A Career in Captioning – How One Captioner Began Her Career
Jennie Mauch, a TCG captioner, shares the story of the rocky start to her career, and what led her to the final decision to join the ranks of broadcast closed captioners.
I was never one of those people who just knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. In fact, when I started court reporting school, I still wasn’t one of those people. The courtroom always intrigued me, so I knew that doing something in court would be good for me. I honestly didn’t know what a court reporter was. I still get the blank stare sometimes when I tell people what I do. And then it’s usually the universal, “oh, you’re one of those people with the little machine who go (insert fingers moving really fast on an imaginary little machine).” Yep, that’s me, and I’m proud of that.
Five years ago, I would not have recommended court reporting school to anyone. My journey to becoming a broadcast closed captioner has been long, frustrating and tedious. Today, I know sticking with it, through the good and the not so good, has been one of the best things I have done in my life.
I started court reporting school when I was 22-years-old. I made it to about 160 words per minute (225 words per minute is needed to graduate) before the school closed. I started at another school, and it closed when I was around 180-200 words per minute. At that point, I hired one of my instructors to read to me at her apartment to reach my speeds. It’s not easy. I often joke that the tests we have to take in court reporting school are the only tests in the world you can fail at 97%.
I landed a job with a freelance firm doing depositions, prison trials and working at colleges with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. I gravitated towards the latter. I never fully enjoyed the deposition work. I thought I wanted to work in a courtroom, but I actually only stepped into a courtroom a handful of times. I had found a passion–after 24 years of life, I knew I wanted to work with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. When I was working with deaf students, I actually felt like I was giving a service to help others through my skills. I worked in multiple arenas for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and I learned a lot.
I decided early on that my goal in this career was to be a broadcast closed captioner. After my son was born, I took some time off to reflect on working towards gaining the skill to be a closed captioner or starting over in a completely new field. Thank goodness I made the right decision! Ten years after starting court reporting school, I have now been a captioner for almost two years, and I absolutely love it. Now I tell anyone who asks, yes, go to court reporting school!
This career can be brutal but, in the end, it is worth it. I work for a great company with wonderful captioners, and I’m proud of what I do for a living. I love striving for perfection each time my fingers start to move on my machine. I love when a news reporter says a really big, uncommon word and I see it on my television looking perfect. I love that I can work in my pyjamas and do laundry (or do nothing!) when I’m on a break. And most of all, I love that my son can come home from school each day and I am here waiting for him and able to be available to him. I am lovingly referred to as “food and entertainment” in my household, and I can definitely say that since I started captioning, we have eaten really well and have gone on some really nice vacations.