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  • 15 May 2023 6:11 AM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    At the board meeting on May 13, 2023, the VCRA Board of Directors voted to appoint Stephanie Barnes to an open director slot on the board. She will serve the remainder of the term as a director pro tempore.  This gives us the maximum six directors, allowing us to better serve our members.

    My name is Stephanie Barnes. I have been a freelance reporter in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area for about six years now. I have done everything from depositions, Senate Committee hearings, trials, arbitrations, and school board meetings. I also have experience working for InnoCaption as a captioner. So far, I would say captioning was immensely rewarding, especially as I captioned during the height of COVID, and in my own way, helped many stay connected. My passion, though, is depositions.

    Since being a freelance reporter, I have had two amazing children, who are now one and three. Freelance has allowed me the opportunity to both pursue my passion and raise my small babies, which I am eternally grateful for.

    I look forward to serving on the board and bringing whatever expertise and assistance is needed. This career holds a special spot in my heart, and I look forward to promoting the profession in any way I can.

  • 3 May 2023 8:30 AM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    At the board meeting on April 29, 2023, the VCRA Board of Directors voted to appoint MaryTheresa Ferris, RPR, to an open director slot on the board.  She will serve the remainder of the term as a director pro tempore.

    MaryTheresa “Terri” Ferris, RPR (Roanoke, Virginia)

    I have been a freelance reporter for almost 40 years, most of that time in Roanoke, Virginia, and the surrounding area.  I graduated from Youngstown State University’s court/conference reporting program with an associate degree.   I then started my reporting career in Akron, Ohio before marrying my husband Ray and moving to Roanoke.

    I have loved being a freelance reporter, as it has enabled me to work and raise my family with the freedom of setting my own schedule.

    I look forward to serving on the VCRA board and getting involved in helping promote and encourage others to join this very rewarding profession. 

    In my spare time I like to read and travel.  I especially enjoy entertaining and spending time with my family and friends.

  • 20 Apr 2023 1:27 PM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    What comes to mind when you read the title of my first President’s Message?  Artificial intelligence and digital recorders replacing stenographers? 

    Have you heard the news that the Stenograph MaxScribe product can now realtime?  MaxScribe is Stenograph’s artificial intelligence software.  This is the advertisement taken directly from Stenograph’s website:

    MAXScribe is a new product from Stenograph which is designed for the digital court reporting and legal transcription industry. It combines multi-channel or single-channel audio with our industry-leading knowledge of editing tools specialized for efficient editing and transcript creation, increasing the number of pages that can be produced per hour by up to 50%.

    Unlike the competition, it is the only software that provides multi-channel recording, annotation, Phoenix ASR engine, and advanced editing features within a single application, providing the complete solution for digital reporters, transcribers, and agencies from recording to production. By using MAXScribe, certified digital reporters can double their earnings and certified transcribers can increase their efficiency by up to 50%.

    Multi-channel recording, annotations, realtime streaming, editing and layout, combined with the integration with Stenograph’s CaseViewNet®, RealTeam™, and YesLaw® make MAXScribe a true end-to-end solution for digital reporters. 

    AutoScript is another such software by VoiceScript.  From their website they tout: “Advanced legal speech recognition online platform and powerful desktop editing tool leveraging the latest breakthroughs in AI technologies to produce high-quality transcripts.”

    Sindie Bragg, VCRA Director, spoke at VCRA’s MAR Ed Day on March 18, 2023, about AutoScript.  She personally tested out this product against a digital recording from one of her proceedings in federal court.  She said, “It’s pretty accurate.”

    Now, after reading about MAXScribe and AutoScript, I want to share this article by a company called Calloquy.  I am only publishing a portion of it here and have permission to do so:  Alex Murdaugh Transcript Snafu Gives New Regard for (Human) Court Reporters’ Reliability by Calloquy, Feb 28, 2023.

    In a trial evocative of a Shakespearean tragedy, when Circuit Court Judge Clifton B. Newman, presiding over the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh, sought to ascertain the “why” of how a prior day’s trial transcript was, as Defense Attorney Dick Harpootlian described it, a “deficit product” and “not of much use,” the wherefore was astonishingly simple: a human court reporter did not produce it.

    The transcript, riddled with incorrect testimony or omissions from the day’s testimony and replaced with designations of “inaudible,” was produced by a company using a digital recorder and not a licensed court reporter. South Carolina court reporter and Grand Strand Young Professional of the Year, Lauren A. Balogh, RPR, said with regard to the Murdaugh snafu, “This is truly another example of why digital reporting should not have a place in the courtroom. The importance of using an NCRA [National Court Reporters Association] certified court reporter is critical in order to maintain the integrity and accuracy of a transcript.”

    The NCRA maintains a partial list of other such digital failures available here (https://www.thejcr.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Failure-Doc-Edited_February_11_2023.pdf). Link to video:  https://www.thejcr.com/2023/02/13/digital-failure-noted-in-major-south-carolina-trial/

    There are two common elements to these two articles:  Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR).  Our CAT softwares--ProCat, DigitalCat, Eclipse, Case Catalyst--all use AI when providing instant brief suggestions, for instance.  The latest version of Eclipse is touting it can fill in the words a stenographer drops.  A couple of my colleagues have said they’ve tried it out and it’s not accurate, but it exists and will improve by learning as you use it, according to the software vendors.

    The court reporting landscape is changing rapidly.  AI has been here for some time, but now reporting schools that only used to offer steno programs are now offering digital recording programs.  Software companies that used to only provide steno products are now providing digital recording products. 

    I dare you to Google what is digital court reporting to see what pops up - what the normal consumer will find on the web.  It’s not just one or two companies offering digital services; it is many!  It is everywhere we turn.

    We can’t deny there is a shortage of stenographers and voice writers.  There are firms across the United States who have no choice but to turn to digital recording to cover their calendars.  What does that mean for our profession?  It means our competition, digital recording, is in demand, is 100x stronger than it was only a few years ago.  I wholeheartedly believe stenography and voice writing is in high demand as well.  Will we be replaced?  I do not believe so. 

    However, when a client (an attorney) decides who to hire, a digital recorder or a stenographer or a voice writer, what is their decision based on?  That is a question each of us needs to answer based on where we live.  It may be based on price.  It may be based on “no choice” because that’s the only offering.  It may be based on a personal relationship or personal preference from personal experience.

    Please ask yourself: What sets me above my competition?  If you’re a stenographer, your fellow stenographers are your competitors, but so are your fellow voice writers and digital recorders. 

    You have heard me say this before if you know me well:  Realtime will set you apart from the rest.  I know many areas of Virginia do not use real time, but are you writing as a real-time reporter?  I believe this will set you apart.  It will also help you produce your transcripts faster, giving you more time to do the things you love to do.

    Don’t wait to become a better voice writer or a better real-time stenographer.  Start now.  Start today.  Practice briefs every day and improve your skills.  I know from experience that that consistent, daily, “focused” practice will produce results.  You can become a real-time voice writer or stenographer if you start today and consistently work on your skills.  You must set yourself apart or you will get lost in the changing landscape within which we live.  

    Let me end this article by taking a few moments to outline the goals I am hoping to lead the Board of VCRA to accomplish this year.  After our survey goes out and I hear from you, our membership, what you feel is important for VCRA to focus on, these goals may be tweaked:

    1. Promoting stenography and voice writing by: (i) Contacting high schools and promoting A to Z or Project Steno program, as well as the “Intro to Voice Writing” program that’s currently being created by NVRA; (ii) getting creative with social media, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
    2. Educating the legal profession about the pitfalls of digital reporting and AI.
    3. Offering mini legislative bootcamps for our members to learn the importance of being involved with their legislators.
    4. Offering seminars to improve your stenography or voice writing skills.

    Michele E. Eddy, CCR, RPR, CRR, CRI, Certified Realtime Systems Administrator

    VCRA President

  • 4 Feb 2023 10:08 AM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    Court Reporting & Captioning Week is here!

    Court Reporting & Captioning Week is February 4th through 11th, and the VCRA has a huge week planned!

    Free Software Training for Members and Students

    In honor of 2023 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, VCRA is offering free virtual software training for members and students! Non-members can attend for only $25.

    Five training seminars are being offered. The registration period for StenoCAT and Eclipse has closed, but you can still register for ProCAT, EclipseVox (voice) and Case Catalyst. Please use the links below to register for the seminar(s) that you are interested in!

    Free EclipseVox (Voice) Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Jennifer Thompson, CCR, CVR-M.

    Time: February 5, 2023, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via Zoom

    Registration closes February 4, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.

    Free ProCAT Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Robin Delloro, RPR.

    Time: February 5, 2023, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via Zoom

    Registration closes February 4, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.

    Free Case Catalyst Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Grace Molson.

    Time: February 11, 2023, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via GoToMeeting

    Registration closes February 10, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.

    Governor's Proclamation

    For yet another year, VCRA has obtained an official proclamation recognizing Court Reporting & Captioning Week from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia! You can view the proclamation by clicking here. We also received a hard copy, which will be on display at the Mario A. Rodriguez Education Day in March!

    Local Advertising

    If you are at The Craft of Brewing in Ashburn, Virginia, look at the screens! You'll see an ad promoting court reporting and the VCRA cycling on the screen throughout the month of February. Thank you to Amicus Court Reporting for graciously donating this ad space.

    Zoom Backgrounds

    Tell the world (or at least the people in your Zoom deps) about Court Reporting & Captioning Week with custom Zoom backgrounds! Follow the guide below to add these backgrounds to Zoom.

    1. Right-click the image
    2. Click "Save Image As..." (Wording can vary depending on browser)
    3. Follow the guide on this page to add a virtual background to Zoom.

  • 24 Jan 2023 9:35 PM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    In honor of 2023 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, VCRA is offering free virtual software training for members and students! Non-members can attend for only $25.  Let's celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week by improving our skills!

    Five training seminars are being offered, each covering a different software, StenoCAT, ProCAT, Eclipse, EclipseVox (voice) and Case Catalyst.  Please use the links below to register for the seminar(s) that you are interested in!

    Free StenoCAT Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Paula Mecke.

    Time: February 4, 2023, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

    Location: Online

    Free Eclipse Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Dave Stanley.

    Time: February 4, 2023, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via GoToMeeting

    Free EclipseVox (Voice) Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Jennifer Thompson, CCR, CVR-M.

    Time: February 5, 2023, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via Zoom

    Free ProCAT Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Robin Delloro, RPR.

    Time: February 5, 2023, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Location: Online

    Free Case Catalyst Training for Members and Students

    Training will be provided by Grace Molson.

    Time: February 11, 2023, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

    Location: Online via GoToMeeting

    The links to join the training will be emailed to registrants closer to the event date.  

  • 15 Jan 2023 5:54 AM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    This is the final message that I will write as VCRA President.  Though my tenure is not over quite yet, I must say that time has flown by.  Then again, when you become VCRA President and a new father in the same year, you don’t have much time to stop and smell the roses!

    My time on the Board started in 2018.  I distinctly remember my first board meeting when committee assignments were being handed out.  There were committees for legislation, PR, student relations, so many topics that I, frankly, didn’t know anything about.  As we went around the room discussing what each person’s interests were, I kept hoping no one said technology because that’s something I knew well.  Finally, it was my turn, and I was asked what committee I thought was right for me.  “Technology,” I said, and the room burst into applause.  What had I done!?  It turns out the committee I worried would get taken from me was the one no one else wanted!    

    Though I have served on many committees since that time, Technology is still “my thing.”  My first major push after joining the Board was replacing our old, inefficient website.  It started out as a simple redesign, making information more accessible and updates easier, but I soon found myself going down the membership management platform rabbit hole.  Before I knew it, my redesign had become an overhaul of how VCRA does business.  The new website has allowed us to go almost fully paperless, streamline our processes and even conduct elections online when we were unable to gather in person.  I’m glad I could use my skills to leave this mark on the association.

    My time on the VCRA Board has led me to meet some of the top talents in our field, both in Virginia and across the country.  After several years working, it’s easy to grow complacent, and I admit I was guilty of this.  Having the opportunity to meet and interact with these giants in our industry has given me the renewed drive I needed to set new goals for myself and strive to achieve them.  I know you hear all the time about how rewarding board service is, but this unintended consequence is worth it in its own right.  You don’t need to be a rockstar to serve; I’m certainly not.  But board service has done a lot to improve my skills and my confidence.

    As usual, VCRA has been busy over the last few months.  In October, we participated in the Virginia School Counselors Association Annual Meeting in Hampton Roads.  We’ve attended in the past and have found it to be a great opportunity to show off our profession to the people advising Virginia’s youth on career opportunities.  You can learn more about the event in the newsletter.  Thank you to all the volunteers who made our participation possible!

    VCRA Day was November 5th, 2022, and I’m happy to report it was a great success.  We had over 70 registrants, comprised of members, non-members and students.  Our speakers, Bryce Hall and Jean Hammond, were fantastic.  We’re so grateful for them taking the time to speak to us.  And we can’t forget about the socials!  It was wonderful seeing reporters gather across our Commonwealth for some much-needed camaraderie.  I also want to thank everyone who donated, both individuals and sponsors.  This was a free event for members, and there was no obligation to donate.  But you gave so generously.  Truly inspirational.

    We are now in full swing preparing for the Mario A. Rodriguez Education Day, which will be held on March 18th, 2023, at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.  We’re excited about the new venue, a beautiful botanical garden just a few days before the official start of spring, but the lineup of speakers is just as enticing!  Be sure to register (and register early to get that Early Bird discount!).  You can earn CEUs, catch up with friends and enjoy a beautiful stroll through the garden.  It’s a win-win-win!

    The Virginia Court Reporters Foundation (VCRF) will be holding their second online silent auction at this year’s Education Day.  All proceeds benefit their Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund.  The online silent auction at the convention in Lynchburg was an unprecedented success, bringing in over $1,400 despite launching only shortly before the event.  We’re starting earlier this time, so start searching those attics and getting crafty.  Let’s beat last year’s record!

    I appreciate the opportunity to serve you as President of VCRA.  Especially when paired with the significant changes in my personal life, this has been a crazy year for me -- hugely rewarding, but crazy.  When elections are held in March, I will transition to Immediate Past President.  Though this is an important role in its own right – and I will serve dutifully – it does come with a shorter list of responsibilities.  Maybe I’ll finally have time to smell those roses – or the daffodils, because apparently the roses don’t bloom until May.

    Christopher Reho, RPR, CCR

    VCRA President

  • 15 Oct 2022 11:03 AM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    A couple weeks ago, I was setting up my equipment for a deposition that was set to start shortly.  The witness and her attorney were already in the room, and, as I’m sure you’ve all experienced, she took interest in my equipment.  “So, you can type really fast?” she asked.  I explained to her that, yes, I can write at 225 words per minute.  She told me she can type at about 60 words per minute, and I said that’s probably about what I can type on a keyboard, but the steno machine allows for much greater speed.  She then said, “Wait, you were serious about 225 words per minute!?”  I laughed and explained that all stenographers have to write at this speed to keep up with the spoken word, and I described the three different legs we have to pass for the speed portion of the RPR.  At this point, the attorney interjected and said, “Really?  I didn’t know that.”

    This interaction underscored for me what I think we all know.  While the court reporting community, both voice and steno, emphasizes certification and obtaining greater and greater credentials, large segments of the legal community are still unaware of the standards that underpin what it means to be a competent professional in our field.  I know that our association and others have tried to educate attorneys about our profession, but there is still work to be done.  After all, in my opinion, it’s our skill, knowledge and dedication to continuing education that separates us from the other options encroaching on our field today.

    When I became president in March of this year, one of the principal goals for my presidency was adding greater value for members of the VCRA.  To this end, we recently announced that VCRA Day will be held on Saturday, November 5, 2022.  VCRA Day is a celebration of our association and its members and will consist of a webinar with informative speakers in the morning and unique socials held all over the Commonwealth in the afternoon.  Best of all, this event is free for all VCRA members and students!  That means 0.25 NCRA- and NVRA-approved CEUs available for free to every member.  I hope you all decide to attend the webinar, and I hope you’ll consider attending one of the socials as well.  It will be great to get together with friends and colleagues once again!

    I can’t stress enough how important each of you are to the continued success of VCRA and its mission to advocate for court reporters within the Commonwealth of Virginia.  As president and also having been a member of NCSA (National Congress of State Associations) for a number of years, I have heard firsthand the struggle that many state associations are having adding and retaining members.  I have even heard about associations at risk of dissolving due to lack of interest.  We’re fortunate to have an active member base willing to step up, volunteer for outreach efforts and serve on the VCRA Board and committees.  But we can’t rest on our laurels.  We have to work every day to increase our numbers, and member benefits like VCRA Day play a huge role in accomplishing that.  You can help the cause by sharing our posts on Facebook and other social media platforms.  It only takes a second, but it helps a lot!

    VCRA will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Virginia School Counselor Association conference in Hampton on October 19th through 21st.  This three-day event pulls in counselors from all grade levels plus administrators, social workers and others.  We are happy to be returning to this event, as it’s a great opportunity to showcase court reporting to the people advising students and other career seekers in Virginia.  Thank you to all the volunteers helping with this event!

    VCRA’s Mario A. Rodriguez Education Day is scheduled for March 18th, 2023, at a new venue, the Kelly Education Center at the beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.  We’ll have more details in the coming months.  Please save the date!

    I hope you enjoy the cool fall weather in our beautiful Commonwealth and have a wonderful holiday season.

    Christopher D. Reho, RPR, CCR

    VCRA President

  • 15 Aug 2022 10:33 PM | Christopher Reho (Administrator)

    Summer is finally here, and you know what that means!  Yes, working on pages while on vacation (kidding, of course)!  I hope you’ve all had a great summer so far.  While the members of the VCRA Board have all been enjoying summertime with their friends and family, we have also been working for the benefit of all reporters in the Commonwealth.

    I have a bit of personal joy to share before we get down to business.  On the morning of July 25th, my wife and I welcomed our first child, Isaac.  There are a couple photos of our handsome boy later in the newsletter.  It has been a simultaneously joyous and hectic time for me, getting the hang of fatherhood while also working and fulfilling my duties as President of VCRA.  There are far too many friends in the court reporting field to thank individually, but truly thank you all for the encouragement and support and for coming together to celebrate the arrival of Isaac!

    One of the goals I set out for my presidency was expanding our numbers.  As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, so having a robust membership is key to VCRA’s continued success.  Reviewing our current member rolls shows an obvious area for improvement: voice writers.  VCRA loves our voice writers, but we have struggled to convince them to join us.  To that end, the VCRA Board voted in June to create the Voice Writers Committee.  This committee, headed by Linda Kia and Monica Anderson, our two voice writer board members, will help bring a voice for voice writers within the VCRA (pardon the pun).  The Voice Writers Committee will help advocate for voice writers in the Commonwealth of Virginia and also encourage them to join our ranks.

    Another significant step occurred in June when Board Member Kristina Tan attended the NASA (National Alliance of State Associations) Leadership Training during the 2022 NVRA Convention in Memphis, Tennessee.  For those unfamiliar, NVRA’s NASA is similar to NCRA’s NCSA, giving the states a voice within the national association.  You can read more about Kristina’s experience in her article in this newsletter; it sounds like it was a wonderfully welcoming event and hopefully the start of VCRA playing a bigger role in the NVRA.  Kristina, along with Monica Anderson, will serve as NASA rep for the next year.

    NCRA’s annual convention was held recently in Orlando, Florida, and Virginia was well-represented.  Tasiana Basdekis, who was recently appointed as one of Virginia’s two NCSA representatives, attended the NCSA meeting, and you can learn more about her experience in her article in this newsletter.  Our own Carol Naughton, former President of the VCRA, has served as NCSA Chair for the past year and will serve for one more year.  NCSA has done amazing work this year – most notably convincing NCRA to modify their test retention policy.  Tasiana and Vice President Cynthia Bragg will serve as Virginia’s NCSA reps for the next year.

    As has already been announced on Facebook and via email, VCRA Board Member Michele Eddy’s five-week challenge begins August 15th.  She is challenging us all to exercise our body and mind.  Find more details in her article below.  We all know how hard it is to focus on our health in our unpredictable and demanding profession, so hopefully this challenge can bring some balance to our lives.  I will be participating because, with a newborn, I need all the balance I can get!

    VCRA continues to be your advocate in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I thank you so much for your continued support.  I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your summer.  Let’s hope for modest temperatures and low humidity… and some free time to enjoy it!

    Christopher D. Reho, RPR, CCR

    VCRA President

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