January 2013 JCR

Journal of Court Reporting

January 2014 Volume 75 Number 3


05Why tracking progress works

Tapping into the power of feedback loops can aid court reporters who are pursuing goals for realtime, speed, or accuracy.




05_2TRAIN: Ways to hook up

NCRA’s Taking Realtime Awareness and Innovation Nationwide committee offers court reporters advice and inspiration on taking the next step in providing realtime. This time, they provide a quick guide on what realtimers need to hook up to clients.




05_3NCRA gears up for second annual Court Reporting and Captioning Week

NCRA is planning another Court Reporting and Captioning Week Feb. 16 – 22 and asks every NCRA member to do one thing to aid in making this year bigger than last year.








NCRA’s Board of Directors moves forward with new strategies

NCRA’s Board of Directors addressed a number of issues when it met Nov. 8 – 9 in Vienna, Va. The board received updates on the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force, MOOC (massive open online course) program, on-demand testing system, and the 2014 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, which is scheduled for Feb. 16 – 22, 2014.

The board also approved the following:

  • NCRA will participate in the annual events of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association of Late Deafened Adults to educate people about captioning and CART;
  • NCRA will obtain a legal opinion as to how the new HIPAA regulations will affect the court reporting and captioning profession; and
  • NCRA will retain Ducker Worldwide, a firm based in Troy, Mich., to conduct and complete the Court Reporting and Captioning Industry Outlook as proposed by the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force. Preliminary portions of the study are expected in the spring of 2014.

NCRA goes to students with mini conventions

In 2010, NCRA’s Education Department began to reach out to students by hosting mini conventions on the campuses of court reporting schools in an effort provide them with additional re­sources and the opportunity to meet and network with working professionals, educators, and vendors of products and services that support the court reporting field.

Since the start of the program, the Association has hosted be­tween two and four mini conventions each year, and the response has been overwhelming, according to Lynette Eggers, CRI, CPE, NCRA’s assistant director for Educational Services. Even better than that, the events have proven to be priceless to students.

“Once a school is chosen as a mini convention site, NCRA’s Education Department works with the school’s president and other representatives to develop a tailored program that includes a keynote speaker and sessions that address a variety of aspects about the court reporting profession,” Eggers says.“The speakers include members of NCRA’s Board of Directors, various com­mittees, and professionals deemed experts in a particular area. In addition, we invite vendors to participate and include network­ing breaks throughout the event so that students have the oppor­tunity to talk with them and experience firsthand the products and services they offer.”

In 2013, NCRA hosted two mini conventions. The first, held in May at the Community College of Allegheny County in Penn­sylvania, featured keynote speaker Bill Weber, RDR, CRR, from Bethel Park, Pa., who shared his experience reporting on the 9/11 terrorist trials taking place at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantana­mo Bay in Cuba. Weber reinforced to students the importance of joining their state and national associations and associating with key groups of other reporters to ensure further development of their skills and their overall success as reporters.

“Building these relationships is especially important in this day and age when so many reporters no longer work in an office with other reporters. They need to have other reporters nearby to relate to, and associations are where that can take place,” Weber says. “While my presentation talked about the GTMO experience, I also shared how I become involved with my state association, which sent me to leadership training and resulted in my meet­ing Nancy Varallo, NCRA’s current president. I made friends with Nancy, and through that relationship, I met Lorene Eppley, RPR, a firm owner from Boston, Mass., who had landed the GTMO contract and eventually led to my contract for this work.”

Weber says that he also stressed to students the importance of earning professional certifications, pointing out that only re­porters who held the Certified Realtime Reporter certification from NCRA could apply for the GTMO team.

According to Weber, the students were truly engaged in each of the seminars that were presented at the May mini convention, which also covered overcoming the test-taking heebie-jeebies, the perspectives of a freelance court reporter working in Penn­sylvania, the genesis of CART reporting in the city of Pittsburgh, and planning for success.

“The greatest value students receive from attending an NCRA mini convention is the ability to speak with working re­porters from all facets of our industry and to learn about the various options that they have in our field after they graduate,” says Steve Zinone, RPR, from Canandaigua, N.Y., NCRA’s current Secretary-Treasurer. Zinone was the keynote speaker at a June mini convention at Long Island Business Institute in New York.

“These events are also extremely important because the stu­dents hear firsthand how experienced reporters also struggled at times in school, especially with speedbuilding skills, and what tech­niques they utilized to conquer those learning plateaus,” he added.

During his address at the Long Island Business Institute, Zinone says he emphasized the history of court reporting, which dates back centuries to when the Roman philosopher and politician Cicero relied on Tiro as his scrivener. He also stressed that students and working reporters are each part of the profession’s evolution. Zinone said he also stressed the importance of mentoring.

“I am fortunate to have four mentors who I reach out to on a weekly and sometimes on a daily basis for advice and guidance. I encourage every court reporting student to have one, not only during school but throughout their professional career,” he says.

In addition, students at the Long Island event attended ses­sions that addressed developing dictionaries in realtime report­ing, overcoming test anxiety, getting ready to work, becoming realtime-ready, and top tips for becoming a broadcast captioner.

Like Weber, Zinone says he also took the opportunity to encourage students to begin networking while they are still in school, suggesting that they join their state and national asso­ciations and attend NCRA conventions to network with other professionals and have the chance to kick the tires on all the latest technologies that vendors showcase.

“I also encourage students that when someone says to them that they’ll be replaced by an audio or video recording device, to relay this message to them:

“During the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on our country, there were 36 million deaf Americans and double that number of hard-of-hearing Americans who relied on the closed captioning that was being provided by an amazing group of professional stenographic reporters, who worked hour after hour, day after day, during one of the worst times in our great nation’s history. Now, imagine yourself as being one of those deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, sitting in your apartment on the 45th floor, watching those terrible events unfold. Without the captioning, you would have thought the world was coming to an end — if not for those brave and heroic reporters providing that closed captioning, shedding tears just like all of us, as their hands moved swiftly and precisely over the keyboard that Ward Stone Ireland created for us to use in 1911, you would have been lost. We all have a skill that is truly a gift that cannot be replaced with a digital/video recording device. And if they don’t or can’t un­derstand that, remind them about 9/11.”


For more information about NCRA’s mini conventions, contact Lynette R. Eggers, NCRA’s Assistant Director of Educational Services at 800-272-6272 or 703-556-6272, ext.173.

Promoting realtime at the Court Technology Conference

NCRA has participated in all 13 of the National Center for State Courts’ Court Technology Conferences. This year, the event, which gives court and legal experts the opportunity to see and hear about the latest technology, was held in October 2013, in Baltimore, Md. NCRA partnered with YesLaw in a booth that explained to administrators, judges, and law experts the benefits of a court reporter providing a realtime record in court proceedings.

Nativa Wood, RDR, CMRS, chaired NCRA’s CTC Planning Committee, and worked with members Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CCP, Steve Zinone, RPR, and Bri­an Clune of YesLaw. They developed a brochure and other handouts about the benefits of realtime for CTC attendees to take and worked in the booth along with ­NCRA’s Executive Director and CEO Jim Cudahy, CAE, NCRF’s Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak, and NCRA’s Direc­tor of Membership and Marketing Sara L. Wood, CAE, to answer attendees’ ques­tions. Local reporters from Gore Brothers Reporting & Videoconferencing, Christine Gonzales, RPR, Linda Lindsey, and Susan Wootton, RPR, demonstrated realtime, and Stenograph donated a Disco Diaman­te for the occasion.

“The judges and administrators were in­credibly receptive and supportive of real­time reporting during CTC, and we were pleased to have a great team of reporters in Baltimore to speak about the benefits of realtime reporting,” says Wood.

NCRA plans on being at the next biannual Court Technology Conference event in 2015 to continue to showcase the value of the stenographic court reporter.

Court reporters are an important part of the equation

24-25Brian DiGiovanna, RPR, began his career as a freelance reporter in 1979. In the early 1980s, he joined the New York Supreme Court as an official court reporter and still holds that position. DiGiovanna also holds the position of president for the Association of Supreme Court Re­porters in New York City. He has been president for the past eight years and, in his role, represents 340 Supreme Court court reporters. In addition, Di­Giovanna regularly travels to Albany to meet with legislators to discuss issues that affect court reporters. DiGiovanna sits down with the JCR to tell us more about his role as president and what it takes to be successful in the courtroom.


As president, what are your main responsibilities?

My main responsibility is to repre­sent my members. Their jobs and their livelihoods are my main concerns. If problems arise involving the court re­porter, I try to resolve them. I negoti­ate contracts, represent people who get into trouble, and file complaints on the union’s behalf if administration breaks agreements. I also deal with benefits for members, negotiating new agreements and modifying old ones.

I am politically active. I go to Al­bany, New York’s capital, every two to three weeks during the session, attend­ing political events such as fundraisers and meeting with various legislators to discuss different issues that affect court reporters. One of the issues I am deal­ing with right now is limiting the use of electronic recording in lower court, keeping it out of Supreme Court, and working on an agreement with Chief Administrative Judge, Judge Prudenti. If we broker this deal, it will limit the use of ER in lower court and keep ER out of Supreme Court. One of the important as­pects of going to Albany is to develop re­lationships with the politicians. You cannot do this in one meeting; it takes time to de­velop.

What have been the challenges of your role?

In the beginning of my career as a union president, it was learning how to deal with all of the various issues that come your way. It takes about two years to become com­fortable in this role.

What you learn quickly is you cannot know everything. When you learn that it is okay not to know everything, and you rec­ognize the importance of reaching out for help and bringing in the people who can perform a certain role to get a job done, I believe you have reached the right aspect of the job. Giving credit where credit is due is very important. I do not care about getting the credit; I care about getting a job done.

What have been the rewards?

The reward is knowing that we work together, my officers and my executive board, to achieve our common goal: Keeping court reporters relevant in an ever-changing environment.

What does it mean to be successful in the courtroom?

Success in the courtroom has changed dramatically from when I first started in the late 1970s. One thing that remains the same is producing a good record, which, at the end of the day, is what people want.

The dramatic change is realtime and CART. When I first began to offer real­time, very few people were interested in providing it. Today, we are working on a program offering realtime to one judge in every courthouse in every borough with the city of New York for an 18-month pe­riod. We have three courthouses up and running, and we expect to have two more on board by the end of the summer. Re­altime is what needs to be done to ensure we have jobs in three, five, and 10 years. Change will always take place, and it is us, the court reporters, who can accept the ever-changing workplace and make the changes work for us.

Electronic recording, without trained operators, does a poor job in recording the testimony. Too many er­rors are produced as a result of no op­erators. But when operators are added to the cost equating, the costs increase and may make it less attractive to replace the stenographic court reporter.

Can you talk about how you went about setting up and running a very technologically advanced courtroom?

Creating the courtroom of the future in New York provided me with a way of speaking to the Bar and judges about why court reporters are an important part of the equation. Providing realtime enables the attorneys and the judges to see what was said without stopping the proceed­ings, which, at times, could be an issue for attorneys. Judges sometimes will not stop the proceedings to have something read back. But with realtime, it is right in front of them.

The set-up for the high-tech court­room is as simple as a projector and digi­tal document camera, such as the Wolfvi­sion units. The more sophisticated units have monitors at counsel table and in front of the jury, and the ability to plug your computer into the system to show evidence. The witness and the judge have monitors. The witness and counsel could have a touch screen with the ability to circle sections of information for visual display with different colors to differenti­ate between the speakers.

On cases where money can be spent on hiring companies to provide a digital presentation, companies such as Doar, Trial Graphics, and others, they will come in and work with you to create a presentation of your evidence from their computers, using colors, displays, larger fonts, and pull outs, which have been placed into software, allowing the dis­player the ability to focus on specific in­formation of a document, compare side-by-side documents, and so on.

How important are credentials and continued education in becoming successful?

Credentials are an essential part of our business. Credentials show that someone has achieved a minimum expertise. With each credential you get, you will want to achieve a higher standard and a greater expertise. Continued education allows you to learn new technologies and new ideas. It allows someone to talk about an idea that may go nowhere or grow to something that person never thought would have gone anywhere. It’s very im­portant to keep abreast of the field you work in.

What would be the best advice you could give a student who is about to enter the field?

Practice, practice, and practice more. It is a great job for those who have what it takes to get through school, make it through the couple of years it takes to get experience, and begin to get a good sense of what it takes to be a court reporter. It is not only making a record. It is also about learning technology, learning the software you use, and how to incorporate viewers of what you are writing, whether it is CART, captioning, or realtime.

What are the most important things a court reporter should know about work­ing with the courts and court adminis­trative staff when it comes to everyday dealings, as well as promoting the court reporting profession?

Working with the courts is a little differ­ent than freelancing. You have admin­istrators who do not care about court reporters; they care about running the system. You have bosses, if you are lucky, who are or were court reporters.

With that said, if you are in a loca­tion where all of your bosses have no idea what the job entails, it could make for a difficult job. It is unfortunate that many people think the job is easy, just sitting there and writing all day long, with few or no breaks, when, in fact, writing all day puts stress on your arms, neck, back, and hands. People need to understand that breaks are important to court reporters, just as they are to the court officers, court clerk, bailiff, and even the judge.

Where do you see the court report­ing profession going in the future? And what do reporters need to do to prepare for that?

As long as we, the court reporting profes­sion, continue to push to learn, whether it is CART, captioning, or realtime, we will have a profession. Administrators will look at the bottom line. It is up to us to show them that we add expertise and value to the bottom line. Providing realtime to a judge will make the judge want a court reporter and fight for a court reporter. If something new is not provided to judges, they may think ER is something new and better. And even though it may not be, not providing new technology – realtime – may be all that is necessary for a court to say, “Let’s try ER.” Take realtime courses, become realtime certified, and promote the profession.

Becoming a steno master

My work as a court reporting instructor inspires me to always be on the lookout for ways to reach students, to pro­mote steno skills, to motivate additional practice, to enhance a student’s under­standing of how to use steno, and to en­lighten a student with a brand new steno brief or bit of advice that helps to propel that student to the next level of steno skill. As I observe students learning to become court reporters, I often compare that pro­cess to other activities. After all, we’re learn­ing a skill, and certainly how we learn other skills can be applicable to learning steno.

It was through this observation and research into skill-building and learn­ing that I’ve discovered that the way one learns to play chess – a game that people play for years and years – is very applicable to learning steno. An individual who plays chess at a high enough level of skill that he or she can beat chess experts is known as a chess master. The United States Chess Federation, an organization that oversees chess games and championships, awards titles of National Master, Senior Master, and Life Master. Other chess organizations recognize such titles as Senior Internation­al Master and Grandmaster. Players attain these titles based on their performance rat­ing in tournaments and games.

We can compare these titles to the ac­knowledgement and certification awarded to members of NCRA who achieve ste­nowriting success. Do you recognize the accomplishments of the RPR as a National Master? The RMR as the Senior Master? Diplomate as the Life Master? And let’s face it, those speed champions we all know, ad­mire, and love are certainly worthy of the title Grandmaster.

Now, I cannot attest to know ex­actly how the steno masters of our world achieved their success, but I am very sure they practiced a lot and they know their theory rules. They have talent, and they possess perseverance and internal motiva­tion. If you will consider how the game of chess is learned and mastered and then ap­ply those strategies to your quest for skill and knowledge, you will become a steno master sooner than you anticipate.

Let’s consider how we learn gener­ally. Constructivism is a theory of learn­ing that asserts that a person constructs or builds knowledge based on his or her own understanding of the world through expe­riences and then thinking about and re­flecting on those experiences. As we think about things, we change or modify what we thought before, or we may even discard the old information to allow us to construct this new information or knowledge. Learn­ing is a combination of thinking and then remembering.

Consider how someone learns to play chess. It may appear that the game is just about moving pieces around the board. That’s not so different than moving the keys on the steno machine, is it? In both cases, there is a physical element to this skill building. Practice is certainly necessary. After all, you can’t get faster and better if you don’t practice both chess and/or steno, right?

There are specific, reliable rules that apply to playing chess. There are two play­ers who use a 64-square game board. Play­ers take turns playing. One player uses 16 white pieces; the other, 16 black pieces. There are six different kinds of pieces. Each player has one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. Each piece can be moved only in a particu­lar direction.

There are specific, reliable rules that apply to steno writing. There is one writer, one speaker at a time, one steno machine, a number bar, four vowel keys, and 20 conso­nant keys. The writer must depress the keys in very particular keystrokes.

That is the first thing about learning to play chess that is valuable to learning to write steno. You must think about the rules. You must know how to write something. You must eventually know how to write everything. Whether you are a new-to-steno student, a middle-of-program stu­dent, or an interning student getting ready to look for a job, you must think about steno and stenowriting rules. Think, reflect, and remember; that’s how you learn.

Knowledge of the rules, though, is not sufficient to become a chess or steno mas­ter. You must be able to execute the moves. Just as the chess master moves about the chess board, capturing his opponent’s piec­es, you need to move about the steno key­board and capture all the words you hear.

In a chess game, the board is laid out the same way every time. Our steno keyboard never changes. The keys we depress differs dependent on the words, but the keyboard is reliable in its design, just as the chess board is presented reliably each time two people sit down to play.

The player with the white pieces always makes the first move, and then the play­ers take alternating turns. The speaker or dictation always goes first, and the writer responds. We have the same kind of alter­native movement as the chess players. We hear words, and then we write them.

The chess pieces move in a predeter­mined fashion. Our steno outlines have been predetermined. We do have the lux­ury of creating new outlines for words, but those outlines rely on our rules and the construction of the keyboard.

The goal of chess is for one player to move his or her pieces so that the oppos­ing king is in a position to be captured and cannot escape. The goal of stenowriting is to move the keyboard so that all the words are captured and none have escaped.

There are a variety of strategies that chess players use to help them learn and master the game. A very popular strategy is to control the center of the chessboard. The center of the chessboard is the most active part of the board, and it allows a player the most opportunities to control the remainder of the board. For instance, a knight in the center of a chessboard can cover eight squares; the knight on the edge of the board has only four squares; and the knight in the corner has just two squares available to cover. Players are continually advised to develop their moves so that they will be able to control the center of the board. Losing control of the center of the board typically results in a restricted and cramped game, which leads to a short and failed game.

This particular strategy can be easily adopted by the steno student. Nearly all dictation exercises and tests are five min­utes in length. If we consider the center of our dictation minutes two, three, and four, we can approach our practice and test-taking in a new and deliberate fashion that enhances our ability to write and prepare the test transcript.

Begin the first minute knowing you have to concentrate on context and just writing as hard as you can. Push past those first-minute test jitters and settle into the dictation. You can enhance your first min­ute practice by practicing as many first minutes of different dictation pieces as you can. Set aside a certain amount of your reg­ular practice time each day to work on the first minute of something. This will expand your writing and everyday vocabulary. This will also assist you in getting the feel for a minute of good, solid writing. After writing for a minute, stop and examine your work. Rewrite errors. Consider what is being dis­cussed. Has a question revealed whether this take is a car accident or a divorce or a bankruptcy or a medical case? As you go into the center of that dictation, having gained some control and understanding of the topic, you are better prepared to control the center of the exercise.

It is in the middle that you can make an adjustment to writing if you need, per­haps using a brief. You know what is going on. You are used to the sound of the voices now. You are in a rhythm and writing well. That’s what the middle should be. You can use what you were introduced to in that first minute to help you feel secure and confident.

As you write into that fi­nal minute, just hang on. You know by now you are almost done. This is not the time to give up. You are familiar with the content and the speech patterns of the Q&A or the jury charge or the literary take. Trust yourself to finish every last word – and be sure to write the very last word.

Using this technique can boost your transcription of a test. Use every bit of the one hour and fifteen minutes you are allowed. Use what is in the middle of that tran­script to help you decipher any untranslated outlines. Look for words that were introduced in the beginning to be used again later. Make sure all names and dates and pronouns are consistent throughout the transcript. Maybe you misunderstood something or have a drop in the first minute, but the cor­rect or missing word is revealed in the mid­dle. Use the whole transcript to help you get the best test transcript possible.

And think! Think about what you are reading as you proofread. Does it make sense? Does it jive with what was in the beginning? Do you have a similar mistroke throughout? Ask yourself what it could be. Say it aloud. Reflect on what you heard. You were learning while you were writing – let that knowledge shine through that tran­script.

Chess players assign value points to their chess pieces. Known as the chess piece relative value, it assesses the strength of a piece and helps to determine how valuable a piece is strategically. Standard valuations are typically that the queen is worth nine points, the rook is worth five, the knight and bishop are each worth three points, and the pawn is worth one point. As players make moves throughout a game, they use this point system to help them determine whether it may be worthwhile to move one piece that may be sacrificed as the oppo­nent captures it in order to gain access to or use of another more valuable chess piece.

How can this chess playing strategy influ­ence stenowriting? If writers assign points to particular aspects of their writing, they can then make decisions about how best to progress through an exercise. Using a point system as part of a transcript review prac­tice will reveal how better to approach that exercise the next time. Here is a proposed set of values for the work of the stenowriter.

Pawns are worth only one point. They have the least amount of value in chess. Assign one point to the required or mandatory outlines of your theory. These are typically the homonym outlines or mandatory brief forms. They do ensure accurate translation, but a transcript can be deciphered and pro­duced well through editing and proofread­ing.

Knights have a value of three points each in chess, indicating they have a greater value than the pawns. Good editing and proofreading skills are essential to our suc­cess both as students and professional re­porters, and editing should be assigned a value of three points. Sadly, most students have had the unfortunate experience of failing a speed test because of an editing or proofreading error. We always want to avoid that, don’t we?

Bishops, worth three points in chess, are also the pieces that can move as far as possible in a diagonal fashion on the chess board. Bishops work well together in chess because they cover up other pieces’ weak­nesses. The asterisk is the keystroke that covers up the steno writer’s weaknesses. The asterisk indicates the writer is aware of context, speed, and theory, so the asterisk gets assigned three points.

Rooks, with their value of five points, are second in value only to the queen. The rook is moved about the chessboard as far as possible forward, backward, and to the sides. While it cannot move diagonally, rooks have a lot of power on the board and are especially powerful because they work well with other rooks in protecting the board and the king. Briefs save time and potential errors. Their use demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the writer’s theory and available brief forms. Briefs can also be created on the fly, advancing the writer’s speed and writing skill. Assign brief forms a point value of five.

The queen is the most valuable piece on the chess board. Accurate writing is the most important tool the stenowriter has. Whether writing with a lot of brief forms or not, accurate keystrokes are necessary for realtime writing. Do not ignore the fact that any writer’s dictionary is truly infinite in size, and an unlimited number of en­tries can be incorporated into a dictionary. Taking misstrokes – WEPBLT for WEPBT (went), for example – and turning them into outlines, in essence, makes an other­wise inaccurate writer an accurate writer. Accuracy is developed through countless hours of practice of good stroking tech­nique, review of transcribed words against dictation, and maintenance of one’s dic­tionary. Writers who track their rate of ac­curacy in practice will very often find that they have that same level of accuracy on a test. Accuracy is our most important steno tool at any time and should be awarded nine points.

How can we use this point system as a strategy for building skills? First, develop a plan for evaluating practice performance. You should use a chart or Excel spreadsheet to help you with this process. Create a table that includes a place to list your word-per-minute attempt, brief forms, and manda­tory outlines. Add words and outlines to this document as you review your work.

Assign each word of the exercise nine points. This gives us a very large total for any exercise. A 140 word-per-minute exer­cise has 700 words. Assigning each word a value of nine points, the exercise is worth 6,300 points. From that total accuracy point value, we are going to first subtract all of the mistroked, miswritten, and dropped words. This requires the writer to com­plete a writing exercise and then review the transcript against the dictation and with a keen eye on how the words and keystrokes were executed. If you dropped, mistroked, or miswrote 100 words in your 700-word exercise, you must now subtract 900 points from that total of 6,300. (Nine points per word, 9 x 100 = 900). You now have 5,400 points for your exercise.

Next, examine your work to determine how well you used your other writing tools. Review your steno and your transcript. If you had an error because you did not use a mandatory stroke correctly, subtract that from your current total. If, on the other hand, you used your mandatory strokes, add points for each of those words.

Look for your use of the asterisk. Did you use the asterisk? Lots of times, students will rewrite a mistroked word without us­ing the asterisk, thinking that they will real­ize what they did or they just didn’t strike the asterisk in time. If you have a place where you should have used the asterisk but did not, subtract three points each time. If you did use an asterisk to make a correction, add three points.

Search your steno for brief forms. Did you use as many as you could? For each brief form that you know, but did not ex­ecute, subtract five points. For each brief form you did use correctly, add five points.

After completing this thorough review of your work, determine how many points you have accumulated. Your point goal is to have at least nine points per word or more. You get more points by giving your­self credit for using brief forms, mandatory outlines, the asterisk, and so on.

If you are reviewing a transcript after a teacher’s assessment, examine it especially for any proofreading or editing errors. Keep track of those so that you can study them and avoid them in the future. Know where you utilized punctuation and word usage correctly so that you can reflect on that and repeat that in the future. As you review practice, award editing points for correct application of punctuation and deduct points for a lack of correct punctuation. The more you apply these editing features in your writing, the more you are enhancing your learning of these skills.

Before rewriting the exercise for further practice, modify your dictionary in any way you can to improve your translation on further writing of those words. Write the brief forms and phrases you used for reinforcement and the ones you know you should have used. Think about the theory rules that apply to everything you have written. Learn something from what you wrote. Think about the context. Be sure that you understand every word that was said and what the intent of the dialogue was. Construct some knowledge. Keep practicing until you have won the game. Work in small segments of the dictation, and apply the point system to that passage. Continually ask yourself if you have written that part in the best possible, most efficient, theory-based, stroke-minimizing way. If the answer is yes, then you just need to do it again and again until it is natural. Your writing skills will improve, and you will have enduring power to keep writing well.

Approaching a steno writing exercise like a chess game allows you to take on your opponent, the dictation, with a plan of attack and a strategy to win. Thinking about what you are doing and remembering how to do it builds knowledge that, in turn, allows you to build the skill to execute game-winning strokes.

There are three more keys to successful writing that we share with successful chess players.

Chess masters play a lot. They thing about their moves, they reflect on what they did that worked well, and they know which moves put them into a place to lose the game. Steno masters practice a lot. Steno masters write a lot, and they reflect on what they wrote – what was well written and what lacked accuracy and efficiency. The more you practice, the better you will be.

Chess masters study the game. There are lots of book available on chess, but steno writers don’t have to go anywhere to find a way to study. Review old theory les­sons. Review a section of your dictionary. Pick up any book or newspaper or maga­zine and look at those English words and think about the steno rules that apply to their correlated keystrokes.

Chess masters have fun. They don’t give up when they don’t win all the time. World chess champions have lost plenty of games. They just keep going. They rec­ognize their successes, and they play with the intent to have fun. Steno writers should have fun as well. Slow down the dictation if you need to so that you experience success. Increase the speed incrementally, moving up only when you know that your most re­cent speed was written with precision.

Approach your steno skill-building as if you were playing chess. Develop a desire to be a steno master. Build skill and knowl­edge each time you write. Review your work thoroughly and carefully, determin­ing what aspect of your steno skills needs attention at any particular time. Soon, you will be saying “checkmate” as you turn in your test transcript, knowing you were the champion of that round. From there, it is only a matter of time until you are sit­ting on a stage, competing for the title of World’s Fastest Court Reporter and being recognized as a steno grandmaster.


Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, is a freelance court reporter and a court reporting instructor. She can be reached at jen.krueger@tri-c.edu

You’ve got this!

34-35How many times had I heard “you’ve got this!” during the 13 attempts it took me to finally pass the California Certified Shorthand Reporter examination? Many on Facebook or On the Cheap and Sleazy Side, an online court reporting newsletter, read my narrative about my journey through court reporting school. For those of you who didn’t, I would like to inspire you to never give up on your dreams.

I started theory in 1984. I eventually had to quit day school. I found a full-time job, and I went to night school for about 10 years, during which I made no progress. Furthermore, I had some mean-spirited bosses whom I allowed to make my life miserable.

I had about four surgeries, which meant I had to take time off from school. As my grandmother aged, she became very ill, and my family and I spent many hours in the emergency room. I had several car problems and was involved in a couple of hit-and-run accidents. I was very close to my grandmother, who passed away, and later — around 2002 — both my mom and brother were diagnosed with cancer. My brother died in 2003. After my mom died in 2004, my husband, James, helped me go to day school full time. I will always remember what he said: “I want to make it so that the only thing you have to do is go to school.”

I did very well in day school. I main­tained a 4.0 GPA, I was the recipient of the 2004 Academic Excellence Award, and I was a member of the International Honor Society. I was on a mission. Just before I was eligible for qualifiers, my husband suffered a stroke, and later, he had to have a total hip replacement. James has recuperated, but he still has some health challenges.

I took my first CSR in 2008. I was excit­ed. Unfortunately, there were many more vicissitudes of life, but I believed if I wanted it badly enough, I must stick with it.


I cannot share my journey without giv­ing homage to God, who is always faith­ful. When my mother died, I asked God to help me draw close to Him.

I was devastated when I didn’t pass the 2008 California court reporting examina­tion, because I felt I needed to start paying off some of my debts. What was I going to do? A classmate invited me and other classmates over to her house. One of my classmates had just passed the CSR exami­nation. She introduced me to CART, and I fell in love with the idea of providing CART. From 2008 to 2012, I had a spir­itual awakening, so I leaned on my faith and drew closer to God. Learning about CART and my faith both spurred me on to continue taking the CSR.

My friends and instructors from Cer­ritos College and Downey Adult School and I were perplexed. I passed around 30 qualifiers at school, even as I continued to take and fail the state exam. I even received my 240 WPM pin. What’s up with that? As I prepared for each test, we were sure I would pass. Every time – from my first test to my sixth test and so on – I thought, surely this will be the test I pass.

Test takers are allowed to miss 50 words total. One year, I had 51 errors. I tried hypnosis DVDs. I prayed every morning, asking God to show me what I needed to do to pass my test. After test number 11, I was dumbfounded. Everyone told me I was probably nervous; however, I did not agree with that.

From 2009 to 2012, I worked as a CART provider, and I worked occasion­ally as a hearing reporter. Many people feel that CART hinders a student’s ability to pass the state examination. Perhaps that is true, but I know quite a few students who took the CSR and passed it the first time while working as a CART provider. I went to school more than I worked, and I was blessed to have a supportive husband. However, in my humble opinion, I believe stu­dents must do the fol­lowing if they have to work.

Either continue going to school or practice building speed on your own. Closing my eyes before practicing, I would visualize myself at the CSR. I would do a mock CSR, transcribe it, and correct it. I practiced the same steps as I would per­form in school. It’s imperative to tran­scribe. I cannot stress this enough. I always read my notes aloud.

While working, we become distracted and forget about those boring drills our instructors gave us to practice. Those bor­ing drills are what helped us get to the CSR in the first place. Therefore, do the bor­ing drills like you did when you were in school.


Each time I failed the CSR, I picked myself up and looked toward the future. Kathye Hall, one of my in­structors, used to en­courage us students to practice affirmations. I tried it a couple of times. After CSR number 11 or 12, I decided to revisit the affirma­tion thing again. Bingo! We love it when someone else gives us a compliment. I thought to myself: “Why wait for someone else to tell me what an awe­some court reporter I will be?”

I had to work very hard to cut off the chattering in my head while writ­ing on my machine. I learned to not create the chatter. That’s it. Don’t allow it to be­gin. As soon as those first words begin to form a sentence, I said “stop” or “no” and focused on the dictation and the words and looked directly at the speaker.

I also discovered that I would start cel­ebrating too soon, and then I would drop and ruin the entire test. “You’re getting this. Oh, my goodness, it looks like you might pass this one,” or “Oh, no, you hit the wrong key.” So instead, I learned to say to myself: “You can party after you pass the CSR.”

Margie Wakeman-Wells, CRI, gave me some valuable information when I reached out to her. She instructed me just before the November 2012 CSR exami­nation that, since I had the speed at this point, I should be making sure my fingers are going in the right places when I hit the keys. I believe this helped me to refocus my thinking while writing on my machine.

Everybody is different. I learned that it was better for me to keep to myself at the CSR. While repeating affirmations weeks before the examination, I would stand erect and confident in front of a mirror and say, “You will stay calm if you hit the incorrect key. You will not allow chatter to interfere with performing well, and you have the ability to pass the CSR exam.” I repeated my affirmations while standing in line waiting to go into the dictation room.

I had a wonderful support system: my husband, who said he knew it would eventually “click” for me, my family (my brother James went to Sacramento with me one time; he was amazed at what we went through), my friends, my instructors, and my classmates. My church family kept me motivated also. They had a prayer line going when I was scheduled to take the CSR. When I gave my testimony that I had finally passed the CSR exam on the thir­teenth time, the entire congregation stood on their feet with a thunderous applause.

During this entire time, I believed and never gave up faith that I would eventually pass the CSR.

Never, never give up on your dreams. God has a plan for you. You’ve got this!


Teresa Russ, CSR, is currently a CART provider at El Camino Community College and Long Beach City Col­lege in California. You can reach her at renee.russ@yahoo.com.

How reporters can support students and schools

Sometimes, court reporters and captioners ask me how they can best support court reporting programs and the students who will be the next generation in the field. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money or time to help out, as you can see by the ideas below. Try one or more and know that you are helping out the future of the profession.

  • Mentor a student. If you don’t live near a school, you can mentor a student from a distance.
  • Sponsor a student membership in a state or national court reporting asso­ciation, or sponsor a student to attend a local, state, or national convention. The excitement of knowing there are other people already practicing in the field can be an inspiration for students.
  • “Join” a class. If you are near a school, take your machine and practice with one of the upper level speed classes. Even better, start a practice group for students and dictate to them from the transcripts you’ve completed.
  • Bring a surprise to a class, whether it’s ice cream, tacos, or simply coffee – or something else you fancy. Everyone needs a little pick-me-up now and then, and it’s surprising how a little diversion or surprise can help keep students going in a pinch.
  • Donate to scholarships, whether through court reporting programs, state associations, the National Court Reporters Association, or the National Court Reporters Foundation. One of the biggest worries for students and new re­porters is money.
  • Look for a struggling student and see if you can help.
  • Support the teachers, too. Take them to lunch and find out what they need. It may be that the stack of steno paper you don’t use now that you’ve gone digital is desper­ately needed by the class. Or they might need help finding people willing to take on interns. Or they might want someone to give a demonstration of realtime.
  • Send the schools dictation. The number one thing that schools ask for is more dictation.
  • Stop by a class and talk about your ex­periences. Your experience as a court re­porter may be the very thing the students need to rediscover their motivation.
  • Be a part of the school’s mini conven­tion or career day for students.
  • Becoming involved with the up-and-com­ers in the profession will reap rewards for you and, more importantly, the students.


Glyn Poage, RDR, CRR, is an official court reporter from Helotes, Texas, and NCRA’s current Vice President. His email is poageg@yahoo.com.

In the spotlight: Dorothy Huffman

29-30-31_2Dorothy Huffman of Indianapolis, Ind., recently retired after nearly 70 years of active court report­ing. I had the chance to sit and talk with her about her career and her life away from the stenotype machine. When I grow up, I want to be Dorothy!


What made you decide to become a court reporter?

I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I was going to school in my hometown to be a teacher. I didn’t want to be a teacher. At the time, I had already taken a year of Gregg shorthand, which I didn’t like. I was good at it in the beginning, but then I realized that if I do too well, they’ll make me take another year, so I decided I wouldn’t try as hard. I took a year off from school to earn some money so that I could afford to go to school to study piano, and I needed to get a job. I was given an aptitude test that I ini­tially thought was all hype. On a steno key­board, we had to move our fingers across the top of the machine, then back across the bottom, and we had to write “you are” as fast as we could. Being a pianist, I was able to do well on this test. Even though I didn’t like Gregg shorthand, I thought this stenotype looked much more interesting, so I signed up.

Where did you attend school?

I attended Skadron Court Reporting School in Fort Wayne, Ind. The head teach­er believed that you should never have to learn things twice, so he taught us brief forms from the very beginning. As far as vowels, most teachers said, “Context will tell,” but my teacher gave us many exam­ples where context doesn’t tell, so he taught us long vowels from the beginning. One example where context won’t tell that I re­call is “I bet you” and “I beat you.”

I still have the steno machine that I learned on. It was a secretarial model that took smaller pads of papers. Mine was a demo, so it had the letters on the keys.

Tell us about the jobs you’ve held.

During World War II, I got a job on the lo­cal base as a stenographer. At that point, I was able to write well enough on the steno machine to do that kind of work. I worked for the aircraft engineering department where I would transcribe highly secret tel­ephone conversations that related to how to repair the military airplanes.

After the war, I went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a court reporter. I worked at the superintendent’s office in Fort Wayne. I reported the trials that dealt with infractions of conductors and engi­neers. It was wonderful training because I had to transcribe every single thing I wrote down.

Then I got married in 1942, and my husband and I moved to Indianapolis af­terward so that he could take a job as a horn player with the Indianapolis Sym­phony Orchestra.

29-30-31_3Did you continue working as a court reporter when you moved to Indian­apolis?

I wanted to take some time off from work because we had two small chil­dren. My husband and I bought a dou­ble home when we moved here (a semi-attached home). The day we moved in, I didn’t yet have a telephone, so I went to the home on the other side of the double to borrow their phone. I noticed pads of stenotype paper that people were using to make notes next to the telephone. My new neighbor was also a court reporter!

After the symphony season ended, I decided to take a night job to earn some extra money, so I started teaching steno at the Consolidated Business College. I taught my students as my teacher had taught me and gave them briefs from the start. One of my students became a court reporter and replaced me years later when I left circuit court.

You eventually went into the courts. Tell us about that.

I took a job in criminal court for two years, and then for 16 years, I was in superior and then circuit court with Judge Niblack. The court reporter’s job was a political appointment back then. I hadn’t yet voted, so there was no re­cord of whether I was a Democrat or Republican. Although I had to join the party in office, vote for that party, and be approved for the job by the party, Judge Niblack wanted somebody who could actually do the court reporting job and not just a political appointment. I always admired him for that.

After 16 years with Judge Niblack, I became a freelancer with Powell and Oakes in Indianapolis and eventually became independent and remained that way until earlier this year.

Would you tell us about switching to a CAT system?

I was the first person in Indiana who went on the computer. I still have one of the disks – it was 15 inches in diameter, a cou­ple inches thick, and it held just 100 pages. The computer itself was the size of a small refrigerator. I remember the first transcript I turned out with this wonderful computer. It was just 29 pages, and it took a very long time to get it right. One thing I remember is that the word “aggravation” was said several times in the tran­script, and each time it trans­lated as “ago gray vacation.”

How about the threats to steno reporting?

When tape recorders were in­troduced, we did have some worries. They tried to get Judge Niblack to put in tape recorders because they were supposed to be so much better, but he refused. He told them, “I’ll put my reporter up against your recorder any day.” Judge Niblack did more for court reporters locally than any­one else. In fact, he was the one who was instrumental in getting our pay raised to $200 a month.

What changes have you seen over the years?

When I became a reporter, it was a male profession. Because of World War II, there weren’t male reporters available, and so women started becoming reporters. There was also smoking everywhere – not just in depositions, but also in courtrooms.

Back before air conditioning, windows were left open all the time, and sometimes the windows at the top were left open over­night. The rain would come in, and things deteriorated. I came into my office one morning and the ceiling had fallen down on my couch. I’m glad it didn’t happen when I was sitting on it.

Do you have any funny stories from court?

This was an interesting way to get a recess: During trial once, a big rat fell down right next to me. A live rat. He was huge. The ceiling was 30 feet up. The fall didn’t kill him, but it did knock him senseless. I was happy that the judge took a recess after that happened.

29-30-31_4I see you have a couple of harpsichords in your living room. Is this one of your hobbies?

I have a harpsichord concert coming up in a couple of weeks. I have also played the organ, the piano, and the cello.

Any other hobbies?

I am leaving soon for a weeklong horse­back riding and camping trip in the Cana­dian Rockies. I will be riding with the Trail Riders, which is a group that has been in existence for 90 years. It started the same year I was born.

It sounds like you like to travel. Any other exciting travels you’d like to share with us?

Back when I was just 70 years old, I re­signed as organist from my church. They gave me a gift, and instead of putting it into my retirement account, I decided to use it to travel. I flew to Norway and went cross-country skiing for two weeks.

Did you say you were 70 years old when you did that?

Yes. Then later, after I had hip surgery, the doctors wanted me to rehab on a station­ary bike. I did that for a little while, but I didn’t want to sit at home and ride a bike, so instead I flew to Holland and rode a bike there for three weeks.

Tell me about your family.

I have two daughters, and they are both musicians. One lives in South Bend, and the other lives in Colorado. I have four grandchildren. They don’t live nearby, so I love to travel to see them. In fact, after the horseback riding trip next month, I will be driving to Portland, Ore., to see my grand­son. I love to drive.

How long have you been a member of the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association?

Ever since I got my first job with the courts. Way back then, some of us wanted to get certification, but we didn’t get much sup­port from other reporters because most of them were political appointees who could never have passed a test of any kind.

Can you believe we’re still dealing with that issue, trying to get mandatory certification in Indiana?

You’re going to make it someday.

We are all im­pressed by you, Dorothy, to have reported for so many years, all the way up to the age of 90.

I always told myself that I was going to report as long as my ears and my fingers and my brain still work. I reported my last job in Janu­ary, and I thought to myself: “You’d better stop while you’ve got a good reputation and be­fore you absolutely have to.”

29-30-31The photo of you from the 1960s, sitting at a typewriter with a pipe in your mouth, is so intriguing. Can you share the background story?

That was back when I worked for Judge Niblack. He had been a news­paper reporter, and he got more publicity than any­one else because he knew when to bring in the media. He might call up the paper during an interesting trial and say, “Come in at 10. We’ll have a witness that you may want to hear.”

The Surgeon General had just come out with the report that smoking cigarettes was bad for you, but pipes weren’t quite as bad for you, so I smoked a pipe for a while. It was great to be able to smoke my pipe at the typewriter and not worry about ashes falling onto the paper. Judge Niblack knew that it was a good story, so he called in the media. I’m not particularly proud that I smoked a pipe back then, but that picture went all over the United States.

(Dorothy played the harpsichord at the end of the interview. I was a concert pianist in college, and I will share with you that I was amazed at her skill. The instrument seemed to spring to life under her fingers, almost as if electricity were coursing through it. Truly amazing.)


Janine Ferren, RPR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Indianapolis, Ind., and is the treasurer of the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association. She can be reached at janine@ferrenfamily.com.

The lesson behind “You’re processing”

Years ago, I wrote about shifting a student’s thoughts about processing. The student went on to become a court reporter, and I wrote about her path again a few years later. Over the years, I have been contacted by students, reporters, and instructors to expand on the topic with my tutoring and coaching.

The sentence originated when I was teach­ing evening classes in the late 1980s. My stu­dents asked why they were not progressing in speed classes while putting in the hours, while enrolled in academics, while working full time, and while arriving after a long day for a four-hour evening. I saw their frus­tration as their expectations were not met. Students often “flew” through one speed to then “sit” in another. They were challenged by speedbuilding, by typing up tests, by aca­demics, and by nightly dictation.

My parents, both degreed instructors, always asked about my students. My father particularly enjoyed helping me with these challenges. He listened as a guidance coun­selor, social worker, and father.

“My students work so hard. Sometimes I think they’re working too hard. They be­come frustrated. Sometimes I think their frustration is part venting to progress,” I said one weekend.

Mr. Emmett, as my father was known to the reporting industry, replied, “The mind is like a sponge. The human mind has to take time to absorb the information. Tell your students that when you put a sponge into a glass filled with water, the sponge first ab­sorbs the water. This is a process. They came into the court reporting program with an empty slate, learned new skills, and learned thousands of new words with ‘steno lan­guage’. Now their brain, like that sponge in the glass with water, has to take time for the new information to be absorbed. If time is not taken for the absorption—or the pro­cess is interrupted—there is an overflow of water or a problem.

“I saw this when you were a student. You phoned from your dorm room, upset and frustrated. I listened, encouraged you to go back to work, and told you that it would come to you,” he continued. “Your students are learning a new language and new skills. When they fully process the information, they will progress. And it happens when a person least expects it. Yet the work has to be put in. Has to with court reporting skills.”

My parents talked about how very young children have a window of learning, and 4-year-olds are able to easily learn multi­ple languages with little effort. The window closes a few years later.

“Their sponge is filling their glass,” my dad continued. “They continue to learn but probably never at the same pace and with such ease. Kindergarten is the most chal­lenging year to teach.”

He offered me scientific and historical data that revealed how people develop ac­cents around the world—and also how chil­dren who were raised under harmful condi­tions may never have been taught to speak. “Windows close, and this is the same for all cultures,” he reinforced.

The conversation came back to my court reporting students. Mom and Dad discussed how people learn steno theory, progress through specific areas, and then perhaps park. “That is when they are processing in­formation. They have to process to move forward,” my dad said.

With my new understanding of sponges and windows, the next time I saw my stu­dents expressing their frustration, I said, “Your mind is like a brain. Your mind has to process information like a sponge in a glass of water. You’re not stuck. You are process­ing information. Once you fully process the information, you will progress.”

I was proud of myself until the class howled with laughter, “Your mind is like a brain? A brain? Oh, man, we’re going to put that on your tombstone. That was great!”

Maybe that was not my finest moment as a teacher, but each student “processed” that concept instantly.

That night and whenever I have had the opportunity to share this information after that first time, I have witnessed shifts in fo­cus.

Students saw the correlation and em­braced the lesson: “You are not stuck; you are processing.”

Perhaps the mind “is” like a brain with windows and opportunities as we then grad­uate, seek perfection in our writing transla­tion rates, and continue to advance our skills—always seeking accuracy, always progress­ing, always processing.

I wish each of you and your loved ones a grand Happy New Year and a “processing” 2014.