LAST LAUGH: Wacky witnesses


Follow the money
Q. And California Closet systems are specialized closet systems designed to fit a particular customer’s needs; isn’t that right?
A. That’s often true, yes.
Q. And they’re considered quite expensive?
A. It depends on who is paying for them.
Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

Who’s in charge
Q. Are you married?
A. Yes.
Q. And do you have to check with your wife on work travel to make sure it’s okay?
A. I have to check with my wife on everything. I am married. Thirty years, brother. I’m married.
Q. Ever been an occasion where she said do your work travel on a different date than you had proposed?
A. Not that I recall.
Q. But you would be considerate of her opinion on that and maybe change your travel if you needed to?
MS. JONES: Calls for speculation. Argumentative.
THE WITNESS: I am considerate of all her requests.
Susan H. Swan, RPR, CRR
San Diego, Calif.
Well, that clears that up!
THE CHECK INTERPRETER: Do you mean “or” or —
THE INTERPRETER: “And,” “and” or “or.”
THE INTERPRETER: Which he said “and.”
Your question was “and.”
Laurie Collins, RPR
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sixth sense
Q. Thank you. So the property slopes west to east, downhill, from the street down the driveway?
A. It slopes from the street down the driveway to the house, down to the arroyo, which to me, not being a geological guy, I’m not sure, but that seems like east to west.
Q. Yes. East to west. Thank you. I was in the Navy and actually drove an aircraft carrier all over the globe. You’d think I could get directions straight.
A. You may have had assistance.
Q. I did. It was computerized, fortunately. My apologies. East to west. Thank you.
MR. STEVENS: Oops. That wasn’t Iran. Oops.
Mary Seal, RDR, CRR
Albuquerque, N.M.

Foot in mouth
ATTORNEY: Your Honor, we don’t anticipate calling Greg Smith. I’m almost certain he’s dead. He would be over 90 years old if he were still alive today. There’s no evidence of him living in Lancaster County.
THE COURT: I have a 92 year old father who still serves as a federal judge.
Elizabeth V. Kedrick, RPR
Honesdale, Pa.

Soup to nuts
Q. Did anyone from the company, Adam, Thomas, Matt, Chris, John, anybody, Larry, Curly, or Moe, anybody tell you this check is for the loss of use of the property?
A. I think I heard it first from Curly. But Moe and Larry knew too.
MR. SMITH: You walked right into that one.
Diana L. Netherton, RPR
Lancaster, Pa.

What’s the word?
Q. So as you sit here right now, other than knowing that Ms. Rose is bringing this claim because she contends that she tripped there, you don’t have any personal knowledge regarding what actually occurred; is that a fair statement?
A. I did not see the incident occur.
Q. Is that a fair statement?
A. Is my statement a fair statement? Yes.
Q. No. Is my statement a fair statement?
A. And your statement was again?
Melanie Wustrau, RMR, CRR
Jensen Beach, Fla.

Dead men don’t talk
A. The primary investigator is going to, nine times out of ten, go to the scene and let somebody else get the information from the deceased party at the hospital.
A. So we always want to get information from them just to make sure they didn’t see anything, maybe, that somebody else didn’t see.
Denyce Sanders, RDR, CRR
Houston, Texas

Stop horsing around
Q. And why do you do that? Just curious.
A. Part of it is letting people get to know their horse. A lot of times when a wrangler comes in, they’re going to try out a couple of different horses and pick the horse that best matches them. The one they liked, the one they can do their job best off of. So when we go on these wrangler rides where we’re doing different training or just kind of going out, we’re getting to — the riders are getting to know the horse, the horse is getting to know the rider and — you know, because they’re going to be spending a lot of time together, so they need to get to know each other in any situation, whether it be walking, running, trotting, going up hills, down hills, through creeks, whatever.
THE REPORTER: Slow down.
MR. BRADFORD: You were starting to gallop.
THE WITNESS: Yeah, I was starting to gallop.
MR. BOSCH: Wasn’t quite as rhythmic, but yeah.
Emily K. Niles, RMR, CRR
Bozeman, Mont.


If you’d like to contribute, send your funny transcript excerpts to JCR Editor Jacqueline Schmidt at

What about captioning? How to prep for captioning jobs

If preparation is key to building great realtime, how does a captioner provide great captions without much information?

By Megan Rogers

Prepping for a captioning job – whether CART or broadcast – come down primarily to content, which further comes down to proper nouns and general background knowledge. Mark Smith, RPR, a broadcast captioner from Baton Rouge, La., points out: “We as captioners are creating that transcript on the fly to the best of our ability, and I think the only way to ensure we can do that is to thoroughly prep for each individual job.” He continues: “If crucial information in the form of names was paraphrased or omitted, it isn’t necessarily going to show up in the accuracy percentage; it’s simply going to be lost on the viewer. So I think captioners basically have to police themselves in this regard, since for a live event, there is no ultimate, verbatim transcript floating around out there and no real way to quantify the presence or absence of content without such a transcript.”

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to gather the necessary content prior to a captioning job. “The type of prep I do depends on the type of job. For instance, if it is a business meeting/teleconference, the prep is mainly from the consumer and consists of names of participants, who is leading the meeting, and perhaps a list of words that will be used. It is also important to have the title of the meeting. If the job is a class, I will look at the syllabus, go online, and see if there are any class notes. (That is assuming I have the privilege of going onto their online class Blackboard type system.) If it is a conference, I will go and get the program online, get the abstract for my particular sessions, get the bios of speakers, look all over the website for sponsor names, Board members’ names, keynote speakers’ names, etc. If I am captioning an entertainer, I will Google them and watch video clips in order to get a sense of their show and their cadence,” says Patricia Graves, RDR, CRR, CCP, a CART captioner from Monument, Colo.

For jobs like talk shows or sports broadcasts, after gathering proper nouns, the best method of prepping involves doing some background research. “A celebrity is usually on a talk show to promote their latest movie or some other endeavor. Be sure to also research the celebrity’s past movies/TV shows, spouse(s), children, or any other current events surrounding that celebrity,” says Darlene Parker, RPR, a broadcast captioner from Reston, Va. “With professional and college sporting events, captioners are usually on their own. Once the captioner has the names of the teams, s/he can find the rosters online. As with celebrities, it’s important to be up on the latest news surrounding the players and teams. Is the team headed to the playoffs? Is there a controversy surrounding the team or a particular player?”

“Visit relevant websites and use search engines. If an initial search doesn’t turn up anything, keep trying with other search terms,” recommends Smith. “Something like a sports roster tends to be readily available and usually in one place, but information for a local newscast can be a tougher job, since names are spread across many different stories on the website.”

However, Parker points out that captioners have a legal right to get content ahead of time from the content providers. “Local news stations have an Electronic News Production system, which contains the rundown and most scripts of the upcoming newscast. Although some stations are reluctant to grant the captioner access, it is important to make a case to the station that the captioner can only provide the best captions possible if he or she is allowed access to the rundown and scripts. Be sure to explain that providing access is the only way the captioner can program his or her dictionary in order to be sure all proper nouns or unusual terminology is spelled correctly. It’s also important to emphasize that access should be ‘read only.’ We don’t want to accidentally change or delete a script. This will hopefully ease any anxiety that they station may have,” Parker adds. “If stations or content providers are still reluctant to provide prep, you can gently draw their attention the FCC order of March 2015 stating that prep should be provided when possible.”

Once all the proper nouns and background information is gathered, both Smith and Graves recommend having the necessary notes at hand. “It may be useful to have a physical printout of the names in case there isn’t enough space on the computer screen, particularly if there are many different names involved in the job,” says Smith.

“I print the materials in a font that is easy to see when I am writing,” says Graves. “I go through the printed materials and the online materials and I like to make lists of words and names based on the printed materials or online materials. I like to alphabetize those lists and I put my steno next to the names and can quickly refer to that on the fly. I also write the steno on my printed materials for quick reference. When writing, I have all these papers within eyes’ or hands’ reach!”

Even with all this content prepping, be prepared to make any necessary adjustments during the job itself. “I have also had the experience of entering an unusual or foreign name into my dictionary only to have it come up in the show and realize it was being pronounced very differently than I had entered it according to my steno theory. Since it may be difficult to determine how these names are pronounced beforehand, fingerspelling may be a useful alternative in these cases, instead of hoping to remember on the fly the exact steno you used to enter it,” says Smith.

Of course, the next step of prepping is making sure the content will get to the viewer. The other piece to prepping for a captioning job is making sure the hardware and software are ready to go. “For each and every show, it’s very important to test the connection between the writer and CAT software and also between the CAT software and caption delivery program, if applicable, to ensure captions are flowing. Also, make sure all of the dictionary prep work you do counts by enabling whatever dictionaries are applicable to the show. The last thing that needs to happen is forgetting to enable the dictionary you just spent significant amounts of effort creating,” says Smith.

Parker also points out that it’s important to perform regular dictionary maintenance. “Clean out old briefs. Do not get burned by using the same brief form for two different people – and forget which one is in your top dictionary, which is the one that will translate,” she says.

“Of course, the biggest and most important factor is the decision to do the prep in the first place,” says Smith. Graves confirms this: “Prepping also takes away a degree of anxiety.” After all, the point of prepping – gathering proper nouns, being familiar with background knowledge, and testing the technology – is ensuring that the captioner is able to perform as a top-notch professional.

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

Start making your plans to celebrate CR&CW 2016

Court reporters, broadcast and CART captioners, and court reporting schools around the country are urged to start making plans now to celebrate the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week scheduled for Feb. 14–20. In the past, celebrations to mark the week-long event have ranged from securing official proclamations recognizing the occasion to hosting open houses and Veterans History Project Days, and reaching out to media, as members of the profession band together to help promote this unique and rewarding career.

The 2016 event marks the fourth year NCRA has sponsored the celebration, and as always, the association’s government relations team will ask national lawmakers to recognize the profession with an official proclamation to be presented on the Congressional floor.

“Court Reporting & Captioning Week is the perfect platform for NCRA members and supporters of the court reporting and captioning professions to spotlight for the public the importance of what they do to capture and preserve the written record, as well as serve others,” said NCRA CEO and Executive Director Mike Nelson, CAE. “The week is also the perfect time for schools and professionals to join together to promote this wonderfully unique career to students seeking a rewarding and worthwhile career choice. I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to inspire a student to explore this profession as part of the celebration.”

One of the easiest ways to celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week is to simply change your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profile picture to the event’s official logo. The logo can be downloaded from the page. Social media is also a great place to promote the profession by sharing what makes court reporting such a unique and exciting career. Tips for messages to share on social media are also available at the event’s Web page.

Other ideas include:


  • Connect with local high schools in your area and offer to exhibit at one of their career days. Offer to make a presentation about the court reporting profession to high school students following business tracks.
  • Welcome back alumni to visit with students and to provide real-life insight into the profession.
  • Host an open house and family day for the public and members of the media to learn more about the exciting career of court reporting. Include demonstrations, raffles, food, and texting versus steno writing contests.
  • Host a potluck luncheon and invite students, working court reporters, family, friends, attorneys, and judges to swap stories and ideas in a casual setting.
  • Create “spirit ribbons” for students and faculty to wear throughout the week to increase awareness about court reporting as a career.
  • Host an event that includes members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities as well as the general public and high school students, teachers, and school counselors, and provide demonstrations of broadcast and CART captioning.


  • Offer court reporting students in your area an opportunity to shadow your working court reporters and captioners for a day. Hands-on learning opportunities are always welcomed by students.
  • Host an open house at your firm and invite high school students as well as judges and attorneys you regularly work with to help increase awareness of the important role court reporters have in preserving the record.
  • Reach out to court reporting schools and offer to host a live Web or Twitter chat with students. This is a great opportunity for students to ask questions about their future careers.
  • Offer to caption an event or meeting in your community free of charge. Churches, local theaters, and even schools make great venues for this activity.
  • Encourage your court reporters to volunteer for NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program. More information can be found at

State associations

  • Reach out to your state and federal lawmakers and urge them to help celebrate by officially proclaiming Court Reporting & Captioning Week.
  • Offer to host an event at a court reporting school in your area where students and the public can help raise awareness of the important role keepers of the record play in preserving vital information.
  • Reach out to law schools or your state bar association and ask them to help celebrate the week.

Official court reporters

  • Encourage your judges to officially proclaim the week, or submit an editorial to the local media about the important role court reporters play in the judicial process.
  • Offer to provide an oral history interview and final transcript to an older judge or attorney within your legal area.
  • Offer to provide attorneys you work with a demonstration of realtime if they are not already requesting it.

Freelancers, captioners, and other individuals

  • Reach out to local libraries and offer to decorate a display case or other area with information about the court reporting profession.
  • Consider becoming a mentor to a court reporting student through NCRA’s Virtual Mentor Program. More information can be found at org/vmp.
  • Write a weeklong blog that highlights your daily work and lets readers know how much you love your profession.

For more information about how you can celebrate 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, or to find the latest in resources, including press release templates, media pitches, presentations, and more, please visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page on located in the Resource Center on, or contact the NCRA communications team at And don’t forget to share with NCRA what you plan to do to celebrate. Send information about activities to



SPEEDBUILDING: Getting motivated

By Sarah E. Vestrat

Like running a marathon, speedbuilding requires a fiercely determined attitude that can only be accessed beneath our sometimes whimsical desires for pleasure and accomplishment. Pushing to the next speed level demands strength, drive, tenacity, and courage – those character traits that can make us uncomfortable, yet focused and forceful. Those traits emerge when we have a goal that we feel is really worthwhile, and when we find that goal, we can find motivation.

As students, you must find this motivation to succeed within yourself. And you cannot do that unless you have first considered other options and goals, weighed the pros and cons, and have decided that for many reasons court reporting and/or captioning is the career you want to pursue. These reasons are your reasons. No one else can make you want to reach your goal badly enough to make sacrifices and to discipline yourself to achieve it. So when you feel your ambition draining, review the reasons why you are in court reporting school. Consider writing down your reasons and putting this list in a prominent place where you will see it and can read it every day to give yourself a motivational boost. It is nice to have others encourage you, but do not rely on others to give you your motivation. Only you can do that.

Visit working reporters

Visit the professionals in the field. Freelancers, officials, and captioners will each have their own unique perspective and advice to offer you. Observe them as they work, if possible. Ask them about their job, what they like and what they do not like about it. Learn all you can about the day-to-day duties of the profession. This will help you to affirm your reasons and decision for pursuing this career and can help you to develop a strong commitment to your goal. And the more professional contacts you make, the easier it will be to see yourself as a working reporter and feel that you, too, are a member of the court reporting community.

Remember the great things about being a court reporter or captioner

  1. Many job opportunities. You can enjoy the flexible hours of being a freelance court reporter. You could even own your own court reporting firm. Or you can become a broadcast captioner and work for a captioning company. Or you can have the stability of being an official court reporter and working in court. You could also provide CART for the deaf or the hearing-impaired. Court reporters are also needed to report meetings for state and national conventions. Congressional reporting is yet another field a student may pursue. You could even consider teaching court reporting.
  2. The money. Most court reporters are well paid and can increase their salaries by gaining further certification and by taking more jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings for a court reporter were $49,860 in May of 2014. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $94,140 in 2014. Some court reporters make over $100,000 per year. Check for their latest update on earnings.
  3. Interesting work. Reporting for depositions, court, education, meetings, or broadcasting involves a wide variety of subject matter. You will meet many people in different occupations and situations. You will learn a great deal from this exposure.
  4. Comfortable working conditions. You can make your workspace as enjoyable as you desire if you freelance or become a broadcast captioner and work at home. If you report depositions, they are usually conducted in pleasant surroundings at the attorney’s office or the office of the witness. Official court reporters have their own private offices at the courthouse. CART providers work in various locations, such as classrooms, meeting halls, courtrooms, and businesses. You will work with other professionals, many of whom are at the top of their fields.
  5. Respect from others. The court reporting and captioning field is well-respected. People are fascinated by the job and will inquire about the details of what you do. “Certified Shorthand Reporter,” “Registered Professional Reporter,” and all of the other specialty certifications reporters can acquire take tremendous effort and skill to attain, which makes the reporting field a unique and respected niche.
  6. Self-respect. Your desire to improve your life and achieve your goal can

help to bolster your self-esteem and self-respect. A worthy achievement is a source of pride.

Making up your mind

Review often the reasons that have made you decide to pursue this career and add to those reasons whenever you can. When you fully understand this profession and what it takes to succeed in school, and when you have truly made up your mind that this is what you want — to become a court reporter or captioner — you have already taken some very crucial steps towards reaching your goal. Hard work, perseverance, self-discipline – and motivation — can then follow.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” — Abraham Lincoln

Sarah E. Vestrat is  the author of Student Guide to Success in Court Reporting School published by Avitus Press. She lives in Broken Arrow, Okla, and can be contacted at Portions of this article were excerpted from the book, Student Guide to Success in Court Reporting School, by Sarah E. Vestrat.



Currently resides in: Darien, Ill.

Position: Freelancer

Member since: 1994

Graduated from: MacCormac Jr. College

Theory: It’s been so long I don’t remember.


Favorite brief:

Superintendent – supt

This is the very first brief I learned in high school. Whenever it comes up, I am immediately back in my high school classroom.

What advice or tips would you offer to new reporters?

Be on time to your assignment and in turning in your transcripts. And communicate; no one can read your mind.

Why did you decide to become a court reporter?

I realized I really like working with my hands.

How did you learn about the career?

I went to a vocational high school and machine steno was my major.

What surprised you about your career and why?

My longevity and the technological changes. After 40-plus years, starting with typewriters and carbon paper to computers and realtime, I have managed to stay in and abreast of the profession, I have amazed myself that after all these years and changes, I still love court reporting and still looking forward to the future.

Do you have a favorite gadget? If so, what it is, and why do you like it?

I have two, my writer and laptop. From where I started out these two now have so many aspects to them, they seem like that great toy you get at Christmas you can’t wait to play with instead of something for work.

What book are you reading right now?

Fifty Shades of Grey. I wanted to read before it came to the theater. I haven’t finished the book and haven’t seen the movie. I’m really more of a magazine reader; I have about fourteen subscriptions.