New Professional Profile: Douglas Armstrong

By Lauren Lawrence

Douglas Armstrong, RPR

Douglas Armstrong, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Seattle, Wash. He is a 2018 graduate of the Green River College court reporting program and is the current chair of the school’s Court Reporting and Captioning Advisory Committee. He loves opera and animals and spends way too much time thinking about Academy Awards trivia. 

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

DA | When my job of managing 200 employees in a pair of hair salons was eliminated without notice or ceremony after seven years, I didn’t know what I’d do next. I happened to read an article about the need for court reporters and the connection many reporters had to playing musical instruments, particularly piano, which I had played my whole life. I was a music major the first time I went to college. I contacted Green River College, met with the wonderful Lori Rapozo and Sidney Weldele-Wallace who sold me on the profession, and was enrolled within days. The rest is history.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

DA | Hang on and then keep hanging on. Quitting is not an option. You can always switch to decaf after you graduate. Failed tests do not mean that you’re not getting better all the time. Start and end each practice session with something you know you’re good at. Associate with students and reporters who love what they’re doing and want to succeed; stay away from those who complain, make excuses, or demotivate others. Practice sometimes with distractions, like a rock band in the background (it happens in the real world) or writing to material where the speaker is yelling or crying (it definitely happens). Approach adversity as an opportunity to improve yourself and your skills and not something to fear. Picture yourself laughing a few years from now at what scares you now. When you think you’ve practiced enough, practice more.

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

DA | I use public transportation whenever possible and deliberately travel as light as possible. I carry a briefcase-style bag with my Luminex and a backpack holding my lightweight Lenovo ThinkPad and only the essential accessories. A constantly replenished stash of protein bars and vegan jerky have definitely proven to be lifesavers on jobs that go straight through lunch.

JCR | What was life like as a student?

DA | I started school at age 33 and had to work full-time. I managed all aspects of a small, though very busy, vegan grocery store by day and did my online classes, homework, and practice by night. It was by far the most productive period of my life and also the most satisfying. I told myself often that the time would be passing anyway and that the hard work I was putting in was a gift I was able to give my future self. I was right, and there hasn’t been a day since where I haven’t felt immense gratitude for the opportunities opened to me by those years of effort.

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

DA | Finding and defining my own voice as a reporter was an unexpected challenge. There’s the voice on paper, of making formatting, grammatical, and punctuation decisions where there seem to be as many options as there are reporters. There’s the voice in the deposition, learning to coolly and confidently interact with attorneys and experts to get what I need to do my job with minimal disruption to theirs. There’s the voice as a businessperson, advocating for myself in finding answers to unexpected questions on everything from taxes to software functionality. I’ve definitely found that what is the preferred solution for others doesn’t necessarily have to be the best answer for me, and that’s OK. I’m a perfectionist and I like absolutes, but I have had to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and flexibility.

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

DA | I’ve been a guest speaker a few times at the law school of a local university on panels where I was the only reporter among several attorneys. Surprisingly, I got the majority of the student questions from folks who were fascinated by our profession and how we work our magic. I also got the chance every reporter dreams of, to tell a room full of future lawyers the dos and don’ts of a great record from our perspective, like thinking a question all the way through before starting and stopping seven times midsentence or not interjecting an “OK” after every three words of a deponent’s answer.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

DA | I love meeting new people every day and hearing about careers, processes, lifestyles, and experiences I might not otherwise be exposed to. I love writing new voices and unfamiliar terms and phrases, as well as the daily challenge of adapting to and anticipating the unique patterns and rhythms of each job. I love watching smart people argue and not having to choose a side. I love working in a prison one day and a surgeon’s office the next. I love the flexibility of a freelance schedule and the editing time at home with my dog and cat. I love the way processing words through my fingers on a funny little machine tickles my brain and that I get paid for that.

JCR | If you weren’t a court reporter, what career would you be interested in pursuing?

DA | I’ve always felt I’d make an excellent monarch. If the opportunity ever comes along, I’ll consider it. Until then, I’ll keep reporting.

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, is from Kansas City, Mo.

New Professional Spotlight: Meghan Minnick


Meghan Minnick with her husband, Clayton, and their dog, Louie

By Emily Bergren

Meghan Minnick grew up in Ottawa, Kan., and is now a freelance reporter living in Kansas City, Mo.  She honed her determination and self-discipline to the fullest while attending an online program called Court Reporting and Captioning at Home (CRAH).  She has been an NCRA member from the time she was a student.  She is newly certified, having received her RPR this past fall, and has a real passion for the profession.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

MM| Don’t play the comparison game! No one’s court reporting journey looks the same.  Also, practice every day.  If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up, just don’t miss two. 

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

MM| My depobook! Yes, I’m still using paper. I love having names, case information, spellings, dates, orders, and business cards all in one spot. I have enough to worry about without having to track down all that information.

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

MM| Learning how to be bold and to stand up for myself and the record in depositions.  I am a very shy and soft-spoken person, and it is against my nature to interrupt.  But I learned very quickly that it is absolutely necessary in order to create an accurate record.

JCR | How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

MM| I give myself an allotted amount of time to work, and I try to eliminate all distractions (mainly scrolling on my cell phone) during that allotted time in order to get as much work done as possible. I then put a hard stop at 5 o’clock so I can enjoy the rest of my evening with family.  Of course, there are always unavoidable circumstances that prevent this from being feasible every time, but it helps on most days. It is so easy to continue to work all through the evening just to “get it done,” but then you miss valuable “life” time.

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

MM| I love spending quality time with my husband and my dog.  I also paint landscapes, make earrings, and play the ukulele.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

MM| Every day is different; different testimony, buildings, cities, and people. I am never bored!

Emily Bergren, RPR, CRR, is a freelancer in Kansas City, Mo.

NCRA member is Ironman World Championship competitor

Ashley Zaccaro

NCRA members are known to be driven to succeed in their professional areas of work, but often they are also just as driven to succeed in their chosen hobbies and activities outside of work. Case in point is NCRA member Ashley Zaccaro, a 25-year-old official court reporter who resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. Originally from New Jersey, Zaccaro is also a certified yoga instructor, a published writer, a fur mom to two beautiful cats, and a bride-to-be with a wedding planned for October. But that’s not all. In between work and her other activities, Zaccaro, who took up running in 2011, is also an Ironman World Championship competitor.

The Ironman World Championship is a series of triathlon races that include a swim, a bike ride, and a run. The event is grueling, requiring competitors to cover a total of 70.3 miles over the course of the three legs of the race for a half Ironman and 140.6 miles for a full Ironman race.

The JCR Weekly recently caught up with her to find out more about what motivates her and what it’s like to be a world championship competitor.

JCR | How did you get involved with the Ironman World Championship?

AZ| I was training for my second full distance race when I was selected to go to the 2019 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii as the 2019 Women for Tri Inspirational Woman of the Year! Women for Tri is a nonprofit organization within the Ironman Foundation, Ironman’s giveback initiative, which seeks to remove boundaries that keep more women from becoming involved in triathlons. Part of how they do this is through grant funding to tri clubs and organizations that are doing more to involve women.

JCR | What year did you compete, and where was it held?

AZ| I became a runner in 2011 and, within a few months, began training for my first marathon, the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch in 2012. My first triathlon ever was a women’s-only super sprint in New Orleans, La., that my running partner and I did sort of on a whim in 2014. But it wasn’t until 2017 that my triathlon ‘career’ really began. I competed in the New York City Triathlon that July, my first half Ironman the following year, 2018, in Lake Placid, N.Y., and then my first full Ironman in Patagonia, Chile, in December 2018, with many races in between and since.

JCR | Was 2019 your first time competing in this championship?

AZ | It was my first time competing in the World Championship!

JCR | What did you have to do to qualify?

AZ | I believe it’s something like 95 percent of participants qualified through placing 1st, maybe 2nd or 3rd depending on the race, in their age group in one of the Ironman races the previous year. I got in through a special slot, so I did not qualify that way. I raised more than $25,000 for Women for Tri as part of my entry. My goal is to qualify the traditional way in four years, but it’s really challenging!

JCR | How did you place in the 2019 Ironman World Championship?

AZ | I finished in 13 hours, 7 minutes, and 50 seconds. I came in 1869th place out of 2446 starters, 464th out of 610 females, and 45th out of 50 in my age group.

JCR | What motivates you now?

AZ | Training and racing are extremely therapeutic to me. It is the best thing for my mental health as well as my physical health, and it’s an outlet for me to deal with the stressors in my life. It builds my self-esteem. It gives me an amazing, supportive, strong community, and it just makes me so happy. Now more than ever I am grateful to have this outlet. Even though races are getting postponed, I’m finding myself and many of my triathlete friends are used to dealing with extreme conditions and are coping pretty well with it, generally.

JCR | Was this your first time competing?

AZ |This was my second full distance race, but I believe I’ve competed in 22 triathlons total, if my count is correct.

JCR | How long did you practice for?

AZ | For a full Ironman distance race, my training load averages around 20 hours a week. The winter is “off season,” so I focus more on strength and conditioning and recouping, but I train all year round.

JCR | Describe what a typical practice day was like for you.

AZ | During the week I usually have two workouts that last an hour and a half to two hours total. This could be a 45-minute swim and 45-minute weightlifting session, an hour bike and a half-hour run, for example. Saturdays are my long bike day, followed immediately by a shorter run; that’s called a “brick,” to do a bike straight into a run. For Ironman training, my long bike ride peaks at about a seven-hour ride. Sundays are usually a long run, which peaks around three and a half hours, a short easy bike session, and a recovery swim.

JCR | What would you say to others considering competing at this level?

AZ | I think most people competing in these sorts of distances would agree there are sacrifices you have to make, and you have to love the training. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not easy. But it builds so much more than muscle. For me, it is so worth it.

JCR | Do you think your profession as a court reporter, where you have to practice every day, aided in your being disciplined to practice for this competition?

AZ | I definitely think that everyone who made it through court reporting school has accessed that same part of your brain that we use as endurance athletes. Court reporting school is so tough and unforgiving, and it can feel never-ending, but to make it through we all had to push past the desire to give up, and that is something triathletes do as well. So yes, I’d say it either aided — or maybe it just makes sense that the kind of brain that would be drawn to court reporting would also thrive in an endurance event.

JCR | What is your best event?

AZ | I was naturally the best at cycling, but much to my surprise, my run has been where I’ve placed the highest overall lately! My transitions aren’t too shabby either.

JCR | What is your favorite event and why?

AZ | Of swimming, biking, and running, it honestly depends on the day, but I love how simple running is. Throw on shoes and go.

As far as which race I’ve done which is my favorite, that’s really tough. Patagonia was the experience of a lifetime. It was an extreme 140.6 race, so the swim was in cold water, the bike was up a mountain, and the run was a trail run that also went through a small lake at mile four of the run randomly. It was such a beautiful, special experience, and I’ll love it forever.

The world championship in Hawaii was such a celebration of triathlon. The whole week, Kailua-Kona just becomes triathlete village, and it was unbeatable. Also being in Hawaii was wonderful.

Chattanooga 70.3 in Tennessee I loved more than I can really understand. It was so open and free, and as someone who lives in a city, it was a great relief.

Lahti 70.3 in Finland was cool because it started at 4 p.m. but the sun stays up until midnight. I had a pretty rough race that day, but afterward my fiancé and I stayed in a yurt. Every race is a crazy adventure.

And Lake Placid 70.3 is a beautiful course, and there’s Olympic village stuff everywhere. It’s very inspiring to be there. The morning of the race the air was 30 degrees, but the lake was 70 degrees, so it was steaming like a hot tub and one of the coolest sights.

JCR | Do you plan to compete again? If so, when?

AZ | Oh, yes! I love competing. My next race was supposed to be Florida 70.3 but that was postponed due to coronavirus. Tulsa 140.6 in Oklahoma was after that and that got postponed. I’m planning to do Steelhead 70.3, age group national championships in Milwaukee, Wis., some other local races, and my hope was to qualify this year for the 70.3 World Championship in New Zealand, but everything is up in the air right now.

JCR | How did you learn about the court reporting profession?

AZ | I was working at a real estate law firm as an administrative assistant after abruptly deciding on my first day of university that I didn’t want to go to college. I was interested in law but didn’t want to be a lawyer. I had always typed really fast as a child and never expected that skill to come in handy. And I was obsessed with the Jodi Arias trial. I discovered court reporting existed from watching that. Two years later when I was planning to move to New York City, I was deciding whether I wanted to get a full-time job there or go to school, and I went to the court reporting school to inquire more about it. When I was there, the program director told me “It’s like playing a musical instrument,” and as an avid musician in high school, that sold me. I made my decision to enroll.

JCR | What court reporting program did you graduate from?

AZ | I graduated from New York Career Institute, now known as Plaza College.

JCR | How long have you worked as a court reporter?

AZ | Just over four years.

JCR | Have you always worked as an official?

AZ | I started at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York as a grand jury stenographer in 2016 and went to Manhattan Family Court in 2018.

JCR | What court do you work in now?

AZ | I recently started at Manhattan Supreme Court Criminal Term, but because of the quarantine I haven’t actually begun working.

Ashely Zaccaro can be reached at ashleyczac@gmail.com.

New Professional Profile: Tatelyn Noda

Tatelyn Noda, RPR

My name is Tatelyn Noda, RPR, and I am an official court reporter for the First Judicial Circuit of Alabama. I graduated from Prince Institute in Montgomery, Ala., in 2014 and worked briefly in Alabama as a freelance reporter before moving to Miami, Fla. I continued in freelance until I accepted an officialship in August of 2018.

JCR | How did you hear about court reporting and what made you choose that career path?

TN | My mom had a friend who freelanced, and she mentioned it to me in the seventh grade. At the start of my eighth-grade year, my parents and I toured Prince Institute. I fell in love with the profession. I immediately started college after finishing high school and never looked back. I could never sufficiently repay my mom for guiding me in the right direction and for always being by my side through college, freelancing, and official reporting. 

JCR | What is your next career goal?

TN | I’m currently practicing daily for the RMR and CRR. After that, on to the RDR!

JCR | When you’re not behind your steno machine, what do you do with your free time?

TN | My husband, Carlos, and I spend all of our free time with our boys: Harrison, Everett, and Walker. We enjoy traveling, visiting family, and renovating our historical home.

JCR | How has being involved with state or national associations benefitted you?

TN | Being involved with your state and national association is key to creating long-lasting friendships within our industry. Being involved has kept me up to date on topics and advances surrounding our profession and has even helped me implement new techniques in the way that I write.

JCR | Tell us about your favorite depo and/or location you’ve worked.

TN | My favorite job was a deposition of a very well-known restaurateur. I had absolutely no idea who the deponent was until I scoped the file. Looking back, he was so humble and just an overall nice person. I will never forget that deposition. My favorite location? The Florida Keys! I would never turn down an opportunity to write in paradise! I’d always make sure to stop by and pick up a key lime pie before heading back to Miami.

JCR | After freelancing for a couple of years, what was something you had to get used to when working in your role as an official?

TN | I had to get used to the criminal testimony and domestic matters. Before becoming an official, I only dealt with civil matters. Going from white-collar disagreements to crime scene photos took a little getting used to.

JCR | Who is your mentor, and how have they helped you along the way?

TN | Renda Cornick is my steno hero. She’s a phenomenal writer, reporter, wife, mom, and friend. She never passes up an opportunity to cheer me on in my career and in my personal life. As a newer reporter, she has really been an inspiration to me.

Janet Russo has helped shape me into the reporter I am today. She took me under her wing and has taught me so much. She always made time for me when I had a question and would always look over any work I was unsure of. I am forever thankful — and grateful — for all of the time and knowledge she has shared with me.

Rhonda Hall-Breuwet, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Lakeland, Fla., has always been there for me when it comes to all things reporting, especially Florida reporting and realtime. She really pushed me to get my certifications and has always helped me whenever needed. I dream of being on her realtime level. She is a phenomenal reporter!

JCR | Any advice for students?

TN | Strive for perfection, but please know that no one is perfect. Learn your software, retain a seasoned accountant, always be professional, and start testing for certifications as soon as possible. Be nice to everyone you meet and always wear a smile!

Angel profile: Mary Bader

Mary Bader, FAPR, RPR

The JCR Weekly regularly highlights one of the more than 100 Angels who support the National Court Reporters Foundation. This month, we profile Mary Bader, FAPR, RPR, an official court reporter from Battle Creek, Mich. Bader will soon be retiring from her court position and from the NRCF Board of Trustees.

“The NCRF Board of Trustees would like to thank Mary Bader for serving as a Trustee,” said NCRF Board of Trustees Chair Tami Keenan, FAPR, RPR, CPE, a retired court reporter from Battle Creek, Mich. “She has been an integral part of the Board, and we will miss her very much as she looks forward to retirement in the near future. She plans to enjoy spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. However, she also plans on continuing her dedication to our profession. Thank you, Mary!”

Currently serving as an official court reporter for the Eau Claire County Branch 2, Bader began her career in 1990. She has held membership in NCRA since 1988 and served as chair of the National Committee of State Associations from 2015-2017. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association, where she served on its board of directors from 2003 through 2013 and as its president from 2009 to 2011.

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

MB | I really cannot tell you how many years I have been an Angel. I know it’s more than 10 because I have the pin and the beautiful clock to prove it. 

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

MB | Being an Angel is a fabulous way to give back to the profession that has been so good to me. Serving on NCRA committees and task forces is so important to moving our profession forward but being an Angel and being part of the Foundation is the best way I can think of to give back. 

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?

MB | The Foundation’s programs are wide and diverse. Our programs promote students and new professionals. Our legal education program provides useful information for law schools, state bar associations, law firms, and other legal professionals on how to make the best record. NCRF’s Veterans History Project is our way of contributing to preserving our nation’s history, and perhaps more importantly it is an avenue for veterans to tell their stories, so they are assured their sacrifices are not forgotten. 

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

Why I love court reporting: Jamie Booker

Jamie Booker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Professional Profile: Bethany Glover

Bethany Glover

By Mike Hensley

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.