by Valori Weber, CET
I love my job. In the ten years since becoming a Digital Reporter, I have been lucky to have traveled to many different states and reported in numerous courtrooms. I have come across some unique courtrooms in my travels, but one of the most beautiful and interesting courtrooms I have reported in is in my own backyard here in Portland, Oregon, Courtroom 71 at the Gus J. Solomon United States Courthouse. This is where the courtroom scene in “Men of Honor” was filmed, starring Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The picture shown is of me on the judge’s bench in that courtroom. I was photographed by the security officer after everyone left at the end of the day. This courtroom represents a fantastic piece of architecture, and I could not help but feel a bit important just by being in that room.
I also researched other courthouses in Oregon and found some rich history. The Benton County Courthouse located in Corvallis is considered to be the oldest active courthouse still used for its original purpose in the State of Oregon. This courthouse was designed by Delos D. Neer, a prominent Portland Architect, and is located at 120 NW Fourth Street in Corvallis, Oregon 97330. Neer described the style used as resembling “an Italian villa with a military influence.” Local stone and brick went into the structure, which cost less than $70,000 to build and furnish in 1889. The Courthouse opened for business on November 4, 1889, when the Honorable Judge R. S. Bean presided over the first circuit court session at this location.
Pioneer Courthouse, located in Portland, Oregon, is the second oldest federal courthouse west of the Mississippi River. It has been home since 1875 to the United States Courts in the State of Oregon and is currently the Oregon home for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Matthew Paul Deady, the Oregon Territory’s pre-eminent jurist and subsequently Oregon’s first federal judge, requested in the early 1860s that the federal district court be moved from Salem to Portland, thereby initiating the effort to make Portland its home. Completed in 1875, Pioneer Courthouse has remained at the city’s geographic and commercial center. Construction on the Pioneer Courthouse began in 1869. The courthouse was formally opened and dedicated when it was completed six years later. The photo of this lovely building is the view of the restored courthouse at night from Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Anyone interested in sharing history of courthouses in your backyards? I would love to hear about them. Email me at: email@example.com
Valori Weber operates Weber Reporting Corporation, a reporting/transcription firm based in Portland, Oregon. She previously operated a successful court reporting/transcription company, Western Deposition & Transcription, LLC, in Denver, Colorado before relocating to the Northwest in 2011. Valori recently bought a house that’s over 100 years old in Salem, Oregon that she is renovating and plans to flip the house.
Huaka’i Lo’ihi or Long Journey
by Susan Leong, CET
Training for a marathon is in many ways like training to become a Certified Electronic Transcriber. It takes hard work and perseverance. I have had the memorable experience of running in five marathons; participating in a mini-triathlon; doing a 100 mile bike ride all in the beautiful State of Hawaii. After 35 years of living in Hawaii, I ventured to the mainland where I began my training in the world of court and freelance reporting. This is the story of my journey to the land of electronic transcription.
I was born in Dayton, Ohio but raised in Honolulu, Hawaii where I lived for 35 years. Being a female born into the Chinese culture presents interesting challenges, but there is an upside to being a middle child. An article written by Lynne Griffin, R.N., M.Ed. and published in Psychology Today states: “Although middles are neglected by both parents and teachers, they actually benefit from this in the long run. They become more independent, think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic.”1 I believe it was my fortune of being a middle child that helped me achieve some great accomplishments in my life.
I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in General Home Economics with an emphasis in Human Development in 1974 from the University of Hawaii. After graduation, I was able to secure a position at the beautiful Hilton Hawaiian Village where I spent 12 years, starting out as a clerk and leaving as the Director of Personnel which is referred to as Human Resources in present day nomenclature.
I have always had an interest in law, but law school was financially out of reach. So I did the next best thing. Around 1985, I applied for and was accepted into the paralegal program at Kapiolani Community College. Being a single parent of three young children and holding down a full-time job was daunting at times. When the opportunity to start anew presented itself, I lunged at it. Although that decision forced me to leave my paralegal studies (I was one course shy of earning my Associates Degree), the benefit of leaving Hawaii and the paralegal program outweighed any loss that resulted in the decision to start a new life.
FROM HAWAII TO MICHIGAN TO ARIZONA
With three young children in tow and with as many belongings that could be packed in two weeks, the kids and I headed for Big Rapids, Michigan where I attended Ferris State University. What a culture shock! The ground never froze in Hawaii. Three years later, I earned an Associate’s Degree in court and freelance reporting. At the recommendation of a classmate, I did my court reporting internship at the Maricopa County Superior Court in the State of Arizona. Having been exposed somewhat to the lifestyle and cost of living in Arizona through my internship and after graduation from Ferris, the children and I moved to Arizona in 1991.
I applied for a position at the Maricopa County Superior Court, but I was not hired. Five and a half years later, I applied again at Maricopa County Superior Court and secured a position as a courtroom clerk. During my four years as a clerk, my learning continued, and I became very familiar with courtroom procedures.
Arizona is a beautiful state, but it does have its idiosyncrasies. Some of the unusual features include Valley fever, which I contracted along with pneumonia and asthma, which kept me down for some time and drained my savings. When I was strong enough, I took jobs through temp agencies and eventually landed a full-time position at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. I earned certification as a nursing assistant and was exposed to the medical field for five years.
A JUDICIAL ASSISTANT
Four years later, an opportunity arose which was irresistible and that was a chance to become a judicial assistant. Fifteen years later, I am still a judicial assistant and have worked for the same judge since that time. However, my interest in court reporting never waned, and the world of electronic transcription opened its door for me. I stepped in and absolutely love electronic transcription. I am now a CET and transcribe on a part-time basis. After retirement from the court system, my goal is to do transcription on a full-time or almost a full-time basis.
My years at the hospital and in the court system are a tremendous benefit to my life as a transcriptionist, especially when the transcriptionist is not a witness to what is going on in the courtroom. I hope that my story will serve as an inspiration to anyone who is struggling to keep the faith and endure in order to achieve a professional goal or any other goal in life.
Susan M. Leong, CET is a Judicial Assistant at the Maricopa County Superior Court, Arizona. She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Hawaii and an Associate’s Degree from Ferris State University in court and freelance reporting. She also holds certifications as a nursing assistant and a legal document preparer in the state of Arizona. Ms. Leong is an AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriptionist, current member of AAERT. and resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
BY DENA PAGE, CET
We hear so often how much the world has shrunk. Now technology can put us anywhere at any time courtesy of VoIP lines, unlimited cell phone use, conference calls, screen-sharing, and virtual meeting rooms.
There are few industries that demonstrate that like ours. As a transcriber, you can live anywhere, and as long as you have a good Internet connection, you can receive audio, transcribe it, and upload the completed product. You can talk to clients on your cell phone without having to worry about long distance charges. As a court reporter, you’re currently a bit more bound to one location, but that’s rapidly changing. More and more, people are setting up remote depositions, and within a few years, this will likely be commonplace.
What does it all mean? Well, I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that it’s time for me to shrink my own world, too. I’m planning ahead. My daughter graduates in four years, and then I have an empty nest. I’m thinking about how I want to live my life when she’s gone. I love to travel. I have friends all over the country, thanks to working with a big team of awesome people all over the United States. And I discovered something in the past few years: I like cozy places.
I first discovered my love of cozy places when my stepson moved in with me and we didn’t have enough space. I moved my office out of the living room into a large-ish closet. It was big enough to hold my computer, my desk chair, and it had a light and strangely, a little window to let in natural light. I loved that space! I still miss it! Ever since that experience, I noticed that I’d see big houses and think, ‘Eh, it’s okay. It’d be nicer if it was smaller.’ So when my friend introduced me to the tiny house movement, I was immediately hooked.
If you haven’t heard of the tiny house movement, watch an episode or two of Tiny House Nation on HGTV or watch some videos from www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com. Careful, though. You may get as hooked as I did! In a nutshell, tiny houses are… well… tiny. They’re typically under 200 square feet, often 120 square feet or less. They are built on wheels. They’re not mobile homes, per se, though they are homes that are mobile. They’re more like an RV than a mobile home, but they have so much more class than an RV. They’re a home you can drive, rather than a vehicle you can live in. And they are as unique and individualized as you are.
If you explore the Internet, you’ll find simple, basic designs, you’ll find converted school buses and double-decker buses, you’ll find a castle truck with a rooftop tub, and you’ll find some of the most beautiful flowing designs ever. If you’ll forgive the oxymoron, I want a large tiny house, which is to say approximately 8-1/2 feet by 20 feet. I’m looking for a real home in which I can move freely, one where my daughter, and later my grandkids can visit — one at a time, anyway!
It’ll have solar panels to run the entire house so I don’t have to plug into the grid. It’ll have rain catchment so I don’t need a water hookup. My full-sized stove will run on propane so I can get my fuel at the store. I’m thinking ahead to when I’m old enough that steps are hard for me. I’m putting a guest room/den/office upstairs, but my bed will be hidden downstairs where I can easily pull it out into the living room.
So what will my future look like? I will be living in my own home with negligible monthly expenses: food, propane, cell phone, car insurance, and gas for the vehicle when I’m on the move. That’s about it.
I’ll get to travel whenever I want without having to take time off work or make arrangements for someone to watch my cat. I won’t ever have to waste a ton of time cleaning my home — half an hour will be enough to do it all. Instead of weekends off work spent chauffeuring my daughter, as I do now, I’ll chauffeur my house to somewhere interesting and new… maybe even somewhere I learned about in an audio file! And when I’m so old that I need someone to take care of me, I can park my beloved home behind my daughter’s house and have my own space to be me, yet only be a few feet away from my family.
So picture it: I might be in Florida, Arizona, Texas, or California for the winter. Perhaps I’ll be near DC for the spring so I can see the cherry blossoms. I’ll be in my sister’s or parents’ backyard for summers when my daughter’s home from college, but probably near a beach once she’s out of college. And I’m thinking that New England is a nice place to spend my autumns. Invitations to use your driveways are welcome!
I’ve got my work cut out for me in the upcoming years. Yes, I need to save to build my house, but that’s actually the easy part. You can build a tiny house for $10,000 – $25,000 depending on how fancy it is, though buying one already made could easily run $100K. The bigger work ahead includes designing the perfect house, paring down my current stash of stuff, which I’ve already started, and deciding who is going to build it. If it’s the local Amish carpenters, easy peasy! But if I want to do it myself… that’ll be a steep learning curve! Guess which direction I’m leaning toward?
I know I can’t really know what my life is going to look like four years from now, when I want to make this move. But I can plan anyway. And if it never happens, I’ll have had a great time designing the perfect home in my mind!
Dena Page has been an AAERT member since 2011 and currently sits on the Board of Directors. She started transcribing in 2008 and is currently working for a national reporting and transcription company. Dena has one incredible daughter, a couple cats, and a thirst for new information.
by Marie Moran, CET
I wanted to share my thoughts on the things I learned and the experiences I had while attending the AAERT annual conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota this year. This was my first time attending, and I am glad that I did. Not only did I meet a lot of very nice, informative, and professional people, but I was able to network with some of the top professionals in our business.
What I learned:
When we visited the Hennepin County Central Monitoring Room at the Hennepin County Government Center where the courthouse is located, I was surprised to learn that a lot of courts have not only moved over to digital recording without a reporter in the courtroom, but that a lot of courts now have reporting hubs where one person listens to two or more proceedings at once monitoring the courtrooms while taking notes and listening to the audio quality. There are multiple people monitoring different courtrooms at the same time.
I applaud them on what they are required to do. I don’t know that I could listen to more than one proceeding and capture the important information going on in each one. I am very glad that I only have to listen to one proceeding at a time, but I am thrilled that I actually was able to see and experience for myself how the product that I access sometimes gets produced before it comes to me.
We listened to “Courts Around the World” presented by Charlotte Pache, Managing Director, DTI, Australia. She explained how courts around the world are using this same type of technology monitoring courtrooms and have been for years, how they get jobs completed, and how they pay for the end product.
A computer forensics expert, Mark Lanterman, also presented. He basically scared the you-know-what out of me, but I found out that I am not safe on my computer, my phone, or at my bank. I’m trying hard to give up my debit card and go cash, but that’s hard to do sometimes. Like he said, “Leave your debit cards at home.” He showed us some interesting things about what the hackers of the world are able to do, see, hear, take, basically, whatever they want to do. Mr. Lanterman also gave us some very useful tricks and things we could do to improve our security, but we will never be truly secure unless we use a Mac computer apparently. I am thinking I need an iPad for my personal stuff like Facebook, banking, or email if I want to stay safe.
Lisa Dees and Tina Schaeffer, CER, CET did a great job showing us how to set up a courtroom or conference room for recording. They showed us the equipment that would be needed and how and where it should be placed, also emphasizing to pay attention to whatever might be nearby, i.e., an air vent or air conditioner running. It made me think of possibly, down the road at some point, going for my CER and doing a little reporting on the side.
We heard from judges who have been on the bench a long time and a short time. They all had interesting viewpoints to share with us about technology and how judges are coping with the changes and also, what they are now required to do with many states moving over to all digital courtrooms.
Who I met:
I was able to meet Sherry Simmons who is a ball of energy. Kudos and great job, Sherry, welcoming conference attendees. There were many good experiences and speakers. I had the best time meeting new friends, networking, and finding out more about this business that I have chosen. I met Gail Malm Armstrong who helped me with my first article for a previous newsletter. I was very surprised when I got into the Super Shuttle van at 4:45 a.m. to find Gail sitting there waiting for me. Well, not really. She was going home, too.
Gail encouraged me to write another article about my journey to this place in my life. So this is the experience I decided to write about first. I know there will be many articles about the convention, but I thought I would add my thoughts to it also as a new-timer.
I know that AAERT is planning on offering a video of the conference for those who could not attend. When that happens, I would highly recommend viewing it. I think we’re lucky to have an organization that backs us, brings us together, and is committed to helping us to do the best we can in our jobs.
by Leigh David, CET
Whether you have taken the AAERT examination for certification or are contemplating taking this examination, I think we can agree that it represents a significant milestone in achieving a recognizable level of professional competence in the world of digital reporting and transcribing. I share my experience to impart some flavor of what it was like for me to take this test and perhaps share some smiles.
The Transcriber Certification test was being offered within a mile of where I lived. Thus, there wouldn’t be any time that it would be more convenient for me to take it. Today being test day, I loaded my luggage carrier with computer, keyboard, foot pedal, mouse, pillow to help me sit high enough in the chair for keyboarding, headphones, backup pair of headphones, extension cord, batteries, a Monster drink, a map, three Number 2 pencils, two permanent ink pens, and four CDs. I only needed one CD, but I wanted to be prepared.
It really wasn’t a long walk. It included a wooded path that is a shortcut to South Van Dorn Street, my destination. So I walked. It sounds so simple. However, once I got to Van Dorn, it was a quarter mile uphill to get to the hotel, uphill with a luggage carrier overloaded with my gear.
NOTE TO SELF: Next time take a taxi.
I arrived at the test room sweating bullets. I don’t care what they say about a glow. I was not a pretty sight. So much for a calm and cool start to taking the test. By now I was doing a pretty good imitation of a hyperactive adult. I didn’t need the Monster; I was totally wired on adrenaline as it turned out. I proceeded to get ready to take the written portion of this test.
I had actually studied pretty diligently for this examination. Do not presume that I was overly nervous or subject to test anxiety or anything such as that, but for a minute or so, I forgot how to read. For another minute or so, I didn’t recognize any of the answers to this test! Between hyperventilating and chewing on my pencil eraser and investigating if I could bite my nails at the same time, I answered the hundred or so questions. This was not a warm, cuddly experience. When I finished, I took some time to go over my answers. On that second read, it seemed that I hadn’t done half bad! In other words, I didn’t have the inclination to change my answers. I suppose I could have been way off base twice, but I couldn’t imagine that the transcription gods would be that cruel.
Now a15-minute break and time for the transcription test. A piece of cake for sure. My hands were shaking from here to California, and my mouse absolutely refused to go anywhere I needed it to go without major time and attention.
NOTE TO SELF: Next time, if there is a next time, bring a mouse pad.
Actually, the transcription test in and of itself was not that tough. I, however, must write a book about how to make a major production out of an ordinary activity. I still have no idea how to control hand shake. What a mess I was!
I finished, just, but I finished. I even had two minutes to proofread. Somehow — exactly how remains one of the great mysteries of our time — I lost the line numbering on every page after page three of the just-completed transcript. In the process of getting the line numbers back and using the mouse that, if you recall, was totally recalcitrant, I now wound up at a screen
to convert to PDF format that filled the entire computer screen. I didn’t want to do this, nor did I want to know how to convert anything to PDF. Yet, here is this new screen in my way, scheming to keep me from finding the menu to format line numbers.
At this point I’m yelling at my computer. I do not remember whether I used some choice four-letter words or not. I remember GeGe Watts, the test monitor, asking me if I was okay. I imagine I looked and sounded a bit crazed.
You can stop sitting on the end of your chair. I will end the suspense. I got the line numbers back in, but somewhere in the process lost the two margin lines, apparently forever. I should put an ad in the Craigslist, Inc. for lost and found. Really, where did they go?
Thank you, Lord, I finally got out of PDF-ville hopefully not to return for at least the ten minutes remaining to finish this examination. I was able to save to CD only with more hyperventilating and admonishment to my computer which by now has become an indelible inclusion in the procedures that must be followed to get things right.
My sense was that I needed some luck, especially because I did not have time to proof the transcript. I was too busy finding the line numbers. Still, with just a little bit of luck, I passed.
Next I am going to write that article about why certification isn’t important so I have it ready in the event I don’t pass. But of course, certification is important and passing this examination spared me from trying to suggest that it isn’t.
Just sharing. What a day!
NOTE TO SELF: Take a taxi home. And I did.
I passed! For those of you just starting on the journey to certification, good luck to you. You will do fine and hopefully will not stress as much as I did. I look forward to sharing with you the personal sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving certification.
Leigh David’s education includes a Bachelor’s, Ohio State U., Columbus, Ohio and a Master’s from Emerson College, Boston, MA. Most recently she has been engaged providing legal, general, business, and academic transcription. She brings to bear on her transcription all of the information she learned in prior endeavors including speech pathology, real estate, photography, and administrative/legal/executive support. She was an instructor at St. Louis University and University of Kansas and involved in interdisciplinary diagnosis and treatment of young children, and incorporating individualized language training programs into the prescriptions for children and their families. Her decade as a real estate broker in Virginia included commercial, residential, and instruction through the National Institute of Real Estate. She pursued photography specialties including pet photography, photography of crafts and fine art, and expression of her own art through photography. She taught photography through Fairfax County Adult Education for 12 years. Leigh believes there is no end of things to master in terms of grammar, punctuation, formatting protocols, and subject matter. She has a special love for legal transcription. Among her reasons is that she never tires of hearing and sometimes seeing how people elect to present themselves in these situations. Leigh loves people, writing, laughing, telling jokes, and the adventure of being. firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Thoughts on Proofreading
by Penina Wolicki, CET (eScribers, LLC)
A wise bird once said, “Everyone makes mistakes, oh, yes, they do,” but as one of my friends once pointed out, Sesame Street has been shoveling garbage to millions of children for decades. This was said in the context of a discussion about how Sesame Street preaches to children that learning should be both fun and simple, when that’s not necessarily so.
But educational philosophy arguments aside, when Big Bird says that everyone makes mistakes, that is in fact true; the implication that you can just move on without correcting the mistake or without consequences, however, is simply not a good educational message. If you make a mistake, every effort should be made to correct it. This is in particular true if you can correct it before anyone sees it. In that case, it’s like the proverbial tree falling in the forest.
According to Merriam Webster, a transcript is a written, printed, or typed copy of words that have been spoken. As such, a transcript should actually reflect the words that have been spoken.
When an attorney or a judge requests a transcript, the expectation is that the written, printed, or typed copy be as precise as possible. As transcribers, our job is to make sure that happens.
It is clear that during transcription, typographical errors occur. We all make mistakes. Thanks to the fact that we work on computers nowadays, mistakes are much easier to correct than, let’s say, thirty years ago, when most people were working on electric typewriters, and word processing was still in its infancy.
The question is, how do we make sure that the final product is as error-free as possible? I’m sure everyone would agree that a quick spell-check of a document is not enough. Although the spellchecker will fix “htere” to “there” every time, it still doesn’t fix “there” to “their” even when asked nicely. To be sure, the contextual spell-checker will occasionally pick up errors, but it’s certainly not foolproof.
Clearly, it’s necessary to at least read through a draft transcript. There are little errors that occur all the time. Some people are constantly writing “of” instead of “or.” My personal weakness is mistakenly typing “and” instead of “an.” A spell-checker will never catch that type of error, and there’s no way to set an autocorrect, as in the case of “htere” or any other letter switch that you commonly make.
But is reading through the transcript sufficient to catch enough errors to make a transcript into a written, printed, or typed copy of words that have been spoken? I don’t think so.
In my opinion, the only way to really get a nearly perfect transcript, one that is a written, printed, or typed copy of words that have been spoken, is to run through the audio a second time. There are many types of errors that just cannot be caught by a spell-check followed by a read-through, no matter how thorough you are.
Let’s take a look at a couple errors I caught in my transcribing work today when I was proofreading a transcript:
Your Honor ruled two days later, and month went by before you ruled.
Clearly there’s an error in this sentence. The question is, what’s the correct sentence? Should this be corrected to a month or to months? Does it make a difference? Of course it does. Can you figure out what words were spoken here without re-listening? No.
We asked Mr. Smith to give us an estimate, and he came up with 400,00.
What’s the correct number? Is it 40,000, 400,000, 400,500, or 400.00? Does it make a difference? Of course it does. Can you figure out what words were spoken here without re-listening? Maybe. It depends on the context surrounding the sentence. Perhaps the correct number had been used in the previous sentence.
Sometimes numbers are more complicated, or there’s a long list of numbers with dollars and cents. A transposition of two digits could make a big difference; and going back and listening is the only way to be sure you’ve gotten it right.
The above examples are pure typographical errors, the kind we all make. Other types of errors include skipped words or phrases, incorrect punctuation, and just plain mishearing. Any one of these errors can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
For example: if you typed, “But, Judge, I think that’s right,” and what the attorney really said was, “But, Judge, I don’t think that’s right,” and the attorney who ordered the transcript calls you on your error, the chance of you getting a return order from that law firm is probably close to zero.
A second run through the audio, with the full context of the proceedings in mind, can go a long way to correct these errors.
There are many reasons to work hard to create a good, precise, verbatim transcript, the first one being pride in your work; another close second is job security. Personally, I just hate looking like an idiot. So if it takes me an extra hour to finish the transcript, so be it. I’d rather be the one to catch the mistakes, than have them caught by the attorney or the judge and pointed out to me in retrospect.
Penina Wolicki is an AAERT Certified Electronic Court Transcriber. She has been working for eScribers since 2007 as a full-time transcriber, and more recently as a part-time editor, as well.