NCRA member captions Stanley Cup finals

A press release issued June 2 announced that NCRA member Constance Lee, RPR, a freelance reporter from Pittsburgh, Pa., provided closed captioning for game one of the Stanley Cup finals in which the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks.

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Captioning the Super Bowl

Photo by: Steve Jurvetson

For most people, the only stress associated with the Super Bowl is whether their team wins or loses. However, for Paula Arispe, RPR, Octavia Brandenburg, and Stefani Tkacs – all captioners with the National Captioning Institute – the Super Bowl provided them an opportunity to showcase their captioning skills.

“Despite the anxiety of knowing that it’s a huge event and that everything needs to go as perfectly as possible, both connection-wise and in translation, it’s very exciting and an honor to caption such a high-profile event,” said Brandenburg, a sentiment that Arispe and Tkacs shared. The three captioners researched the team rosters ahead of time, along with names of coaches, announcers, etc. They also received prep work from CBS.

“We were given a rundown of each show that was going to be that day. We didn’t know who was going to be interviewed during the shows, so it was pretty much on the fly. And they were jumping around to a bunch of different announcers that we normally don’t have so that was a little nerve racking at first until you figured out who they were,” said Arispe. She and Tkacs traded one- to two-hour shifts captioning the pre-game material into the beginning of the game, covering eight hours of programming altogether. Brandenburg then took over for the remainder of the game through the end of the postgame show.

Arispe also recognized the technical support that the captioners received. “Our organization for the whole day could not have been made smoother if it wasn’t for the hard work of all our engineers involved. The encoders were different for a few of the shows, and we only had a couple of minutes to disconnect from one to connect to the other,” she said.

All three captioners have had experience covering football games and talk shows – this was Brandenburg’s fourth time captioning the Super Bowl – so they were familiar with many of the names, the terminology, and the issues that come up in commentary. They also all have experience captioning other sporting events as well as other high-profile events.

“I have had the privilege of captioning March Madness, and I will tell you that is so much harder because you have to have all the teams in that are part of it,” said Arispe (she also was one of the captioners who covered Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.).

“I used to caption the pay-per-view wrestling main event shows, but it’s not as widely viewed as the Super Bowl. However, the pay-per-views were commercial-free and the Super Bowl day had commercials. That’s a much-needed break. For the commercial-free pay-per-view, we would write for 15-20 minutes and switch off,” said Tkacs.

“I’ve done NCAA championships, both football and basketball, Academy Awards-related programming, and nationally televised fundraising shows, such as Stand Up To Cancer. I feel like awards shows require more tedious prep because they’re obviously more scripted and names of all nominees and movies have to be captioned (not to mention fashion designers),” said Brandenburg.

But captioning the Super Bowl isn’t all work – it’s a fun and rewarding assignment too.

“Football is my favorite sport, so I was super excited that I could be part of the Super Bowl and able to make sure that everyone else had the opportunity to enjoy it as well,” said Arispe. “Oh, and captioning Lady Gaga’s rendition of our National Anthem was pretty cool as well!”

“My favorite thing about captioning the Super Bowl is to be able to watch it (since I’m a big sports fan) while also hopefully contributing to its enjoyable viewing by the audience who is hard of hearing and also those who watch in public venues,” said Brandenburg.

“I doubt anyone would ever imagine captions for the Super Bowl event takes place in Dallas, Texas, when the show is in Santa Clara, California. That is pretty remarkable,” said Tkacs. “Although it was high pressure and nerve-racking, I had a great time captioning the Super Bowl, and my family and friends are always in awe of what I do.”

Stenographer captures hearts of players and America during NCAA tournament

ESPNW.Today posted an interview on March 27 with NCRA member Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a broadcast captioner from La Mesa, Calif. Christy became an overnight viral sensation last week during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament she was covering, thanks to the curiosity of Nigel Hayes and a couple of other Wisconsin men’s basketball players who thrust her and her profession into the national spotlight.

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NCRA member wows collegiate basketball players with her stenography skills

Court reporters and broadcast and CART captioners are used to working behind-the-scenes, but last weekend, an unexpected spotlight shined on NCRA member Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CBC, CCP, while she was captioning the March 22 NCAA March Madness basketball game between Wisconsin and Oregon.

During the post-game press conference, three Wisconsin players — Nigel Hayes, Frank Kaminsky, and Sam Dekker — were curious about the stenographer. “One of the folks in the interview room noticed how curious they appeared to be,” said Christy, “and asked if I would mind showing them how it worked.” Christy was focused on writing the press conference and was surprised when they came, as she put it, “running out full speed to check it out.”

The ESPN Men’s College Basketball Blog posted a story with a video about the encounter, and their fascination is clear. “They were inquisitive, excited to see how it worked, and it was refreshing to see that kind of excitement over what I do,” said Christy. “They loved it when they saw their name on my LCD screen, and they were ecstatic when Sam Dekker pushed the –LD and the word ‘would’ came up on the screen.” During the rest of the press conference, the players, Hayes in particular, began using words like cattywampus, onomatopoeia, and antidisestablishmentarianism to keep Christy on her toes.

The encounter won the hearts of basketball fans and went viral on social media, with more than a dozen media outlets and blogs picking up the story. On Twitter in particular, fans shared the story, with comments like “The best March Madness subplot, by far, is the Wisco obsession with stenographers” and “OK, now I’m fascinated by how stenography works. Thanks a lot, #Badgers,” and turned #cattywampus into a hashtag.

Christy said the best thing about the encounter was the surprise opportunity to share her profession with young people. “As a former athlete and the mom of two collegiate swimmers, I like when people get to see how articulate and intelligent and thought-provoking our young student-athletes can be,” she said, adding that she’s also involved in NCRA’s mentorship program. “I have been writing since 1988, and working at ASAP Sports has been so wonderful for me, because I get to write about what I know and love, and I get the opportunity to meet wonderful people like Nigel, Sam, and Frank along the way.”

Christy said that Hayes came up to her one last time just before the Wisconsin team left and gave her a hug. “I thanked him for shining a light on our profession, something not many people know or understand,” Christy said.

Here is a list of the media outlets that covered the story:

Nigel Hayes and his Wisconsin teammates are fascinated by the NCAA stenographer

According to a March 21 post on ESPN’s Men’s College Basketball Blog, three Wisconsin Badgers players discovered the NCAA captioner—NCRA member Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CBC, CCP—during a post-game news conference. The blog post includes a video clip of Christy’s impromptu steno demonstration for the players, which the Wisconsin Badgers also shared on Twitter. The story was picked up by dozens of other media outlets and blogs, including MSN.com; Time; Yahoo Sports; SB Nation; Fox 5 – KVVU (Las Vegas); channel3000.com (Wis.); the New York Post; Deadspin; and FanSided.

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CART-Wise: A different sort of court reporting

Linda ChristensenWe court reporters all understand the traditional Labels of reporting (freelance, official, captioning, CART). As I enter my 30th year in the court reporting business this October, my résumé reflects the good fortune of holding various titles: freelance reporter, official reporter, CART provider, transcriber, stenographer, mentor, teacher, and trainer. I continue my love affair with this strange little machine, which captured my attention and my heart three decades ago.

In 2005, I was wooed by the opportunity to hold yet another moniker: sports reporter. I am still technically a court reporter, but I am speaking of a totally different type of court — a court with a net, a racquet, a fuzzy yellow ball, two players competing against each other, and a mysterious method of score-keeping.

Over half of my year is now spent traveling the world with professional tennis players. Instead of sitting in a courtroom or deposition conference room, writing hundreds of pages of testimony (what I call the marathon type of reporting), I sit in interview rooms around the world at tennis tournaments writing sprint testimony. Questions and answers in my reporting world are between the international journalists — think of them as the attorneys — and the top tennis players in the world — the witnesses.

The expert testimony I hear, write, and transcribe these days involves jargon related to a tiebreak in the third set; a serve up the T; playing surfaces, such as Rebound Ace, clay, grass, indoor hard, Har-Tru, and “la terre battue”; or string tightness of kevlar, polyester, or synthetic gut.

In a profession that has been threatened from its inception by electronic recording, video, and, most recently, speech-recognition software, I’ve always giggled over the improbability of a computer understanding a Vietnamese or East Indian neurologist describing medical procedures at 200 wpm. My same (sometimes smug) philosophy for defending job security holds true as a sports reporter. I wonder how translation software would handle spitting out English words while a Spaniard from the island of Mallorca is talking about winning La Coupe des Mousquetaires at the French Open, reciting, at break-neck pace, his set-by-set scores, and admitting at one point he had his “doobits” [doubts], even though he was playing on his favorite “soyr-fraz” [surface].

Tennis players often want to acknowledge coaches and trainers, naming the villages they are from in Serbia or somewhere in the Pyrenees. (Oh, and was that player’s French tennis club membership in Colomiers or Coulommiers?) “Hey, Mr. Computer Software, let’s see how the journalists enjoy your accuracy on that spelling dilemma.”

Here’s how my court reporting works. After a player completes his or her match, the press corps almost always want to speak with him or her. Questions range from game-plan tactics, rankings, recent injuries, and, of course, some gossip.

I write the interview wirelessly to either my or a colleague’s computer. At the Slams and various other Masters 1000 and Premier tournaments, we work in pairs or trios. With other, smaller tournaments, I work solo.

Following the press conference, a nifty little transcript is produced, and by the time the journalists return to their tiny cubicles in the press room — Voila! — there is the expected transcript in their inbox. From there, the journalist can write a piece for his or her newspaper or magazine or perhaps use the transcript in his or her role as a commentator for tomorrow’s next-round match. Journalists are assured, because of our presence in the press conference, that the player quotes will be written verbatim. It also reassures the journalists that they do not have to tape record the interview or hunt and peck around their own laptops and produce, in quadruple the time, some written product to meet their newspaper’s or agency’s deadline.

Do I love my job? Absolutely. My motto: “Do what you love and love what you do.” As I write this, I am sitting at Roland Garros — my sixth French Open and my 11th trip to Paris. How could I not love my job?

From this tournament, I take the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to London for the Queen’s Tournament, continuing on to Eastbourne in the south of England for another grass-court tournament, and finishing up my European tour at Wimbledon — or as we court reporters call it, Wim or Wimby. This is an annual adventure for me — seven weeks in Europe as a court reporter.

As silly as it sounds, I would perhaps like to add yet another title to my résumé: court reporting cheerleader. We all know how bemused juries and witnesses become during trials while watching our hands fly around a perplexing-looking machine with a few keys. Imagine how people from around the world react when they observe our process. Whether court reporter or “court” reporter, we remain a profession surrounded by mystique and intrigue.

My love affair with this funny little machine remains as fresh as it was 30 years ago.