Award to Mervin E. Vaughn, RPR, from Runnels, Iowa, at this year’s 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo. He recently shared with the JCR Weekly details about his years of service as a reporter in Vietnam.

Having completed my court reporting courses and passed the CSR test, I was ready to begin my career.  Classes were completed in November 1965.  Since the Vietnam War was going full swing, I knew I would be called sometime.  However, my notice didn’t come right away so I freelanced wherever I could pick up work and finally bought a new car to get around the state in.  The car purchase was a Saturday, and my draft notice came the following Monday.  Fortunately, I was able to pick up just enough work before having to report for duty to pay off the car and then store it in a garage for 2 years.

Basic was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.  This was a time when the draft decided to call up those getting older before they hit the age to not be called, so I was in with several college grads and older guys.  During basic they tested everyone to see what skills they had.  One of those tests was a typing test on a very old manual typewriter.  While I was going as fast as I could, I noticed a sergeant standing over my shoulder.  When the test was over, he asked what I wanted to be.  I informed him I had been a court reporter prior and would like to do that.  He sent me over to another building to see the staff there.  They wanted to know what I thought I was doing coming over there.  I informed them that the sergeant had sent me over.  They said that, if he had sent me, they had better see why because he never sends anyone over.  Apparently, my typing skills impressed him.  Basic was completed and everyone was being informed where they would next report and what their MOS (military job) would be.  The company clerk informed me I would be a 71E20 and was being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.  He said he didn’t know what a 71E20 was but he would look it up.  Lo and behold, it was a court reporter.  I was thrilled that the Army was putting me in a position that I was already trained for.

After a short leave home, I enjoyed a long bus ride to Fort Hood.  Fort Hood is an armored divisions fort, so we had tanks, etc., running around.  After getting settled into my new position, everything was going well.  There was one other civilian court reporter already in the office, so we would share the trials as they came along.  As well as being a court reporter, you were required to participate in calisthenics each morning and pull KP duty when assigned.  The barracks were to be maintained in inspection mode at all times also.  This required beds to be made so a half dollar would bounce on them and the floors polished to a high shine.  The floors were concrete, so it took some doing to get a shine on them.  Being an armored division, the floors were dyed red and then wax applied and buffed daily.

One day I was called in and told I was to report to a general at North Fort Hood for a special assignment.  Reporting to a general was out of the ordinary for a lowly private second class.  I was picked up and taken to North Fort Hood.  That is where the National Guard did their summer training.  I reported to the general and was informed that a soldier had been killed and there was going to be a special investigation into his death, and I would be reporting the proceedings.  The general was very nice and appreciative that I was there. 

After reporting the investigation, it was quite late.  The general told his staff to take me to the mess hall and feed me even though it was closed.   When we walked in, the mess sergeant demanded to know what we were doing coming in.  Once he was informed the general had sent me there to be fed, he became very accommodating.  After eating, the staff said they would drive me back to my billets.  I mentioned that the general had said they might fly me in his chopper back, so they did and landed right beside my barracks.  The other guys in the barracks thought someone important was coming in since it was the general’s personal chopper landing.  Were they ever surprised when this lowly court reporter stepped off.  The general later wrote a commendation letter to me in appreciation for my services.

Life then went back to the regular courts-martial cases for a while.  It was just before Christmas in 1965, and I was eating in the mess hall when another soldier stopped at my table and looked at my name tag.  I knew where he worked and asked him what he was doing.  He informed me my name had come down on orders that morning to go to Vietnam.  Needless to say, my lunch never got finished.

I reported back to my office and informed the colonel in charge that I would be leaving apparently.  He became very upset and said he would see about that.  About this time there had been a very young man murdered off base by a soldier.  The other court reporter said she would not report the case because it could carry the death penalty.  The case was referred to the military by the local authorities because Texas at that time did not have the death penalty.  The colonel went to the base commanding general to see if he could get my orders cancelled.  The base commander informed him he could not cancel them, but he could delay them for 90 days and no one could touch me during that time.  This gave enough time for me to report the murder case and get it transcribed.  Once it was completed, I was allowed to take a two-week leave home before shipping out to Vietnam.

After my leave, I reported to San Diego for processing to Nam.  During this time the military was using commercial jets as well as ships to transport guys going to Nam.  After processing, we were loaded onto buses and sent to the airport.  Come to find out, they had no plane scheduled for us when we got there.  The military proceeded to inform the airlines that they would unload the plane currently sitting on the tarmac and load us on instead.  They had some very unhappy customers when they were informed their plane had been taken for us.  We were in no hurry personally.

We landed in Hawaii to refuel but were not allowed to leave the plane.  We also landed in Guam for refueling.  Then we arrived in Nam.  Stepping off the plane, I thought we had landed near the dump because it smelled so bad.  Sure different than the fresh air of Iowa. 

After processing, I was then assigned to a signal outfit.  Once arriving there, they determined that they had no need for a court reporter but needed a legal clerk.  Hence, I took over the duties of a legal clerk, which involved helping soldiers that were encountering legal problems back home with their spouses or financial institutions.  This also involved pulling guard duty at night sometimes.  Since my typing skills were beyond the other clerks, I was given the assignment of typing papers that could not have any mistakes on them.  If you mistyped, you had to start over.  We only had manual typewriters again.  Everything must be in multiple copies also, so there was carbon paper to deal with.  Copy machines did not exist then.

After about six months as legal clerk, the JAG (military legal office) discovered I was a court reporter and had me immediately transferred to them.  Once again, I was reporting general courts-martial.  In the military everything is transcribed and reviewed higher up.  They needed five copies.  The transcripts were on legal-size paper and single spaced.  There was no transcript fee either.  Using a manual typewriter and cutting five copies required real pressure on the key stroking.  As a result, I was a pounder on my steno machine forever. 

Being a court reporter, no one understood how you could capture everything that was being said.  I think it brought some respect as a result.  Other duties were still required outside the JAG office, such as guard duty and latrine duty, until you attained a certain rank.  After attaining that higher rank, your name was removed from those duties. 

Once again, during this time, I was required to report a murder one case.  A soldier had killed another soldier during a fight.  In both of the murder one cases, the defendants were found guilty and given life sentences.  If they had received the death penalty, the transcript would have gone to the president because he has to approve such sentence.

One day in the mess hall, I saw that they had wheat bread for a change.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered the wheat in the bread also had legs.  We were lucky, though, because we at least had a mess hall and a hooch to sleep in.  A hooch was a frame building covered in screen wire with a tin roof and was surrounded by a sandbag wall to protect from incoming fire.  Bathroom facilities consisted of a multi-hole outhouse with half of a 50-gallon barrel beneath each hole.  When you were assigned latrine duty, it was your job to pull the barrels very carefully with their contents and replace with an empty barrel.  You then carried the removed barrel to a location away from the buildings and poured diesel fuel into the barrel and burned the waste.  Luckily, you did not draw that duty too often.  Showers were in rough-framed wooden buildings with an overhead tank.  You tried to take your shower after the sun had warmed the water in the tank.  Each floor of the hooch contained approximately 20 soldiers.  The beds were covered with mosquito netting and you were required to take pills to help prevent malaria.  When the monsoons were going, your clothes would mold even though they were inside.  The poor guys in the field would have their clothes rot while wearing them.  Being a court reporter probably saved my life because at that time they were sending almost everyone to the field, including college grads, etc.

About 30 days before my time was up, I, along with two captain lawyers, were assigned to be flown by chopper into a special forces camp to investigate a possible war crimes situation.   We had to fly in because the roads were controlled by the Vietcong.  We were not overly excited about that assignment, but all went well and we were back to our home base before nightfall.

As the time approached for my departure, I was asked if I would be interested in reenlisting.  After declining, they then asked if I would like to go home and be discharged and then come back as a civilian in the same position.  This I also respectfully declined as I had a job waiting for me back home as well as a fiancée.  In exactly one year, I left Nam for good old Iowa.  The rest is history.

Captioners shared history with NCRA highlights past, present, and future

NCRA members Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, Minden, Nev.; and Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Rittman, Ohio, presented a session at the NCRA Convention & Expo that highlighted the history of captioning and shared a vision of the future. The JCR Weekly asked the trio to share their thoughts.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your background and how you are connected to captioning?

Linkowski | We tell people all the time how diverse a career in court reporting can be. It’s my favorite part of being a realtime stenographic reporter. My career has evolved to fit my family’s lifestyle and mine, unlike many professions where you have to fit your life around your career. I loved freelancing and never knowing what the next day may bring when I was in my 20s; I enjoyed the challenges and opportunity to sub in courtroom settings; but my ultimate favorite has been captioning as an independent contractor. When my kids were young, they would tell people I watched television for a living! Little did they know, working my own hours — as weird as they were — helped our family dynamic work in the way my husband and I had envisioned.

Yates | In the mid-1990s, after 25 years in judicial reporting, I was looking for a change, a new challenge. I attended the NCRA Annual Convention & Expo and heard a keynote speech by Henry Kisor, author of the book What’s That Pig Outdoors? He spoke about his experiences as a man who is deaf and the importance of captioning and CART in his life. He urged our members to retrain to become captioners. I took up that challenge and have never looked back. I haven’t done broadcast captioning, but I have worked providing CART captioning in every possible setting, including onsite for individual students in their classes; for large convention and meeting audiences; in my hometown and in many other states; as well as across the globe in other countries. Now I work almost exclusively from my home office providing remote captioning.

Studenmund | I am one of the owners of LNS Captioning in Portland, Ore. We started LNS Captioning in 1993. I first worked as a captioner in 1992. I have served on NCRA committees involving captioning since 1994 and taught workshops about realtime writing and captioning back in the 1990s, and I am still involved in captioner education to this day. I was one of the instructors for the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Workshop held in Denver in August 2019.

JCR | What do you tell captioners who ask you, “What has NCRA done for captioners?”

Studenmund | In 2012, the NCRA Captioning Community of Interest (CoI) took the bull by the horns and developed the Best Practices for Captioning, the effort that led to the Federal Communications Commission establishing – in 2015 – rules for captioning quality. The NCRA Captioning CoI was tired of hearing everyone in the broadcast realm blame any problems with captions on the captioners. We knew our captions went through many hands between our steno machines and computers and the end user’s TV. We started the conversation to identify all of the roles involved in the creation and delivery of live captions.

Linkowski | Certification. Certifications are an immediate letter of reference. They guarantee I have the minimum requirements. You can’t fake it – you are a realtime writer. Sometimes you are writing upwards of 300 wpm, and companies are hiring you to be the accessibility link to their customers. Certifications get you in the door; CEUs and daily developing of your skills and knowledge base will propel you to the top.

Yates | You cannot talk about the history of captioning without acknowledging the central role NCRA has played. As some of our members pioneered the field, NCRA highlighted their outstanding work every step of the way. Through our JCR articles and conference seminars, NCRA educated and trained legions of new captioners. We created certifications that allow our members to demonstrate their mastery of this skill and differentiate themselves from competitors. Our lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill put a spotlight on captioning and gained millions of dollars to enable our schools to train captioners. NCRA’s public relations department helped place articles about captioners in local and national media outlets, especially after national disasters. The Association works with other organizations, particularly those representing people with hearing loss, on all captioning issues. NCRA continues to be the leading champion for captioners, both within our own ranks and to all external audiences.

JCR | What do you see as the future of captioners? 

Yates | I see a continuing expansion in the demand for our skill. It won’t be strictly as captioners, but in a more fluid and flexible field of instant, clean, (nearly) verbatim text for every imaginable situation. The word’s out, and the simultaneous display of the written word as the speakers talk is now a service that people just expect to be available. While other technologies might be available at lower cost, a skilled steno captioner will continue to be the standard against which all others measure themselves. 

Linkowski | Opportunities are more abundant than ever before. Captioning is no longer for just the deaf and hard of hearing but is a key communication component to universal design.

Studenmund | In the near future, live stenographic captioners will adjust to new competitors in our marketplace. Over time, we will see automated speech recognition improve. Our consumers will continue to make their voices heard about the level of quality they need in live captions. And live captioners will see the marketplace recognize the need for human captioners who are professionals who are accountable to ethics codes and quality of captions.

Look for an article on the history of captioning coming in the November/December issue of the JCR.

Catching up with Realtime Champion Doug Zweizig

NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig
NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Baltimore, Md., was crowned the 2019 Realtime Contest champion at the NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo. He wrote the two legs of the Realtime Contest, a literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm, with an overall 98.4 percent accuracy. The JCR Weekly reached out to Zweizig to learn more about this, his third win in the Realtime Contest.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your career?
DZ | My first job was as a freelancer in Philadelphia. A great place to learn. I had a lot of variety in the types of work I did. Lots of medical. I next worked in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court (the First Judicial District of PA). Talk about a variety of work. Lots of homicide trials, medical malpractice, mass tort. It was a great place to work and a job I truly loved, but I felt I needed a move. In 2014, I accepted a position with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Md. My coworkers here are great. They’re extremely supportive of me. But at the end of the day, I’m just another one of the reporters, and I’d have it no other way.

JCR | How long have you been working in the profession?
DZ | Since 1989, so 30 years!
 
JCR | How did you learn about the profession?
DZ | I saw an ad in my hometown newspaper for Central Pennsylvania Business School (now Central Penn College). They had many different programs. I had a travel brochure and court reporting brochure in front of me. I thought that court reporting sounded interesting. My grades in high school, however, were not the best. My mom and I ended up having to go for an interview with the dean and the head of the court reporting program. I think I pretty much talked my way in, and they decided to give me a chance, and I’m so glad they did. It was an extremely difficult program, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I definitely need structure.

JCR | This is your third win. Does it feel like it gets easier? 
DZ | I can only speak for myself when I say, no, it does not get any easier. It’s not easy at all, actually. My first win was kind of a huge surprise to me and a lot of others. For years, I thought perhaps it was a fluke. So that was 2006 and I didn’t compete again until 2009, and I did not do well at all. When you’re a past champion, the pressures are high (both self-imposed and from others). But I’m ultimately human, so state of mind and focus at the time I’m competing plays a big role for me.

JCR | You compete in both the Realtime and Speed Contest. As a participant, what are some of the differences between the two?
DZ | Up until 2012, I’d only ever competed in the Realtime Contest. I never thought I could compete in the Speed Contest. I waited to register for it until literally the last minute. The convention in 2012 was in Philadelphia, where I lived, so I was playing host to many people. I wasn’t getting a lot of rest. And, wow, I placed third in my very first speed contest! Now, that was a shock! I also placed third in the Realtime Contest that year. That was fun and very memorable.

JCR | Do you have a preference on which one you would prefer to win? 
DZ | Well, I’m not complaining about winning the Realtime Contest three times now, but the Speed Contest, yes, I’d love to win it just once. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to give myself a shot at that.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?
DZ | Sure. Why not? I make myself sick over the contests and overthink constantly. Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t do it unless I enjoyed it on some level.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?
DZ | I guess I want to see if I can outdo myself, really. People assume I’ve got all this confidence. I mean, I know that I’m good, but I’ve always been my own worst critic. And I assure you that is not false modesty. It’s the real deal for me.

JCR | What advice would you have for a person who has never been in a contest before? How can they get started?
DZ | Well, I never thought I could compete in national contests. In 2005, I just kind of went and did my thing and got third place. A lot of it is just being in the room and getting a feel for it all. Talking to regular contestants wouldn’t be a bad thing, but until you’ve experienced it yourself, you won’t know for sure. If you’re planning to compete in the Speed Contest, by all means practice speed and not perfection. In my opinion, transcription is a huge part of the Speed Contest; e.g., figuring out misstrokes: “slop,” stacks, split strokes. I have all of the above when I’m writing for pure speed.

If you’re planning to compete in the Realtime Contest, my suggestion is to practice RPR and RMR speeds. Since it’s got to translate correctly, having control of your writing at higher speeds (not as high as for the Speed Contest) is a good thing. The Realtime Contest is rarely ever easy, at least to me. A 225 Q&A is probably nothing for most people with their RMR, but when it has to translate and you won’t be able to edit after, therein lies the pressure! And if you’re planning to compete in both, alternate your practice. I will frequently do a quick switch from a horrendously fast speed take to a realtime take. Being able to switch gears without blinking is a help. That’s something I’ve actually gotten much, much better at, but I’m still a work in progress.

JCR | How far in advance do you begin to practice for the national contests?
DZ | Well, for past contests, maybe a month before, I’d start to do some practice a few times a week. Maybe 10-12 hours total. No, not enough for me now. I have done very well in the past with little to no practice. But practicing every day has been a huge benefit to me. For this year, I actually decided I was going to start to practice in February. I even bought a student writer on eBay to keep at home. Most of the inspiration for beginning my practice regimen on Feb. 25, 2019, was positive; namely, the one and only maestro himself, Rich Germosen, RDR, CRR, North Brunswick, N.J. The man lives and breathes steno practice and inspires so many to do just that, including me! He’s just amazing.

Anyway, I decided I was going to practice every single day, and it didn’t matter how busy I was at work. I started off by purchasing a bunch of practice material from the NCRA Store and added it to my library. Keeping a detailed practice log was an absolute necessity for me. This means that I pause between each take so I can note exactly what I’m attempting to write. And I give myself feedback on many of the takes, whether I wrote a perfect paper or a not-so-perfect paper.

I switch from speed to realtime and back again and again and again. They are two very different mind-sets to me. When I’m in “realtime” mode, my focus is usually razor sharp. Sometimes I honestly don’t know how I focus to the degree that I do when writing realtime, but I do (not always successfully).

For speed — and this is where I’m still a work in progress  — I try my best to just get it down because I know I’ll have time to transcribe it. I don’t punctuate as much. Writing for pure speed requires a lot of focus too, but it’s different to me. Sometimes I’ll look down at my hands on purpose just so I can realize how truly fast they are moving. I also started to sometimes listen to high-speed takes in the car. Some of the speed takes are so fast to me that I have trouble processing them in my brain so that I’m hitting the correct keystrokes.

JCR | Has your win affected you in any way? 
DZ | It’s been pretty crazy since it happened. I was going through a lot emotionally immediately before the contests. My cat of 20 years  — yes, 20 years  — Jasper started to go downhill shortly before Denver. I had to make the extremely difficult decision, the day before I left for Denver, to take away his pain, and I did just that. It was the least I could do for him. I was a mess, to say the very least. And it was no one’s fault except my own, of course, but the very first leg of the Speed Contest was about cats. I think that was in the first or second sentence. And that was it for me on the Speed Contest. But, ironically enough, the literary is the leg I qualified on. Go figure.

So I knew I had to pull it together for the Realtime Contest the following day. I’m pretty sure many people were chatting about what I was going through at the time (I know it made the rounds). I mean, we all go through things, but this was particularly difficult for me. I’m still getting e-mails from people asking advice. I only wish I had a “formula,” but it’s a combination of things for me.

JCR | Anything else you would like to share? 
DZ | Don’t underestimate yourself. I never thought I’d ever compete, much less win. I underestimated myself for years, but events were set in motion that caused me to start to compete, and was I ever surprised! I don’t always win and I don’t always do well, but that won’t stop me from trying.

New Professional Profile: Sara Galante

Sara Galante

By Ashley Stahl

Sara Galante attended the Long Island Business Institute.  She reports freelance and per diem court proceedings in New York and has been working for a little under two years.  She talks to us about what life was like in school and her transition to professional reporting.

JCR | Tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the field of court reporting.

SG | I’ve been officially working for a little under two years. I’m a fur-mama to four pups and live in New York, specifically Long Island.  My father is actually a court reporter, and he’s the one I have to thank for introducing me to this wonderful career!  He began school when I was a kid, and I remember playing with his old machine and paper and was always intrigued.  I’ve always liked English, and I’ve always been a fly-on-the-wall kind of girl, so this career is perfect for me. 

JCR | What was your practice routine like as a student?

SG | When I was still working 40-hour weeks, I would practice before work about an hour and then another one to two hours when I got home.  I used my time wisely at work by bringing my notes in and transcribing whenever I had the opportunity.  Lots of long nights and not many social events, but it was all worth it!

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

SG | This is a tough question!  I guess for me the hardest part was making myself seem like a seasoned professional in the very beginning.  I never wanted anyone to think I was new or lacked experience.  I’ve always had a “fake it till you make it” motto, and this was no different.

JCR | How did you feel before and after your first assignment as a court reporter?

SG | Before, I was VERY nervous.  I wrote down the oath and other notes on sticky notes and made sure I had easy access to them throughout the first deposition.  When the attorneys asked me to read back, I thought I was going to be sick.  After I nailed the first three requests for read back, my confidence soared, and I left that job on cloud nine!  It’s been (mostly) smooth sailing since then!

JCR | What do you love about your career?

SG | The flexibility and the opportunity to learn something new every day!  I get bored easily, but there’s no time for that with this line of work. 

JCR | Do you have any advice for students?

SG | Work hard.  Practice!  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.  Know that you can do this, and that it will be 100 percent worth it.  I promise.

JCR | Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

SG | Aside from hanging out with my four pups, I love to travel, hike, read, and watch movies.

New Professional Spotlight: Caitlin Albrecht

Caitlin Albrecht

By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS

Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing.  It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing.  No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest.  From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working.  I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin. 

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

CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect.  While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working.  Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around.  Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.

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

CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR.  I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since.  I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive.  I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too.  In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered  Diplomate Reporter.

JCR | Who is your mentor?

CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson.  Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated.  Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part).  Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime.  Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession.  These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it.  I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on.  It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat.  Court reporting school is tough!  In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word.  It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.

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

CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day.  I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in.  When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.

Convention winner Garcia excited about future

Alexandria Faith Garcia

We recently held a contest to give a free 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo registration to a new member who joined between May 17 and June 30. Alexandria Faith Garcia was the winner. She told the JCR Weekly about her journey to court reporting.

I have an aunt who is an official court reporter in Harris County, Texas, and that is how I found out about the court reporting industry. I chose to do court reporting because I saw how many different paths you could take as a reporter, such as being a freelance reporter, a captioner, or having an official position in court. I liked the idea of having different options so that I could see which one fit me best. When I found out that you could caption at events such as sporting events and concerts, that is what intrigued me. I hope to caption for those kinds of events sometime in the future.

My family is what kept me motivated during school and practice time. Growing up less fortunate than others really pushed me to finish school so that I, along with my mother and sister, could have a better life for not only ourselves but for our future families as well. They were a constant support throughout school. Being able to go through the experience of theory and speedbuilding was tough at times, but it has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself and for them as well. Now it has even inspired my sister to push through court reporting school, and I cannot wait for her to become a fellow reporter.

While in school, I had the opportunity to attend Texas Court Reporters Association and NCRA conventions. Those were a lot of fun. I loved learning more about this profession that I did not know about, such as the different contests that I could participate in once I became qualified. The continuing education in this field is never ending.

My advice for future court reporters is to keep pushing through school no matter how hard it gets. Keep going because there’s a whole world of things to do and places to go. Do the homework even if it’s tiring and boring. Make time to practice outside of school. It will only make you write faster and help you memorize briefs and phrases. Transcribe as many tests as you can because that will only make you better. There were times when I felt I couldn’t put my fingers in a position to press the right keys or when I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach a certain speed, but now I look back and see how silly it was to think I wasn’t able to do those things because I am doing them now. During the moments I didn’t feel motivated, I pushed through and made myself practice, and I must say that the compensation has been rewarding.

I recently started my career in May of 2019, and I can see the change and impact it has made in my life. I’m currently a deputy court reporter in juvenile court. Everything is fresh for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along, and, luckily, I have amazing people I can turn to when I need help. Overall, this journey from the start of school until now has been such a big blessing for myself and my family. I very much look forward to the future I have in court reporting.