Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

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

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

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

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

JCR | How did you get this job? 

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

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

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

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

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

The view from the juror’s seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCR | How long was the case? 

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

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

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

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

How to start your own Facebook practice group

Daily practice can make a big difference. That’s not new information to any court reporter or captioner. The hard part isn’t knowing you need to practice; it’s making the time to do it.

Some reporters have found that joining a Facebook practice group helps them make it happen. A recent story in the JCR about a group led to others expressing interest in starting groups of their own. Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, a  freelance court reporter from New Brunswick, N.J., who leads a practice group, has some ideas for people who are starting their own group. Germosen’s group is a 100-day group. Members make a commitment to practice 100 days in a row, although some members have gone on longer.

“I’m not sure what made me pick 100 days, but it’s a nice round number,” he said. “It’s more than 50 days. It seems like it won’t be easy to do, and it’s not. It’s a challenge.”

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Caseyville, Ill., joined Germosen’s group to help her practice. “I joined after the [2017] Vegas convention, and I’m on my 536th day as we speak,” Thomas said. “I joined because I need increased accountability to keep up my skills. About a month after I joined, I was installed as president of the Illinois Court Reporters Association, and this is a way to ensure my skills don’t degrade amidst all the goings-on of my two-year term. I’m the type that if I go a day without writing something, I can feel it the next day, and my captioning consumers don’t deserve that.”

Start off with a public Facebook group while you attract members. When you have the right number, you can make the group secret. Too many members will make the group unmanageable.

“If I have 200 or 300 folks participating, it would be a full-time job,” Germosen said. “So if you’re looking to build it up, make it public and they will come.”

Germosen says 100 is a good number of members for the group. That’s a small enough number that the moderator can recognize all of the members, and they can be a close-knit group. He was the only moderator for his group for a long time, but he has recently added another person.

Members of the group are promising to practice every day and post about it when they do. The moderators are paying attention to who is practicing and who isn’t.

“We are on the honor system,” Germosen says. “I take their word for it that they say they are on day X. I do audit folks from time to time just to make sure their days are adding up if I notice unusual numbers in their posts. Some folks drop off at day 3. I’ll keep an eye on them and hope they jump into it by week 6 or so before removing them. There is a way to sort the members list by join date. You can scroll that list and see if a member has been silent or hasn’t been posting because it’ll show ‘three recent posts’ or ‘five recent posts.’ This will show next to the member’s name. I look at this and check on folks with no activity to see if they’ve been posting. Then I may remove them if it’s been several weeks.”

Thomas said seeing the practice posts definitely motivates her. “I thought it would be harder to remember to do daily practice, especially over the holidays,” she said. “But when I see group members post their practice on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, etc., it reminds me.”

Moderators might also want to recognize milestones such as one week, two weeks, 100 days, etc. “I’ll reply with a picture of a funny cartoon on day seven,” Germosen said. “If you’re on day 14, I’ll reply with a pic that says ‘Week 2,’ and same for week three. For day 27, I’ll reply with a Yankees 27 banner. For day 50, you get one of a series of ‘half’ pics; then once you’re on day 90 I’ll post a link to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ song, and then day 100 I’ll post any series of ‘100 Day Club’ pics or banners and put them on ‘the finishers’ list,’ which is a list I have of all finishers going back to 2014 and the date they finished.” 

Germosen said one rule is that everyone needs to be supportive of everyone else in the group. As admin, he likes everyone’s Facebook practice posts and keeps the page free of drama. He said it’s also important for the admin to set the example with practicing. No slacking.

Thomas agrees about the supportive nature of the group, “It’s brought me closer to the individuals in the group itself, and it’s wonderful to celebrate together as they win or qualify for contests around the nation,” she said. “Occasionally someone will recommend a TED talk to the group to practice, and I’ve learned some things through practicing those.”

“What the page does is you see others posting, and you think to yourself that you should be practicing too,” Germosen said. “It’s nice to have a community around you of others doing the same thing you’re doing … trying to improve.”

Air selfies, 8K TVs, and cameras in the refrigerator — all at the CES

By Kelli Ann Willis

Kelli Ann Willis

I am a techie and have been one for years. CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, is the techie’s Super Bowl. Started in 1967, CES lasts four days, features 4,500 exhibiting companies, and draws about 180,000 attendees. It is the place where new technology is introduced, where envelopes are pushed, and many minds are blown. Each year, thousands of companies showcase their latest and greatest. Each year I have watched and waited, often with bated breath, for reports to come from the CES floor.

But this year was different. I was actually on the floor of CES, the 2019 edition, in Las Vegas, Nev.! Once I was registered, I shared this news with the Technology Committee. Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Memphis, Tenn., the chair, suggested I report my findings from CES. I was glad to do so! Here is a recap of what we saw while my husband and I were there.

The outstanding technology this year was 5G and AI (artificial intelligence). Smart home devices were everywhere this year. Robots to help you at the mall or at home, faster phones, smarter and larger televisions, and self‐driving cars are truly coming.

I took over the NCRA Instagram feed through the four‐day show, during which I highlighted products I thought might be of interest to us court reporters! Here is a sampling of what I saw:

  • AI is big. Alexa is the Amazon product; Hey Google is the Google product; Bixby is the Samsung product, to name a few. Smart homes will implement this technology to make our lives easier. Lamps, stoves, refrigerators, faucets, mirrors, and cars are some of the products that were showcased at CES.
  • Televisions in 8K! Mind‐blowing images on huge televisions. Samsung had a 2,190‐inch TV. LG had an incredible wall – a massive, flexible display with completely astonishing images flowing through them in a loop. Amazing. LG also had a TV that rolls up into its base. Samsung had TVs that have screen savers that are classic paintings. HDMI 2.1 is delivering incredible content to those 4K and 8K televisions.
  • A bread vending machine, The Breadbot, was a huge hit at the show. There was a machine that washed and dried your eyeglasses. Tons of robots – not only the kind that will serve you a drink, but those that will vacuum your floor and one that cleans your windows!
  • LG’s newest cell phone has five cameras that can take photos simultaneously. Samsung’s soon‐to‐be released home speaker with Bixby can be used to communicate with your lights, your thermostat, and your TV. It can turn on a camera inside your refrigerator in case you are at the grocery store and need to know if you have milk.
  • Everything old is new again, including throwbacks like videogaming devices from the 1980s and 1990s. Turntables and vinyl are also making comebacks.

Every business is now a technology business — that was a theme running through all of CES this year. I was amazed and wowed. I can’t wait to go back next year.

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter from Hutchinson, Kan. She holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate and  is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.

CIVC Partners’ Investment in Magna Legal Services

The North American Legal Chronicle reported on Jan. 12 that CIVC Partners, a Chicago-based middle-market private equity firm, announced that it has invested in Magna Legal Services.

Read more.








15 minutes a day for Michelle

By Rich Germosen

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

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

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

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

Michelle Grimes and the 100-day-challenge group

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

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

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

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

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

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








NCRA member shares technology finds from Consumer Electronics Show on NCRA’s Instagram

NCRA Technology Committee member Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, has taken over the NCRA Instagram account, @ncraofficial, this week from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nev. We talked to her about what she is planning.

JCR Weekly | Tell us about yourself.

KAW | I am an international realtime court reporter. I have been reporting since 1983 and realtiming since 1994. I have been a techie since my teens.

JCR Weekly | What interests you about the CES?

KAW | CES is the Super Bowl of the tech world!  It is the place where all new technology is showcased. I have been watching reports from the CES floor for years!

JCR Weekly| What are you hoping to find?

KAW | I cannot wait to see the new TVs, computers, and anything else that catches my eye! I am going to be on the search for anything techie that can help court reporters.

JCR Weekly | What new technology do you think will be interesting to NCRA members?

KAW | Computers, cell phones, and AI will be a focus.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram at @ncraofficial to see what Willis finds.








TechLinks: VPNs – What they are and why court reporters should use them

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one of those acronyms bandied about often enough that you really want to know what it is, especially in this era when we keep so much information on our computers and there is the possibility that someone might try to hack into it. The NCRA Technology Committee decided to break down this topic so that you know the basics and can make good decisions about what to use and when.

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A VPN is an encrypted connection over the internet from a device (such as a computer, printer, tablet, or smartphone) to a network. Encrypting the connection lets those on the network send and share sensitive data safely. Also, the VPN prevents unauthorized people from getting into the network. Many companies now use VPN technology in their workplaces both on-site and for remote workers.

The website How-to Geek states: “When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll also be able to use the internet as if you were present at the VPN’s location, which has some benefits if you’re using public WiFi or want to access geo-blocked websites.”

Where might I run across a VPN?

Official court reporters and those who work in courthouses might be asked to use the court’s VPN to access files or upload materials. Firm owners might establish a VPN within their own offices, and freelancers are likely to come across VPNs when they are reporting in a client’s law office.

Why do I want to use it?

“The VPN keeps your computer ‘hidden,’ so you don’t have to worry about getting hacked into or tracked by sites you may visit,” says Technology Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Memphis, Tenn. “It’s like wearing an invisibility cloak!”

Technology Committee member Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Littleton, Colo., says she uses VPNs “to keep my internet usage private and secure — to protect my online privacy.”  She continues by saying that people should use a VPN “anytime you are jumping onto another WiFi network that is not your own or when you want to surf the web without being tracked.”

Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, a freelance court reporter from Urbandale, Iowa, another committee member, said: “I’m embarrassed to admit that, while working on transcripts — in, yes, a coffee shop — there have been times when I’ve jumped on a free public WiFi. I tell myself I’ll just jump on quickly, find out what I need, and get off; but then that happens several times while there. That may be all the time a hacker needs. After researching for this article, never again!”

Teig noted as part of her research a May 25, 2018, Consumer Reports article, “What you need to know about cyber safety while traveling.” The article states: “Never use WiFi that isn’t secured with a password. It could be a fake hotspot set up by cybercriminals. And even legitimate WiFi, such as the free networks at airports, can be dangerous if it’s unsecured, because hackers can log on to it just as easily as you can.”

What else do I need to know?

“VPNs can cause a decrease in connection speed,” says Mueller. “But that small drawback is still worth using one. Server load is also a common issue when you are connected to a VPN service.” While speed can be a consideration, you can shop around for VPN services and see what they offer. The additional resources section at the bottom lists several articles that go through the services available. Also, check your computer’s speed at SpeedTest.net.

Knight says: “I always disable the VPN when writing realtime. If you are using cables, the VPN will not affect anything; but if you are writing realtime via LAN/WAN, it definitely will affect it!”

Additional Resources

Here are a few of the links compiled by the Technology Committee in creating this article

The Best VPN

The Best VPN Service

The best VPN service in 2018

The Best VPN Services

The Best VPN Services of 2018

Best VPN services of 2018: Reviews and buying advice

Does VPN decrease Internet speed? Let’s test it

Does VPN Slow Down Internet?

How—and why—you should use a VPN any time you hop on the internet

How to Choose a VPN for Digital Privacy and Security

How to choose the best VPN service for your needs

HTG explains what is a VPN

7 most interesting uses of a VPN

Speedtest.net

VPN explained: How Does It Work? Why Would You Use It?

VPN Speed Tips: Don’t Slow Down Your Internet!

What Is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

What Is a VPN? – Virtual Private Network

What You Need to Know About Cyber Safety While Traveling

Why You Need a VPN—and How to Choose the Right One

Thank you to the following NCRA Technology Committee members for contributing to this article: Lynette L. Mueller,  FAPR, RDR, CRR, chair; Nancy L. Bistany, RPR; Kim Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC; Lisa A. Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR; Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS; and Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR.








Ask the techie: How to use a foot pedal to listen to a videographer’s audio while you edit

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

Videotaped depositions are being scheduled more frequently for me lately. I’m one of those reporters who likes to listen to the videographer’s audio when proofing my transcripts — it’s so much clearer because of the witnesses and attorneys being mic’d up! I’d like to know how I can easily listen to the videographer’s audio with my foot pedal. I know I can convert the .mp3 file to a .wav file and then associate the audio with my transcript; but I want a simple and easy way to just listen to the .mp3 file. Help!

Playing footsie


Dear Playing:

It’s great to hear that you are getting more work! Congrats! Here are a few ideas on what to look for when you are considering a foot pedal.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn., and Chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, offered the following. 
Backup audio media (BAM) is the term used for any audio recording and can include the audio synchronization tool built into a court reporter’s computer-aided transcription (CAT) software. Here are three best practices related to audio backup:

  1. It is the obligation of a professional court reporter to stop the proceedings when the speed of testimony presents an issue, if you didn’t hear a word, or when speakers are talking at the same time.
  2. One must never rely on the audio backup to create an official record. Readbacks occur often during the proceedings, and you don’t want to play back the audio for your client when a readback is requested.
  3. If audio backup is requested by a client, check with your specific state rules in regard to your obligation to do so. If you do, however, provide a copy of the BAM, be sure to offer the same service to opposing counsel. Ensure that no off-the-record discussions are included in the recording.

NCRA has additional guidelines to help court reporters regarding best practices related to audio recordings. Look on the NCRA website for Section IV: Backup Audio Media in the COPE – Guidelines for Professional Practice.

Vpedal USB Transcription Foot Pedal, 3 Function

There are several options for good foot pedals for court reporters to aid in transcript production for playback of audio. I have used the vPedal for several years and love it! It works with my CAT software for those times I need it and it works seamlessly in conjunction with AudioSync. Look to your CAT software vendor if help is needed to set up the foot pedal for use during edit. Amazon is every court reporter’s friend and you can purchase the vPedal on Amazon.

For videotaped depositions, it’s always great when the videographer provides the audio backup. It’s a great resource for us, for sure! The witness and attorneys are mic’d up, and the audio is clear and crisp. Most of the CAT software requires a .wav file as the backup media. While there are plenty of options to convert the .mp3 from the videographer to a .wav file, sometimes there are occasions where it’s faster and easier to just upload the file to Windows Media Player and you’re good to go! Another added benefit of using the foot pedal is that it saves time because of not having to take your hands off the keyboard during edit. WMP is included in clean installs of Windows 10 as well as upgrades to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

Things you’ll need to get started

  1. Foot pedal of choice. Mine is vPedal, as mentioned above.
  2. Foot pedal installation CD or get the Hot Keys application
  3. Windows Media Player software
  4. vPedal Windows Media Player Plug-in

Steps for Installation of Windows Media Player and Foot Pedal

  1. Connect the foot pedal following the instructions on your installation CD or from the Hot Keys application downloaded from the website. The installation CD will configure the foot pedal to the computer and install a control application from which you may set up shortcuts and commands. Again, if you wish to use the foot pedal within your CAT software, check with your vendor for assistance, if needed. I pinned my Hot Keys application to my taskbar for easy access!
  2. Install the vPedal WMP plug-in from their website. This plug-in has been tested on Windows XP thru to Windows 10.
  3. Here is a detailed list of steps to take once your plug-in has been installed.

Steps for uploading audio files to Windows Media Player

  1. Know the location of your audio file you wish to utilize.
  2. Open the WMP application. (I have it pinned to my taskbar.)
  3. Locate the videographer’s audio, select it, then highlight the file to drag it into the WMP application.
  4. Next, open up your vPedal Hot Keys application. My settings on the application: Back seconds step: 5; Forward seconds step: 5; Release seconds step: 2; Tap Enabled.
  5. Highlight the file you wish to listen to and double-click. The file will start to play.
  6. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to stop playback of the file.
  7. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to resume the audio.

Tip: If you have your audio file associated with your text file, you may want to consider using a text-only file when using the videographer’s audio within WMP. You could get two audio files playing at the same time when using the foot pedal.

WMP supports many different file types.  Learn more about Windows Media Player, troubleshooting problems, and how to customize Windows Media Player with easily installed skins, visualizations, and plug-ins for a new look and extra features.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Wayzata, Minn., and a member of the Technology Committee, shared the following suggestions. 
We’ve used GearPlayer by TranscriptionGear for three years. The transcription software we were using before GearPlayer did not allow us to play back audio and view video files — only audio. We specifically switched to this software so that we could have the option of listening to audio alone or listen to audio and view the video — all accomplished with the ease of foot pedal control. With some witnesses it helps to be able to see their mouth while preparing a transcript (slurred speech, mumblers, low talkers, accents). Sometimes I like to verify if the witness nodded or indicated, so the video is also nice for that. If the videographer can give you the full video file(s) versus just the audio, then you have the full advantages of having mic’d audio and video viewing when needed in preparing the transcript.

Infinity USB Digital Foot Control with Computer plug (IN-USB2)

This link is all you need to know about the GearPlayer software. It’s $119 for each computer; so if you want it on two computers, you will need two licenses. You can download a full-feature free trial and test it for five days. I purchased the USB foot pedal from them ($49 at the time – IN-USB-2 Foot Pedal by Infinity). With this program you have the option of using a foot pedal or the keyboard and mouse, so you could try out the trial program without a foot pedal to see if you like it before purchasing.

It’s simple to use. I drag and drop the file into the work space. It figures out the format and will play it back. Some of the audio format files I’ve played on this recently are .mp3, .m4a, and a .wav file. For video format files, I recently have played back an .mp4 and .mov — all drag, drop, and play. The program has a built-in converter so if it doesn’t recognize the format, it will give you an option of trying to convert the file to something it can play. You can play back from the videographer’s video CD or DVD as well, no converting needed. A nice feature is you get audio feedback when rewinding and fast forwarding, sounding similar to the old tape dictation machines. Sometimes when I need to play a file and am not at a computer that has GearPlayer, I realize how much I like the feedback feature. It makes it easier for me to know when to stop rewinding.

Sound quality can be adjusted for soft voices and noise reduction, as well as playback speed. There are other features which I have not used that are all explained in this GearPlayer link.

Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Anchorage, Alaska, uses Express Scribe and offers the following.
I’ve used Express Scribe Pro for many years. A free version is available, but after I used it a couple of times, I made the purchase on Amazon. The Pro version accepts virtually any audio format, including videos.

Express Scribe Pro Transcription Software with USB Foot Pedal

Express Scribe has many features that help you work faster, including shortcuts for starting/stopping the audio, rewinding, forwarding, playing fast speed, and playing slow speed. I like the “auto backstep on stop” feature when scoping a video, allowing you to automatically rewind a word or two from where you left off. I up the speed to about 150 percent when proofreading with the foot pedal, and the audio is still surprisingly clear.

Express Scribe is very easy to use. Once you have it installed, it is just a matter of dragging and dropping an audio file into it, and you can begin listening immediately. A challenge with Express Scribe is that some of its shortcuts interfere with my CAT shortcuts, and those shortcuts cannot be changed in Express Scribe.

Tip: Save your codes when you purchase Express Scribe so that you don’t have to purchase it again when you change computers.








Upcoming live webinar tackles uses of Dropbox for reporters

Kim Greiner

Kimberly R. Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, will offer a live webinar Dropbox: Getting Started, Sharing, and Making the Most of It through NCRA’s Continuing Education Program. The live webinar, which is sponsored by NCRA’s Technology Committee, occurs on Nov. 12 from 8-9 p.m. ET. Register here.

Greiner shared the following about what attendees can expect from this session.

“Dropbox is an important tool I use to ensure I have everything I need at my fingertips,” Greiner explained. “My desire is for attendees to walk away with a complete understanding of how it really works, where your files are, what should be synced, and how this cloud storage can best function for you.”

Dropbox can be an important tool for managing your files, whether you like to share with your scopist as you are working on the files or you need a place to upload your backup before you leave your workplace.

In addition, Greiner explained: “I will walk through this cloud storage from the beginning, show you how to share files, manage your storage, backup or retrieve files, and how to collaborate with a scopist using a shared folder. I will also cover Case CATalyst Work Units using Dropbox so you can see and understand, before you need to use it, what you and your scopist can expect, and setting suggestions.”

Register now for this live webinar to earn 0.10 CEU.








TechLinks: What you need to know to protect against cyberattacks

Cyberattacks are in the news again. And while the reports may focus on elections or high-profile attacks on government or financial organizations, cyberattacks on small- and medium-size businesses are accelerating and increasingly sophisticated.

In an effort to keep these kinds of issues at the forefront of members’ minds and give a general background and knowledge, we collected a number of links to articles that can offer information as you decide the best approach for you and your company. In addition, we’ve linked several TechLinks stories from the past year that discuss protecting yourself from various scams.

Nolo, one of the web’s largest libraries of free, consumer-friendly legal information, offers a few steps that small businesses can take to prevent being caught in a cyberattack: 1) maintain control over your security chain; 2) implement security and other protection measures; and 3) involve law enforcement after detecting a security breach. The article also offers advice on what to do after a cyberattack.

A May 29 article on Inc.com suggested that the majority of small businesses do not have a plan to protect against cyberattacks. The article goes on to offer four myths that small business owners might hold and four ways to protect your company.

The best defense is being aware of potential risks, reminds a May 4 article on Forbes.com. The article lists the top five ways that cyberattacks occur and offers ways to combat them. Hackers are looking to find the weak link in your organization, so make sure that everyone who works for you is aware of what to look for and how to avoid it.

Also see:

TechLinks: How to build a strong password

TechLinks: Is this email for real?

TechLinks: Staying safe online