COACHING: The art of court reporting

The Art of Court Reporting

By Ruthanne Esparza

I’ve been out of the court reporting field for three years now, out of being an actual reporter for almost 10 years. I didn’t leave voluntarily; my neck decided for me that I was finished as a reporter.

A great life lesson for me was being able to accept this and move on.

And move on, I certainly have! It took time and patience, but today I love what I do and I’m living my life’s purpose as a life coach. An integral part of my current path is to write articles, put together talks, and so on. Once I began to attempt these tasks, putting down my thoughts into the written word turned out to be quite the challenge. To begin an article, a writer must jot down thoughts, ideas, and concepts and then put them together into a cohesive, meaningful manner that allows the reader to engage and receive the intended message. After 20 years of writing and editing other people’s words, any attempt I’d make at writing my own thoughts down would come out stilted and much too formal, and the urge to perfectly punctuate each sentence completely got in the way of me being able to express myself with the written word. It’s taken a couple of years of practice (and tossing out articles that sounded dry as toast!) to overcome this, but it still creeps up on me at times.

I initially posted this story on a couple of court reporter Facebook pages and was surprised at the numerous responses relating to the feeling of being creatively stifled by virtue of being a reporter, expressing the idea that our profession leaves no room for individual creativity. Well, I urge reporters to find their artistic expression both on and off the job.

On the job, putting a transcript together, especially a dense, technical one can be seen as a craft. A perfectly researched, exquisitely punctuated transcript is a work of art, in my opinion. I remember taking the deposition of a rocket scientist in an accident case and having the attorney ask a question for a solid page and a half, where I kid you not, the way it was worded, there was no place for a period! I went round and round and carefully placed my semicolons and commas and sent it to the best proofreader there was.

Only another reporter can understand the feeling of elation when I got the transcript back with no corrections in that question! I truly felt the sense of artistic ability.

The beauty of conversations on social media is the exchange of ideas and advice people so generously offer. Many reporters piped in on my post with ways in which they get their creativity groove on outside of the job, including my favorite: “Have two glasses of wine and then start writing.” Instead of closing yourself off from being creative, I see it as crucial to find a way to express that need inside in order to balance the constant left-brain aspect of being a court reporter. This could be doing yoga, where each time a pose is mastered feels like a work of art; gardening, where the perfectly ripe, red tomato you grow is a work of art; music; painting; writing; carpentry; crafts; and so on.

Everything in this life is about perspective, how you see things. The great thing is we have the ability to reframe and reconsider how we view the world around us. We can choose to see the inspired, artistic expression in absolutely anything in our lives. Once our eyes are opened in this manner, we realize every moment has the potential for expressing our imaginative, creative abilities, which leads to a more balanced, fulfilling life.


Ruthanne Esparza, now a life coach, is a retired court reporter. She worked in the reporting industry for more than 27 years. She trained, certified and spent time working as a coach-advisor for the Robbins-Madanes Coach Training Program. She currently practices as a certified strategic intervention life coach. You can reach her through her website,



Currently resides in: Seattle, Wash.

Position: Founder and CEO, Harvard Bell

Member since: 2010

Studied: Taipei American School, University of Washington

Why did you decide to become a legal videographer?

I enjoy a combination of working with people and technology. Video and photography have always been a passion. Creating a cutting-edge firm that covers all aspects of litigation technology was a perfect match with my previous work in engineering consulting.

 How did you learn about the career?

A good friend owns a thriving civil law practice in Seattle. The very first conversations about legal video were with him. I researched the field and explored the practical and financial potential and quickly came to the conclusion that it was a great fit.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome, and how did you do so?

My very first deposition was incredibly challenging. Just weeks before, I took a terrifying plunge and invested nearly $10,000 in gear. I studied and practiced intensely — day and night. I tried to learning everything I could about the field. Without a mentor, my solution was to over-engineer everything. Held in a 70th-floor Seattle office, that first deposition involved six attorneys, a Japanese witness, two foreign language interpreters, and a backup video device that went to “blue screen” four minutes before the scheduled start. I debugged and got everything working with a good 60 seconds to spare.

Had I not studied the CLVS standards, invested in top quality professional equipment, practiced, and intensely tested every aspect of what was expected, that first deposition certainly would have been my last. While I wouldn’t recommend that approach to anyone, the deposition went without a hitch.


What surprised you about your career and why? Would you tell us about that experience?
Going into this field, doing legal videography, and creating and owning a court reporting and legal video firm has been far more rewarding than I could have guessed. One of the many aspects I enjoy is how very social this work can be. In the years after starting and running Harvard Bell, I’ve often met a dozen new colleagues and clients every week. I enjoy getting to know and working with court reporters, attorneys, and paralegals — everyone in our field. And it’s the same at the national level. I’ve traveled to numerous NCRA conferences specifically to connect and to discuss best practices in depth with some of the most skilled people in the country. Bruce Balmer, CLVS, is someone who especially comes to mind — Bruce nearly single-handedly defines the value of the CLVS program.

What are you most proud of in your career? Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Perhaps having Bill Gates exclaim “It’s about time!” at a break when I mentioned a technical approach I had been routinely using for the previous five years.

What advice or tips would you offer to new videographers?

Start with a great, diverse, solid education. Get as much life experience as possible. Don’t be afraid of hard work. I especially like hiring people with a background or a strong interest in the humanities. Smart, well-rounded people will always be able to pick up the latest technology — it is constantly changing anyway!

Did you overcome a challenge in your career? Could you tell us about that experience?

Towards the end of my engineering-consulting career, I volunteered to do emergency management work in Louisiana days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I was one of 60 people working and sleeping in an office designed for 18. I managed a team analyzing geographic and environmental data around the clock to determine where it was safe for people to return to their homes as soon as it was known to be safe.

Have you accomplished something not related to your career that you would like to relate?

I had a great childhood in Taiwan, and I love to travel. As a kid, I visited East Asia extensively. As an adult, my career in consulting afforded me the time to travel on my own extensively. In my early 20s, I spent six months traveling in Western and Eastern Europe, where I read a lifetime’s worth of literature, studied art, painted, and met a number of lifelong friends. I continued taking a month each year traveling until I met my wife, Stefania, who is from Italy, and we started a family. While we visit Italy frequently, it is now the children of my European friends who have become the real world travelers and who, I hope, have experiences similar to mine in America.

Students win financial assistance, motivation with NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants

Students win financial assistance, motivation with NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants

The value of NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants is twofold: the financial support the awards provide as well as a confidence boost from the recognition. “The Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship not only helped me with the cost of schooling, but it also gave me the boost of confidence I needed to succeed through school and into this amazing profession. Realizing the director of my school believed in me through her nomination allowed for that,” said Kendra Steppler, an official court reporter in Helena, Mont., who won in 2015.

“The startup costs straight out of school can be daunting. It has been so helpful to have the financial boost and the unspoken vote of support and encouragement that comes along with it,” said Rachelle Cahoon, a freelance court reporter in Boise, Idaho, who won the New Professional Reporter Grant in 2015.

Many past winners of these scholarships and grants used the funds to help pay for school costs or for court reporting software and equipment. “The timing was perfect as I was graduating in June and had to turn in the school-supplied laptop. That $1,000 enabled me to purchase a really nice touch-screen Dell laptop, plus some court reporting accessories,” said Angeli English, a freelance court reporter in D’Iberville, Miss., who won a CASE essay scholarship in 2015.

For NCRF scholarships and grants, the student will need an instructor, advisor, or supervisor to apply on their behalf; for the CASE scholarships, students may apply directly. Regardless, the student has the power to get the application moving. “When I heard about the Student Intern Scholarship, I looked at the qualifications in order to see if I was eligible. I met all the requirements, and my instructor sent in my application form,” said Elizabeth Vanghelof, a student at Key College in Miami, Fla., who won in 2015. That means that applying for these scholarships and grants takes some preparation.

Tracey L. Tracy, a student at Green River College in Auburn, Wash., who won a CASE essay scholarship in 2015, offers some advice:

  1. “Plan in advance. [For example, the CASE essay scholarship] is due by April 1 and requires a nomination by your school, so plan ahead.
  2. Find an editor or proofreader. You wouldn’t want that winning essay to be derailed by spelling or grammar mistakes.
  3. Remember to thank those who nominate you as well as those who select you as the winner!”

“Don’t talk yourself out of applying for them in the first place. It is easy to think that your chances of being awarded a grant or scholarship are slim. In reality, however, you can’t know that because you don’t know how many applicants there are! So you have nothing to lose by trying except for the short amount of time it takes to see the application process through,” said Cahoon. She also added that the process of applying for the scholarships itself is valuable. “Applying for these grants and scholarships gives you opportunities for networking, which is one of the most important skills a new court reporter can develop. You cannot apply for these grants on your own. You need supportive colleagues and former teachers and school administrators to help you through the process and to give you the necessary recommendations. And even if you don’t win a grant or scholarship, you have strengthened your professional network in the process of the application,” said Cahoon.

Five NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants for students and new professionals are awarded to eight qualifying members. In all cases, the applicant must be an NCRA member and attend or have graduated from an NCRA-certified court reporting program. Most applications are due in the spring. Information for each scholarship and grant, including eligibility requirements, is available on

“Who says ‘no’ to free money? Not me, and no student should. It does not take long to apply and it’s time well invested,” said English.

NCRA CASE Scholarships

Due April 1, 2016

One $500 scholarship, one $1,000 scholarship, and one $1,500 scholarship

Student must submit two-page essay with references on a pre-selected topic (changes each year)

For more information, contact the NCRA Education Department at (although all NCRA-certified court reporting programs receive information in January).


NCRF Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Due spring 2016

One $2,000 scholarship

Only one nomination from each NCRA-certified program is accepted.

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at


NCRF New Professional Reporter Grant

Due spring 2016

One $2,000 grant

Applicants must be in their first year out of school

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at


NCRF Student Intern Scholarship

Due summer 2016

Two $1,000 scholarships

Applicant must be an intern in any of the three career paths: judicial (official and freelance), CART, and captioning

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at


NCRF Robert H. Clark Scholarship

Due fall 2016

One $1,800 scholarship

There will be a total of five awards, running through 2019

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at


CAPTIONING: Providing access for clients who are deaf-blind

close-up of fingers reading brailleBy Megan Rogers

It’s difficult to determine exactly how many people in the United States are deaf-blind because the definition for deaf-blind varies from person to person. The Gallaudet University Library cites two sources: a 1980 national study by the Department of Education that estimated 42,000 to 700,000 people and a 2008 paper by Barbara Miles for the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness that estimates more than 10,000 children (birth to 22 years) are deaf-blind and 35,000 to 45,000 adults are. Altogether, this is less than 1 percent of the population of the United States.

Even within the group, there is a variety of conditions. Some people classified as deaf-blind may have had no hearing or visual ability since birth and some may have been slowly losing one ability or the other, and the loss could be due to a variety of reasons. Deaf-blind could also mean low visibility or low hearing rather than no ability at all. Because of these characteristics, CART providers and captioners working with this population need to be flexible and tailor their services for the individual client.

Technology and equipment

There are two main questions to consider when choosing equipment for a client who is deaf-blind: 1) What is the client’s visual ability? 2) If the client cannot see at all, does the client read Braille?

“There are a lot of conditions that involve both vision and hearing loss, but most people who have them are hard of hearing and low vision rather than completely deaf and completely blind,” says Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a captioner in New York, N.Y. Knight says, “Giving people a tablet with the captioning on it so that they can put it close to their eyes, asking them which foreground and background colors they prefer, and asking which font size they prefer can help a lot.”

Debra Cheyne, a CART captioner in Sherwood, Ore., provided captioning for a juror who has limited visual and audio abilities in November. Cheyne connected a monitor to her equipment and arranged for white text on a black background using Arial font that was sized as large as possible; each letter was about two to three inches tall. In some cases, such as with a client who experiences tunnel vision, it may be more helpful to have smaller text in the middle of a screen.

Clients who were born blind or deaf-blind are more likely to read Braille, although this is not always true. Kolby Garrison, a court reporting student at College of Court Reporting who is blind, explained that Braille is not taught as often anymore because people are more likely to use screen-reader software on a computer. Clients who can read Braille may have a refreshable Braille display that connects to the client’s computer (or other devices) and translates English text from a screen-reader program into Braille letters. Garrison, for example, prefers a 40-cell display because it’s easy to carry around along with her other equipment, although the size ranges from 14 to 80 cells. Some displays also come with a keyboard so the user can input information in Braille, which Garrison prefers because then she can use the display with other devices. The American Foundation for the Blind lists more than a dozen screen-reader programs on their website; JAWS is the most popular. Even for clients who read Braille, their fluency level determines how quickly they will be able to follow along with the text. It is important for a captioner to keep in mind that their client may not be able to read as quickly as the speaker is talking, even if the captioner can keep up.

Depending on the method of caption delivery, the client may be able to control the display settings. Jennifer Aggeler, a broadcast captioner in Kneeland, Calif., who has provided on-site CART for clients who are deaf-blind in the past, noted that the technology has changed quite a bit over the years and suggests using the free applications Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online. “The CART provider, after creating an online text document and setting it to ‘share,’ simply writes realtime text directly into the document on their computer while the viewer simultaneously has the same document open on their computer and reads at their own pace,” Aggeler said.

Text on Top is a paid option for delivering captions to a client who is deaf-blind. Sander Pasveer, who developed Text on Top, explained, “When reading from a screen is not possible because of a visual impairment, Text on Top comes with an application called Text on Top Vision. An individual user can read the text from his or her own laptop or tablet and adjust the appearance to his or her own needs. It also allows the user to scroll backwards.”

For clients who are using refreshable Braille devices, the technology may need to be adjusted a bit. Nick Wilkie, CEO at StreamText.Net, another paid option for delivering captions, explained that screen readers are set up to work best with static text, so the dynamic text of captions makes that tricky. StreamText.Net has a workaround that allows users to keep the cursor at the bottom of the text.

Since Cheyne worked with her equipment connected to a monitor, she also removed all of the distracting information from the software so the screen displayed only the captioning feed. She also arranged to have as many lines of text available as possible with a continuous flow. Aggeler also adjusts her format slightly for a remote CART job by removing chevrons and identifying speakers with names, ensuring all text starts on the left, using true dashes rather than two hyphens, and having single spacing.


Many on-site and remote CART jobs with a client who is deaf-blind require the same preparation for a client who is deaf or hard of hearing. Garrison suggested talking with the client about what the job would entail and provide as much detail as possible. She also stressed the importance of testing the equipment ahead of time, which Aggeler echoed, with the reminder that everyone is different and the way that everyone does or accomplishes things is different.

However, Cheyne often provides captioning in the Oregon court system, and since the court staff is usually not made aware of the client’s particular disability, she may not get many details before a job. Since Cheyne needs to be prepared for any situation when she arrives in court for an assignment, she prepares for the factors she can control, such as being well-rested and packing water and small snacks. She does, however, emphasize the importance of asking for an ergonomic chair if possible to make sure her back is supported throughout a potentially long day.

All other duties as assigned

Sometimes, providing captioning for clients who are deaf-blind involves a few extra responsibilities.

Cheyne said it is particularly important to make sure, when appropriate, that whoever is speaking provide a verbal account of any visual representations, such as drawings on a whiteboard. This information will most likely need to get to the client through the realtime stream unless the client has alternative technology; Cheyne’s client used an ELMO document camera to scan written documents and project reverse imaging onto a second monitor. Depending on the situation, the captioner may also need to be prepared to include side conversations or other language so the client can fully participate with the people around them, although Aggeler pointed out that any captioner should be used to providing sound description parentheticals. While some clients may want to get extra information like how many other people are in the room, others may not. “Know your client,” Aggeler said.

Cheyne also pointed out that the captioner may also need to consider physical logistics, such as making sure a client who is a juror is sitting at the end of a row so other jurors aren’t distracted by the captioner’s screen but also keeping in mind where the plug is located (and don’t forget to tape down those cords). If the client has a service animal, where the animal sits may affect where the captioner’s equipment is placed as well. These other considerations highlight the importance of being flexible with clients who are deaf-blind to make sure their experience runs smoothly.

The importance of accessibility cannot be understated. With a little extra knowledge and preparation, captioning for a client who is deaf-blind can be similar to providing captioning for any other client. At the same time, being flexible with clients who have unique needs can also serve as an important reminder. As Aggeler put it, “CART is best when it includes an individual approach, something tailored to the consumer, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”


Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at

Managing your online reputation in an increasingly social world

By April Weiner

Sponsored by NCRF’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute

online reputationIt’s hard to imagine a time before social media had such a strong presence in our lives. It’s become commonplace to share almost everything on social media — images of food, momentary insights, and weekend plans. But it is important to consider how social media influences professional image.

According to a PEW Research Center poll, 74 percent of Internet users use at least one social networking site. This means users range from personal friends, to family, to instructors, to hiring managers. Students can bet that anything they or their friends ever post can be seen by all of these people at any point in time. By the time that students graduate and are looking for work, they may have forgotten what they posted that first year in school, but rest assured that the Internet did not.

Avoiding social media, however, is not a good strategy either. The trick is to manage the risks and cultivate a professional image. Used properly, social media has professional benefits for students as well.

“Social media has allowed some graduates the opportunity to easily network with employers in different states and then, ultimately, relocate to another state,” said Nicky Rodriquez, the director of admission at College of Court Reporting in Hobart, Ind. “Some of those opportunities may not have come about without social media.”

Kensie Benoit, an official in Groves, Texas, found the ability to network with employers to be valuable when she was job hunting.

“I tried out for four officialships before [my current position],” said Benoit. “All of them were referrals from people I had only known online. I put the word out there that I was looking for an officialship, and people starting tagging me in all sorts of job postings online.”

Another benefit of using social media professionally is access to online groups of like-minded professionals, which offer both the opportunity for skill building and camaraderie.

“I’m able to help new reporters when they have job-related questions and also debate some issues affecting reporters/captioners in general,” said Laura Fowler, RPR, CRR, CRC, a firm owner from Modesto, Calif. “It’s a great way to keep up on our profession. It’s awesome when I or someone else needs help with anything and all we have to do is post the question and everyone responds quickly with great answers.”

“It is our lifeline to the world,” said Jennifer Bonfilio, RMR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Delray Beach, Fla. “It baffles me how captioners were able to do their jobs before the Internet, not only from a research perspective but on human interaction perspective.”

“The field has shifted so that our professionals now mostly work from their homes, with few, if any, interactions in an office setting,” said Karen Yates, RPR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Minden, Nev. “Social media now fills the role of a virtual break room. We vent our frustrations, get advice, seek recommendations on software and hardware.” Yates also pointed out that online forums give professionals an opportunity to connect with people they would not be able to meet face to face.

The value of social media groups is not limited only to working professionals; joining these groups as a student can provide a bit of a leg up while learning about court reporting and captioning.

“[I] vet questions from working reporters on scenarios that I know I will one day face myself,” said Katherine Schilling, a court reporting student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif. “I like to think that I can avoid making some mistakes when I start working by learning from those who have already gone through it.”

There are so many benefits of using social media, but the key is being cautious with profiles and posts. Keep the “Ps” in mind:

Pause before you post

Sometimes, simply taking a few seconds to reconsider a post is enough to maintain a professional appearance. “Assume anything and everything will be seen by anyone and everyone,” said Bonfilio. “If you wouldn’t say or do it in front of your grandmother, employer, child, police officer, or competitor, then don’t post it online. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.”

A few moments of reflection is especially important for students who are making connections with potential employers. “Put [yourself] in the employers’ shoes before commenting, liking, or sharing on social media,” said Natalie Kijurna, coordinator of graduate and employer relations at College of Court Reporting in Hobart, Ind. “Would you hire someone who liked the comment, ‘The last 12 minutes in the restroom were the most productive part of my work day’? Probably not.”

Students who are interested in captioning, especially, should consider the accessibility of their content. “I think it’s a huge disrespect to clients to post and retweet videos and media without captions,” said Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from New York, N.Y.


Despite the popularity of text-speak online, court reporters and captioners should make sure to use more proper English in their posts.

“I know of individuals that were not given jobs based solely off of their punctuation and grammar online,” said Benoit. “As petty as that may sound, would we hire a scopist or proofreader that didn’t have good punctuation or grammar? No.”


It’s obvious from any comments section online – people can be unkind on the Internet. “It still astounds me when I see inappropriate or just nasty posts online,” said Schilling. “Some students think that the screen protects them from the consequences of their actions online, which will only result in a rude awakening down the line.”

However, part of being a professional involves responding to others politely and compassionately. “A lot of people ask for help and people criticize them for that,” said Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer reporter in Columbus, Ohio. “We should help them out, not tear them down.” After all, everyone needs help sometime — a student who has already presented themselves as a professional will more likely be treated as one by others.


Even though many profiles are created for personal reasons, developing a more professional profile often means avoiding certain kinds of content. “Students should stay away from negative commentary about current or former employers, politics, religion, or anything that could potentially reflect poorly on your character,” Kijurna said.

Each professional will need to determine where they draw the line on provocative content based on their priorities, comfort level, or even their position. Yates, for example, was careful with the type of language she would permit on her page not just from herself but from her contacts. “When I was on NCRA’s board, I didn’t permit anything with profanity on my Facebook page,” Yates said. Yates was also concerned about being too associated with extreme religious or political views while she was such a public figure within the association. “I unfriended some family members and friends who posted very religious or political content. I would not permit anyone to tag me in a photo unless I could see it and okay it first.”

Be aware of the message your pictures send as well. “Pictures say 1,000 words and can be someone’s first impression,” Starbuck said. “Unfortunately, it’s hard to recover from a bad first impression.”


It is possible that posts from one, two, five, or ten years ago are still accessible online. Review old content to make sure potential employers will not come across anything embarrassing. “Whether you’re looking for a job now or two years from now, you never know who’s going to come across it,” Starbuck said.

“Don’t get caught thinking you can permanently delete a post,” Rodriquez said. It is possible that the post had been captured in a screenshot prior to the user deleting it.

Privacy is an illusion

Facebook has a variety of privacy settings, and it is a good idea to learn how to use them, but nothing on social media is truly private.

“Remember, when you post something, even though you are posting it for your [online] friends’ viewing, it is entirely possible that your audience is much wider than you anticipated,” said Bonfilio.

Rodriquez adds that this is true even in closed, private groups. Anyone in the group can see posts or can screenshot a post and share it with an outside audience. Knight also points out that groups that are primarily for court reporters or captioners may have a wider membership. “I know a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people will join closed groups because they want to follow the profession,” said Knight.


Some people may find that the easiest solution is keeping personal and professional lives separate. “Consider setting up a separate identity that is strictly for work-related interactions, and carefully segregate your personal online presence,” Yates said.

Bonfilio agrees. “It’s a good idea to have one account that’s just for business (or just for personal stuff),” she said. “If you do mix the two, take the time to configure the security settings so your personal posts are only seen by your family and friends.”

Probe into the past

It’s a good idea for student to audit their online presence a couple times of year by conducting a Google search of themselves (especially when done from a computer they don’t use). This allows students to know what’s out there with their name on it and take steps to remove or hide unwanted content when possible.

“This semester, I started to fill my YouTube channel with video tutorials on Eclipse features for students,” Schilling said. “I’d forgotten about a video I’d made years ago that was unrelated … and didn’t show me in the best light.” Schilling has since been more conscious of her online content.


”You can’t take yourself too flippantly online. Even if you create something intended for one audience, you can’t always control who will see it,” said Schilling. However, despite the fact that it might seem like there are a lot of rules to follow, remember to have fun and show a little personality behind that professional demeanor.

“There’s a fine line between being professional and a corporate shell,” Knight said. “You’re not going to build lasting relationships if you’re only thinking about driving business.”

April Weiner is the Foundation Assistant for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at

What is NCRF’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute?

In 2015, the National Court Reporters Foundation established the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, which is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation contributed by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Robert’s cousin. In addition, Hamer also made a generous donation to the Foundation to support a scholarship in honor of Robert. The scholarship will be awarded in the amount of $1,800 annually through 2019 to an eligible court reporting student. The first scholarship was awarded by NCRF in October 2015.


Training for realtime writers grants given a boost

While Congressional inactivity often garners significant headlines, what the nation’s legislative body has accomplished behind the scenes regarding education policy deserves to be commended. In addition to working on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress ended 2015 by passing an extension of the federal Perkins Student Loan program, which had expired in September 2015. The Perkins loan program is the nation’s oldest student loan program and offer low-income students, in particular, a chance to make college affordable by offering relatively low-dollar and low interest rate loans with flexibility in repayment.

With significant activity on the education front throughout 2015, there is hope that Congress will consider reauthorizing the Higher Education Act in 2016. Since the new Congress began 14 months ago, NCRA’s government relations department has been active in lobbying for one specific program found within the Higher Education Act: the Training for Realtime Writers Grants. The Training for Realtime Writers grants go to court reporting and captioning schools to train more realtime-capable writers who can go to meet the needs of the more than 48 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Specifically, the funding can go to creating online learning programs, improve existing facilities and hardware used by students, recruiting more students, and pursuing innovative teaching methods. With an estimated 5,500 new jobs in the court reporting and captioning fields by 2018, these grants are critical to ensuring that court reporting programs are able to meet that need. Court reporting and captioning offer vibrant careers. With growing consumer demand in the CART captioning field coupled with the FCC’s best practices for captioning quality, the demand for excellent CART and broadcast captioners has never been higher.

Obviously, the Higher Education Act involves much more than this specific grant program. In 2015, the Senate held eight hearings on issues as diverse as college affordability, accreditation, institutional risk sharing, innovation in higher education, and sexual assault. While some observers expect to see major changes within these key areas, Congress is likely to pursue a more incremental change if legislation is advanced. With the 2016 presidential elections right around the corner, Congress is unlikely to pursue some of the more controversial measures within higher education and focus on areas where there is broad agreement among Democrats and Republicans.

In order to ensure that the Training for Realtime Writers grants remain funded and financial opportunities are given to court reporting and captioning programs, it is incumbent on NCRA’s members to contact their elected officials to ensure that they understand what an important issue this is. There is an old axiom that exists in politics in general: If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu. This is why we need you. Making sure that those who you send to Congress know about what issues are important to you is critical to ensuring that the government works for you and not against you.

If you have any questions on how to help ensure that opportunities continue to exist for court reporting and captioning programs to receive federal funding, please contact NCRA Director of Government Relations Adam Finkel directly at and we can ensure that your voice is heard.

INTERSTENO: Internet Contest coming up soon


The 14th International Keyboarding Competition will be held April 11-May 2.

By Maellen Pittman-Fernandez

Time to start your practice sessions for the 14th Intersteno International Keyboarding Competition. This contest, which tests your speed at keyboarding against people from around the world, is held annually in the spring and is open to all ages. Registration in this Intersteno event opens March 14 and runs through April 10. Get your team together and watch for more information about individual and group registration from NCRA in the JCR Weekly and on Facebook.

The contest consists of ten minutes of text entry, using special free software available on You may choose to use Taki or Zav format for the test.

The contest is open to students from public or private schools and associations. The results are ranked according to age categories.

The National Court Reporters Association is the Intersteno National Group in the United States.

For those polyglots among us, this contest has a multilingual competition as well as mother tongue. Only one attempt per language is allowed, however. There are further nuances for the multilingual competition to be found on the Intersteno website.

Training exercises for each language in both software formats are available free of charge on the Intersteno website.

The examinations are evaluated based on the total number of written characters, with 50 penalty points deducted for each error. Throughout the three weeks of competition, the results lists are updated in real time for Taki software competitors, with Zav results being consolidated and compiled each evening.

Of note: This competition is open to typing keyboards, and, in addition, chorded keyboards. In other words, you may use your steno writer to compete in these yearly contests.

All successful competitors will receive an Intersteno certificate. Medals are awarded to the three highest ranking competitors in each age category.

The purpose of this competition is to foster keyboard text entry excellence among peers all over the world. Any attempt to manipulate the procedures, interfere with software operations, or engage in hacker activity will lead to automatic disqualification from the current competition and the possibility of being banned from any future participation in the competition.

Intersteno is a worldwide community of motivated people who voluntarily organize and participate in fair, open, and healthy competition. The Intersteno Board is the final authority in the interpretation of the rules and any decision needed for the good of the competition.

Much of the information for this article is to be found on If you wish to open a broader horizon, to include competition on the world stage, take a moment and visit.

Mae Pittman-Fernandez, a 2014 Intersteno typing competition participant, while scoring a respectable percentile among the Senior division, highly recommends a few practice sessions prior to the actual competition.

The last page: He said what?

Oil, that is
Q. By the way, you’re familiar with the technical term “Jed Clampett moment”?
A. I read that in Mr. Smith’s deposition. I’m 56 years old and did watch the “Beverly Hillbillies,” so it was not a term that was unbeknown to me.
Q. Fair to say that there was no Jed Clampett moment amid the drilling of the well?
A. No, no shots were fired in the ground, and no bubbling crude came up.
Laurie Collins, RPR
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Married … with children
Q. Okay. Are you married?
A. No.
Q. Do you have any children?
A. No.
Q. So you have lots of money.
Denyce Sanders, RDR, CRR
Houston, Texas

Are you okay?
Q. What are you asking if you walk up to somebody and say, “Are you okay”?
A. You mean the way he has?
Q. I am asking you, if you walk up to somebody that appears to be hurt and you say, “Are you okay,” what are you asking?
A. That means I am asking about how he’s.
Q. He’s what?
A. He is. I said, “Okay,” but I was thinking that I would be asked questions. But no one asked me questions.
Q. No. Please answer my question right now. My question is, if you walk up to somebody and they look like they are hurt and you say, “Are you okay,” what are you doing?
A. That I am asking the person what is.
Q. What is what?
A. How he is.
Q. Okay. And you didn’t understand the officer when he walked up to you and said, “Are you okay,” that he was asking how you were?
A. I didn’t understand that. I was just saying okay, that if no one was dead, the place.
Q. Dead? Who talked about dead?
Michelle Giangualano
Seattle, Wash.

One man’s opinion
Q. Are you still regularly engaging in sexual activity?
A. Regularly, it is — it was beginning to decline.
Q. Okay. And is that because the pills were making her crazy or —
A. Yeah. It’s hard to have sex with a crazy woman. It just — it is.
MR. BLACK: Anybody want to jump in?
MR. GREEN: We can go off the record.
Debra M. Arter, RDR, CRR
Rockledge, Fla.

Old school is cool
Q. Were you using any GPS or TomTom or anything like that at the time you got lost?
A. No. If I had, I wouldn’t have been lost.
Q. Did you have that capability on that tractor to use a navigation system if you wanted to?
A. They don’t provide one for the trucks, you have to use maps.
Q. What’s “maps”?
A. You know, like the old traditional piece of paper, break it out, and atlases and stuff like that. They don’t provide GPS in the vehicles.
Q. I guess I’m getting used to all this technology. I’m assuming “maps” is some sort of an app on a phone or —
A. No, no, no.
Q. You’re talking about the old-school way?
A. No, no, that’s old school, old school.
Renee Bencich, RPR
Galt, Calif.

The purpose-driven attorney
Q. Similarly, when you shake your head or nod your head to communicate to me what your answer might be, I know what you’re intending to say, but I will follow up with you and ask you if that meant a yes or a no and ask you to verbalize your response. Okay?
A. I’ll do my best to verbalize.
Q. Well, I’ll help you. I’m here for a reason.
Carrie Arnold, RPR, CRR
Arvada, Colo.

Hot dad bod
Q. And that just could be because you’ve got an injury to or however much of the belt deployed, maybe because someone’s moving around a little bit, but it could also be loose clothing, I guess; right? If that’s not right, tell me.
A. It usually depends on the clothing. It’s usually not soft clothing; it’s usually soft body, such that there is the inevitable soft tissue, or more accurately fat, that is between you and the belt.
Q. Okay. And to flesh that out a little bit more —
A. Good one.
Q. — what you’re talking about there is the pretensioner not only could take up a little bit of the play in the slack of the belt, but if it’s lying across some large fellow with a beer belly —
MR. JONES: I just object to this question right now.
Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR
Portland, Ore.

On a need-to-hear basis
In one case, the judge suggested that the witness use an assistive-hearing device, because he was having a hard time hearing the questions.
THE COURT: While we’re looking at that, maybe to help things move along, Mr. Smith, I have a system that you may have seen in our courtrooms before that will help you hear better.
THE WITNESS: Don’t tell my wife that.
THE COURT: I’m well aware of that issue.
THE WITNESS: I have selective hearing, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Mary, why don’t you give Mr. Smith —
THE COURT: It can’t hurt.
THE WITNESS: But you won’t tell her that.
THE COURT: I’m not telling her anything. We’ve talked about wives here already. We’re on a need-to-know basis here.
THE WITNESS: It’s like being in Vegas, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Be careful. You’re on the record.
Mary K. Corcoran
South Weymouth, Mass.

2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference to welcome two keynote speakers

FO keynotesRegister to attend the 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference and get inspired by the beautiful location of Puerto Rico and by the messages of two nationally recognized keynote speakers April 17-19 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan.

This year’s event marks the first time NCRA is traveling to the Caribbean, as well as the first time the schedule will feature two keynote speakers who will address the tough issues of relationship building and time management.

Jane Southren, a former commercial litigator turned coach and collaborator for the attorneys at her law firm, Lerners LLP, Toronto, Ontario, will share insights with attendees about recognizing and cultivating the relationships firm owners need to fuel their business success. Her keynote address will explore the differences between transactional relationships versus loyal relationships, how to identify them, and how to build more loyal relationships.

Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant and founder of Clear Concept Inc., Toronto, Ontario, will address how business owners can improve time management by controlling chaos in their lives, planning priorities, and understanding how to own their time. Her presentation will introduce attendees to key work habits needed to thrive in today’s busy environment and enable achieving more with less effort.

The 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, which is designed exclusively for owners and managers of court reporting and CART captioning firms, is considered the Association’s most prestigious event. Attendees will experience unparalleled networking opportunities, advanced business learning, and first-class accommodations. The schedule for the Firm Owners Executive Conference will go live this week on

A special hotel rate of $179 per night plus taxes and fees for NCRA members expires after March 25, and rooms are filling up fast. With an easy flight from the mainland and no passport required, San Juan promises attendees the perfect opportunity to shake the winter blues and return home motivated to build their business in the new year.

Hotel registration is available online at; by phone at 787-721-0303, ext. 2156, or 800-468-8585; or by email at If booking via phone or email, please refer to group code NCRA16 to secure the discounted rate. Please be advised that a credit card is required to guarantee room reservations.

For more information and to register for the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, visit

More information about Ann Gomez can be found at More information about Jane Southren can be found at

NCRA Board of Directors to mark 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2015-2016 NCRA President Steve Zinone sitting on courthouse stepsMembers of NCRA’s Board of Directors are putting the finishing touches on their plans to celebrate the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, which kicks off Feb. 14 and runs through Feb. 20. This year’s event marks the fourth year NCRA has sponsored the weeklong event dedicated to raising public awareness about the court reporting and captioning professions.

“I’ve been invited to speak to members and guests of the Captioning & Court Reporting Club at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, and am planning to be there on Feb. 17,” said NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, an official reporter from Pittsford, N.Y. “It’s great that the school has started a club that works to raise funds to support its members’ memberships. I plan to share with them the importance of being involved in their state and national associations, as well as my personal experience of being a court reporter.”

NCRA President-Elect Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS, a freelance reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa., said she has plans to be working at the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association’s booth on Feb. 19 when the group exhibits at the state’s guidance counselors convention being held in Hershey, Pa.

Across the nation, NCRA members and state associations will also work to secure official proclamations citing the week-long celebration, including NCRA Immediate Past President Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official reporter from Jefferson, Ohio. “I worked with fellow Ohio reporters again to seek to have Gov. John Kasich recognize the week here in our state. We were fortunate to have him recognize it in 2015 and are confident that he will again,” Nageotte said. She added that she also plans to change her Facebook profile to mark the event.

Meanwhile, NCRA Vice President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter and firm owner from Wausau, Wis., said she’ll once again join forces with local officials and host an after-work gathering at a local restaurant where they will play fun games, such as trying to decipher one stroke briefs.

Finally, in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week, NCRA Secretary-Treasurer Doreen Sutton, RPR, a freelance reporter and firm owner from Scottsdale, Ariz., said she is planning to offer a free introduction to steno theory in the Phoenix area to anyone who is interested in learning the basics. “If after the course they wish to move forward, then I will help them to become enrolled in a real school.”

Celebrating 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is easy

NCRA has made available an array of resources and marketing materials specific to members, schools, and state associations to help them celebrate 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Resources and other items can be found at

As always, be sure to share how you celebrate the week by emailing photos and descriptions to