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“THE GIANT KILLER AMONG US”

by on June 25, 2019

An Interview with Lee F. Miller, CER, CET LeeMiller

By Gail Malm Armstrong, CER, CET

Give us some history please, Lee. I was born in Concordia, Kansas in August 1960. I was the first “preemie” the doctor had ever delivered, but I made it! We moved to California when I was 4 years old. My uncle was a Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton, and would write home about how great California was. The whole family moved to California. He moved back to Indiana!  I grew up in Orange County. My dad was a pastor and my mom was a school district administrative assistant. I’m pretty sure I got my love for the keyboard from my mom.   

 How did you enter the legal profession? 

I began working on newspapers in high school. That continued as I majored in Communications and graduated from Orange Coast College and the University of Washington. My professional career began as a sports reporter, working for a couple local newspapers and the Los Angeles Times.   

I took a ten-year detour to coach college rowing. The newspaper industry was dying a slow death, so I returned to school and attended South Coast College of Court Reporting. I found that my journalism skill set fit well with court reporting. I was introduced to a court reporting firm that was getting into the law enforcement transcription business. I thought I would just do police transcription until I became a court reporter and moved on. That was 23 years ago, and I’m still working with the police!        

Did you have a mentor or coxswain, so to speak, who helped you set the pace to success? Who and how so?

I’ve been fortunate to have many amazing mentors in my life, both in sports and business. A member of my dad’s church took me under his wing as his assistant baseball coach when I was in high school. He was a National Basketball Association referee at the time and later became the head of NBA officials. He was the first person who taught me that I could do big things if I set my mind to it. 

My rowing coach at Orange Coast was a huge influence on my life. I will never forget the day he referred to Tom Wolfe’s book and told me I had “The Right Stuff.” I learned from him that if you are going to do something, excel.     

I also had great mentors at The Los Angeles Times, and I thank them to this day for being sticklers and teaching me to pay attention to detail. That is where I learned the value of proofreading, as I was responsible for proofing the galleys of the sports pages before they went to press at night. It still drives me crazy when I see a typo in the newspaper! 

Tell us something unusual and unique about your experience as a reporter and transcriber. What is a normal workday for you?

The police transcription side of our business runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I’m always on call in case things get really crazy. One of the cases I worked on made the cover of People Magazine and another became an episode of CSI. As a digital reporter, I once took down the testimony of an actor from one of my favorite movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Sitting next to him, I kept wondering if he was going to say his famous line from the movie:  “Bueller…Bueller.”              

Where do you see technology taking us in the next 5 or 10 years as far as digital recording, use of transcripts, and other technology?

We are in the midst of a technological revolution right now. For instance, I got into live-streaming rowing events a few years ago because I wanted to be able to see the crew races that I couldn’t attend. It was a novelty. Now it is so common that it is expected! I am seeing the same trend happening with court reporting. Traditional video conferencing has given way to more affordable streaming technology. I see that becoming more and more prevalent as budgets are stretched thin.

Do you think the reporting and transcribing roles will exist in the future? Will they exist as they do now or do you foresee a different scenario?

It’s like the Wild, Wild West out there right now, but I do think reporting and transcribing roles will both exist in the future. There will always be the need for a human’s touch in the transcript business. I have experimented with AI on some of my work. It has come a long way in a very short time, but it is still nowhere accurate enough to replace us, especially when it comes to multiple-voice transcription.    

Has AAERT opened up any new horizons for you as a professional?

Mary Ann Lutz, one of the original members of AAERT, introduced us to digital reporting and AAERT. I am glad she did. Reporting has taken me to a lot of places that I would never otherwise visit, and it has always proven interesting. 

Do you believe certification in a profession is important? Why or why not?

I do believe certification is important. However, I don’t feel that certification is the be-all, end-all. Just as important as certification is ongoing professional training and just plain taking pride in your work. I have seen too many certified court reporters turn in subpar work. Again, if you’re going to do something, be excellent at it.

You recently received the prestigious 2019 Oarsman award from Coast Crew in recognition of your extraordinary contribution to rowing at Orange Coast College. Tell us about your history as a rower.

I discovered rowing in college. Orange Coast is the only community college rowing program in the nation, and we had to go up against teams from four-year universities.  Our crew earned the nickname Giant Killers by upsetting many of the established powers over the years. 

After two years, I transferred up to the University of Washington in Seattle, home of one the best rowing teams in the world. You may have heard of the best-selling book, “The Boys in the Boat,” which tells the story of how nine working class boys from Seattle represented the United States and won gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I was lucky enough to meet almost all of the “boys” in their later years while I was the coxswain of the Husky varsity 8.  I can’t even begin to tell you how impactful that was!

Rowing took me all over the world. I raced at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in England and on the Nile in Egypt. And, much like the Boys in the Boat, I got to represent the United States in the World Championships in Germany as a member of the National Team. I was asked a few years ago to serve as a member of the Board of Stewards for the Coast Crew, and I’m grateful to be able to give back in any way I can.   

What makes a great coxswain?

From the moment the shell is launched, the coxswain is in charge. The coxswain steers the boat while the oarsmen row, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. The boat is 60 feet long and the coxswain steers with a rudder about the size of a credit card.  The coxswain is also an extension of the coach in the boat — mid-management, so to speak.  The coxswain has to manage the personalities of all the oarsmen so that nothing gets in the way of the boat going fast. 

It is the coxswain’s job to implement the race strategy — and they never say, “Stroke!”  The good ones learn to have a feel for the boat, when to seize on the momentum in a race. Almost every race has a moment of truth, that moment when your opponent can be broken. It is the coxswain’s job to be able to tell when that time comes and to take advantage of it.      

What has been your greatest accomplishment against all odds?

I think I’m most proud of my ability to just keep grinding, even in the face of utter disaster going on around me.  I know that my experience in rowing has helped me with that.   

What do you plan to do after you retire?

My wife and I plan on moving to Maine in a couple years when she retires from teaching. I plan to keep on grinding!

Gailnew

Gail Malm Armstrong is an AAERT-certified reporter and transcriber and Chair of the Communications Committee.

From → AAERT News

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