Written by Cathy Penniston, Realtime Captioner and Court Reporting Instructor
After working for many years as an Official Shorthand Reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her Master’s Degree in Teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher.
Currently, Cathy works with The Captioning Group. Their office is located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Although Cathy lives in Iowa, don’t ask Cathy about the Iowa news! Instead, ask Cathy about Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Halifax news—her specialty.
Every Thursday, Cathy takes a break from captioning the Canadian news and travels to Newton, Iowa—70 miles from her home—to teach and coach court reporting students at Des Moines Area Community College. Cathy’s goal is to share her wealth of experience with her students. She has worked as an Official Shorthand Reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART provider, and a broadcast captioner, and brings this real-world experience to her classes.
Cathy believes that realtime is the key to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a realtime feed of the live proceedings to the judge on their laptop, and a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.
If Cathy’s students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, she will remind students that when she went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when the reporter sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.
As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, Cathy encourages her students to embrace realtime. She feels it is the key to unlocking the future of the court reporting profession.
Cathy’s 7 Favourite Tips for Realtime Students
1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate from steno to English correctly? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way, write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
7. Back up your dictionary every week. E-mail a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.
Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.
Happy Captioning—from Iowa to Canada in an instant!