Imagine you’re the field-goal kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. But Tom Brady hasn’t worked enough magic to where you’re miles ahead and coasting to victory. Instead, he’s led you to two quick touchdowns to bring you back from 16 points down. But you’re still down by two points and there are two seconds left on the clock at the end of the game. You’re about to kick the field goal. Your kick will be the last play of the game. Your kick will decide who wins/who loses. Whether you make or miss the kick may determine the entire course of the rest of your career. It may ultimately determine whether you can send your kids to college.
The Bucs are all lined up … you’re on the field, and the ball’s about to be snapped for you to make the kick that will decide the game.
The Chiefs call time-out.
Okay. Now you know that you have to wait two more minutes to kick the biggest field goal of your life.
After the two minutes, the Bucs get all set up again for you to kick the field goal.
But the Chiefs have one more time-out left. So, they call a time out AGAIN!!!
Now you know you’re going to have to wait two more minutes. But you do have certainty. The biggest kick of your career will happen 120 seconds from now.
Of course, the whole time that this is going on, you know that the outcome of everything that you and your teammates have worked for the entire season hinges on this one kick. You know that, either way, Bucs’ fans will be talking about this until they die. You’re the kicker. You’re going to kick. You’re the only person. You practiced this a million times.
You … can … do … it! But can you??? The Chiefs have given you four minutes to face every fear you’ve ever had of failing.
In football this is known as “icing the kicker.“
Icing the kicker is designed to give the kicker jitters. To put more – and hopefully unbearable — pressure on the kicker. The “goal” is to make the kicker doubt himself and miss the biggest kick of his life. The “goal” is to have the kicker fail the biggest test of his professional career.
But … when it comes to a person being put under pressure in the face of the biggest test of their career, it’s way better to be an NFL kicker than a stenographic reporter.
Well, all of us here at WUNCRA have received countless complaints about NCRA’s testing system. And based on what we’ve heard, NCRA’s testing system sets up test-takers for failure. Because it sets up an “icing-the-test-taker” situation that is infinitely worse than anything that’s ever been done to an NFL kicker.
For example, we’ve heard almost innumerable complaints from test-takers with confirmed, designated testing times having to wait for prolonged periods for a proctor to even begin the procedures.
And we’re not talking about waiting just two minutes or even four minutes. Actually, we’re not talking about waiting a specified known period of time. No, our test-takers have to wait until the proctor shows up, or until the proctor fixes technical glitches that are totally on the proctor’s end, and then our valiant test-taking reporter – after having been “iced” for 93 minutes and 18 seconds – is told that they must test RIGHT NOW!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our opinion that what NCRA, Proctor U and Realtime Coach are doing goes W-A-Y beyond “icing the test-taker.” What they’re doing is just plain cruel.
Test-takers often NEED these tests to even work as reporters. Federal reporters need to have certain certification designations to advance in pay grades. So, we’re potentially talking about NCRA, Proctor U and Realtime Coach ending – or at least delaying – a career before it even gets started. Or we’re talking about them dealing a potentially devastating financial blow to a reporter mid-career. So thoughtful. Not!
Consider this. If testing was done in mass groups (like it used to be), and not one at a time, NCRA, Proctor U and Realtime Coach would NEVER be able to get away with this. They’re only able to do this because they can hide behind testing one person at a time. Destroying one career at a time. Destroying one person’s mental health at a time.
If they “iced” 100 people set to take a test at the same time, the outcry would be unbearable and NCRA would fix testing. And now that this has been pointed out, NCRA — if it cares about reporters’ livelihoods and mental health — needs to fix testing NOW!
So the question becomes: Does NCRA care? If they do, this is the last time that we should ever hear about this problem.
Because – and this bears repeating — the way that testing is being conducted right now is way beyond cruel. It’s one thing for a reporter to be upset about not passing a test. But it’s an entirely different and totally unacceptable thing for reporters to be reduced to tears because of the incompetent and uncaring way their tests are administered.
NCRA needs to end the incompetence and cruelty and fix testing NOW!
Wake Up, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense
P.S. THANK YOU to all the test-takers who’ve reached out to bring this incompetence and cruelty to light.
P.P.S. We know that what we’ve briefly talked about here is the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and as we get more details we will write more until this gets fixed. And, yes, we know that this is a painful process. But if we don’t speak up so that NCRA hears a room full of 100 test-takers screaming at them, this won’t get fixed. So please keep sending us your stories.
Back on May 10th a nonstenographic owner of a captioning/CART company sent out a blast – before it was released to the world on May 11th – that his company (Alternative Communication Strategies, “ACS”) was being acquired by an Australian company after the Australian company recently completed an A$10.3 million (US$6.6 million) fundraising round.
“Funds from the latest investment round, which take total capital raised by Ai-Media to more than A$20 million*, will be used to help fund the ACS acquisition and accelerate Ai-Media’s international expansion through organic growth and other carefully selected strategic acquisitions.”
Here’s the paragraph that piqued our interests here at WUNCRA: “Ai-Media’s unique technology platform uses a combination of human and artificial intelligence to provide highly accurate, low-cost captioning for more than two million minutes of live and recorded video and events every month.”
Yeah, you’ve read that correctly. They use a combo of human AND artificial intelligence. So, why do you suppose they need the human factor? Could it be to train the artificial intelligence, we wonder?
Was an Australian company keen on buying an American company because the captioners in the USA will train the ‘stralian robots with the American dialect, we wonder? They paid millions of dollars to “complement their organic sales growth in the North American market.” After all, “Markets like North America provide enormous opportunities for Ai Media – they are vastly bigger than our home market but the provision of captioning services is highly fragmented and there is a demand for the level of service, quality and innovation that we are able to offer with our technology-driven platform” – the stenographic captioners training their robots, we believe.
After a “town hall meeting,” the co-founder of ACS offered some “full transparency on recent activities at ACS”:
Namely, that jobs were offered at a COVID-19 discounted rate paying $60 an hour. All of us here at WUNCRA are perplexed by the discounted rate that was “in no way impacted or influenced by” the multi-million-dollar purchase. Hmmm, why was it even necessary to offer a “COVID-19 discount”?
“The ‘Ai’ in Ai-Media stands for ‘access innovation,’ not artificial intelligence or anything ASR related.” Yeah, right!
Here are more of their gems – with commentary/interpretation:
“There were a few concerns” – we understand that there were many pissed-off, highly talented captioners.
“that the acquisition wasn’t handled well” – it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.
“but we all must understand that it was difficult informing 6,000 people (including 300 independent captioners)” – the talent that brought the nonstenographic owners to the point where they could sell the highly talented captioners out for millions of dollars.
Another email was sent out to their 300 independent contractors after a ”Town Hall meeting.” A note was made that only 30 people attended the two meetings offered – inferring that there is little interest in the issue. Here is the second bulleted item from that blast:
“2. Will the ACS Brand stay? Ai-Media bought ACS in part because of the brand recognition we have in the industry. They want it to stay intact and strong. They are committed to that and are making every attempt to keep it strong and relevant. … The mantras being used as we move forward are ‘Do No Harm,’ ‘Assume Positive Intent,’ and ‘Secure The Base’!”
Our advice to the captioning community …
“Do No Harm” – watch your own backs, ladies and gentlemen. It is very harmful to you and the captioning/CART industry for highly talented stenographers to be training robots.
“Assume Positive Intent” – don’t assume anything. When you “ASS-U-ME,” you make an “ass” out of “you” and “me.”
“Secure the base” – the base is the 300 independent captioners, ladies and gentlemen, the talent with which Ai‑Media and ACS cannot survive! That is, until the human talent has finished helping them fully train your robot replacements.
Finally, everything we’ve written here – except for the direct quotes – is simply our opinion based on our long experience as stenographic reporters and captioners. We have no inside knowledge of the Ai‑Media/ACS transaction. But please keep this in mind if someone from ACS steps forward again to correct the record: ACS sold! ACS is not driving the bus. Ai‑Media is.
So until we see a full retraction and satisfactory explanation from Ai‑Media about how the very core of their business model is about their commitment to their human talent and not about using the “artificial intelligence” part of their platform to eliminate the pesky and expensive human part and thus maximize the almighty dollar (US or Australian) for Ai‑Media’s owners – until we hear and see proof of THAT, they’re not really saying anything but “blah, blah, blah” (which we’re pretty sure sounds the same in Australian- or American-English). But again, that’s just our opinion.
WAKE UP, CAPTIONERS!
Frank N. Sense
P.S. Please send this to every captioner and CART stenographer on your email list.
P.P.S. Thank you to all of the CARTers, captioners and stenographers that kept us informed on this very important happening in the stenographic industry. Keep the info flowing!
*US $12.8 million – to save you from doing the math
VERY IMPORTANT!!! Please vote now!!!
During the Annual Business Meeting, language was very confusingly thrown together rewriting the original proposed language of Amendment No. 7.
The present wording continues to be a backdoor way to add other modes of making the record into NCRA.
There are many ways to get around the issues espoused by the makers of the motion besides changing the Constitution & Bylaws of our association, which should only be done with a great deal of forethought. We should be treading lightly when it comes to changes to the C&B.
Please VOTE against Amendment No. 7, now!
VOTE NO! ON AMENDMENT NO. 7, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE
P.S. Please send this to ten members of NCRA, so that they know to VOTE AGAINST AMENDMENT NO. 7, too!!!
We’re wondering why this board won’t give us a full accounting regarding the sale of the fully-paid-for NCRA building which public records show sold for $5 million. And why the board won’t allow the full membership to vote on the proposed $30 dues increase.
There is an unspoken rule that present boards do not undermine the decisions of previous boards. But how many previous boards have sold a building and left $5 million unaccounted for? Many past board members spent ten or more years on the Board of Directors of NCRA (then they go to the Foundation and do more damage there!)
If you are going to the business meeting at o’dark thirty on Thursday morning, please make a motion to table the dues increase until we get answers to questions that we are entitled to, like: Where has ALL of OUR money gone? Are the rumors true that $1 million of that money went to a former executive director/CEO at the end of his employment? Has ANY of our money been used for that purpose?
If there is a vote for an increase in dues, please have the fortitude to represent your fellow members who may not be able to afford to attend the business meeting and vote against the dues increase!
PLEASE VOTE NO! on AMENDMENT NO. 7!
Also, please remember to Vote No! on Amendment 7 after you receive notice that the polls are open. Not only is this a backdoor way to let nonsteno members into NCRA, removing the proposed language will create the need to rewrite and clarify NCRA’s Constitution and Bylaws next year.
There are many solutions to address the issues espoused by the proponents of Amendment 7. For instance, Memoranda of Understanding are great ways to work with other organizations without having to change NCRA’s Constitution & Bylaws. That is how it’s done with many organizations desiring to change legislation. (We’re wondering why Victoria P. wants to have alternative technologies creep into NCRA anyway! Don’t let one person’s desire change the goals and desires of NCRA’s membership!)
Amendment No. 7 is a backdoor way to dilute membership’s resounding message to keep NCRA’s focus on Verbatim Stenographic Reporters!
It is VERY IMPORTANT to vote No! on Amendment No. 7.
Every vote counts! Remember that there will be many phone calls made by the three people and their friends to make sure that the vote goes their way! Don’t let that happen. Vote No! on 7!!!
PLEASE VOTE ON THURSDAY, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE
P.S. Please send this to 10 NCRA members so that they know to VOTE NO! on AMENDMENT NO. 7, too.
On August 15th, 2019, all NCRA members will have the ability to vote on proposed Constitution and Bylaws amendments.
As our C&B is written now, the state affiliation policy requires that a majority of the members of an affiliated association of NCRA (your state association) must consist of Verbatim Stenographic Reporters.
Amendment No. 7 seeks to REMOVE the language “A state association is eligible for affiliation if a majority of its members are verbatim stenographic reporters” from a state association’s eligibility for NCRA affiliation.
Removing that language from Amendment No. 7 will allow state associations to welcome electronic reporters to their memberships, thus opening the door for ER to infiltrate the NCRA.
There are many more reasons why Amendment No. 7 is a terrible amendment, but … enough said, right?
Please VOTE NO! to Amendment No. 7!
PLEASE VOTE, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE
P.S. Please send this to ten NCRA members so that they know to VOTE NO! to Amendment No. 7, too!
On June 3rd, buried deep in a weekly JCR blast titled “Working from Home While Parenting” is a “reminder” of an NCRA member dues increase to $300 a year!!! All of us here at WUNCRA can’t recall any previous notices of a dues increase to be “reminded” of.
Where were the previous notices posted? Perhaps in the “detailed” minutes of a board meeting where NCRA board members voted for this increase?
If you attend the Annual Business Meeting, you can vote against this insanity. But that privilege comes at a large cost – a roundtrip flight from wherever you live, and probably at least one night of lodging!!!*
Why not put this issue of a dues increase online for ALL MEMBERS to vote on at the same time we vote for the board slate of nominees and the proposed bylaw amendments? What is the board afraid of?
What happened to the $5 million from the sale of the paid-off building? Is it all gone? Have the previous boards blown through $5 million in less than five years? Is that why a dues increase is needed?
Membership needs a FULL ACCOUNTING before we even consider a dues increase. We’ve been asking for a full accounting for many years now.
Here are some questions that we want answered:
Why was the building sold? Which board members voted in favor and against the sale of the building? What was the listing price of the building? What was the sales price of the building? How much was owed on the building? Why was a mortgage taken against the fully-paid-for building? How was the realtor selected? How much was the realtor paid? Why was the realtor selected? Was it a-friend-of-a-friend situation? Where has all of the money been spent?
Why won’t the board answer membership’s questions?
Has an analysis been done about how many members will leave NCRA because of this latest dues increase? $300 a year is a lot of money for dues!
The blast mentioned that the last dues increase was in 2016. Was that $5 million already gone before that last increase?
What value has membership received since the last dues increase?
WAKE UP, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense
*Any member can attend the Annual Business Meeting held at the convention without having to pay for attending the convention.
Max C. posted in a thread of the Firm Owners’ Listserv about his state’s association putting on a party in Denver honoring his installation as President of NCRA. Well, it looks like Tennessee is offering sponsorships for the party to offset some of the expenses. Apparently, if any profits are left over from the party, they will benefit “NCRA’s A-to-Z programs and outreach across Tennessee about the opportunities that exist in a court reporting and captioning career.”
The thread on the Firm Owners’ Listserv began with an announcement about a new organization called Reliance — a group of independent firm owners and reporters — formed on June 1, 2019, because NCRA’s premier events at the national convention remained unsponsored (for many years, these premier events were often sponsored by some of the 1-800, big-box shops*). “The cost of hosting events like the Members’ Gala has been unattainable for a single small firm or individual at a $25,000 price tag.” By June 4, 2019, they raised enough money to not only sponsor the Members’ Gala, but they also funded five student convention registrations, AND have earmarked money to be donated to NCRA Strong, to further promote stenographic reporting! An unbelievable feat, we’re sure that you’d all agree!
Well, a group of “the old guard,” beginning with Sandy V. (who received the Distinguished Service Award while Nancy V. was immediate past president) rebuked Max about her “concerns about using an NCRA annual convention to raise money for a state’s project.” She went on to say, “Is there a conflict there or at least a potential conflict that considers additional thought before anyone contributes to this event?”**
Well, some of us here at WUNCRA recall Sandy V. using NCRA’s Listservs to gather a bunch of NCRA members to put their heads together to discuss the “impending shortage of reporters” which ultimately ended up with a hijacking of the NCRA convention in New Orleans to demonstrate and promote Revolutionary Text. Of course, she was quick to point out that “Project SOS” was not in any way, shape or form associated with NCRA. And now Sandy and Tammy are using their positions on the National Court Reporters Foundation*** to create best practices tantamount to super marketing materials to legitimize remote reporting that will ultimately be the demise of the remaining “mom-and-pop shops.” We don’t believe for one second that what appeared as an innocent request on NCRA’s Listservs wasn’t Step 1 to them helping their friends at Revo Text – and perhaps a couple of large firms that can afford to develop their own remote-reporting platforms in-house.
Talking about “conflicts,” we see SO MANY conflicts in what they’ve done and are doing that we can’t even count them all.
The public rebuke of Max continued with Tonya D. (who mysteriously left the NCRA Board, along with Immediate Past President Chris W. and a few other members of the clique — and since then seems to try to gut-punch Max and the board at every opportunity possible); Chris W. chimed in about all of the problems that she had with inurement (remember the board meeting that she was responsible for on March 9, 2018, regarding NCRA’s stance on contracting that was changed 16 months earlier without membership – and probably most of the board – knowing, that gave a front-row seat to a couple of big-box executives, but left a bunch of members in ante rooms because the room wasn’t large enough to accommodate everybody, which was discovered because the NCRA board wouldn’t show up for Virginia’s anti-contracting legislation that was being argued before its Legislature? Also, recall that the board under her leadership fired NCRA’s long-term lobbyist and hired that young dude from her home state of Wisconsin? A whole bunch of inurement that we have problems with, too!); then Doreen S. (a bestie for life) added a short message about agreeing with Chris; then Nancy V. busted in with a wah-wah-wah lecture about how her business venture isn’t allowed to raise money on the NCRA Listservs (maybe someday she will explain why she waited until AFTER her board tenure to begin that project); Max then ate some crow; then Art R. agreed with Nancy; then WEW added his “wise counsel” requesting that NCRA change its policy so that both Nancy and Tennessee can reap benefits.
Whew, those phones were lit up in a frenzy getting all of those past “leaders” to have each other’s backs on the Listserv while they were “poking the bear,” weren’t they?
Wake Up, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense
*Did they stop sponsoring these events because they no longer have enough self-dealing pawns on the board?
**It would have been nice to know that those little devils at the NCRF were going to use our hard-earned Angels donations to help promote a business owned by two past presidents and a director before making those contributions, too.
***Mission Statement of the National Court Reporters Foundation: The National Court Reporters Foundation supports the court reporting and captioning professions through philanthropic activities funded through charitable contributions.
REMOTE JUDICIAL REPORTING IS GOING TO KILL WHAT IS LEFT OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!
Tami Keenan, as head of the National Court Reporters Foundation, wrote a letter in the May JCR discussing Remote Judicial Reporting or RJR (yes, they’ve already even given it an acronym!). Sounds so nontoxic, doesn’t it? But this is poison to every member of the National Court Reporters Association that makes their living as a stenographic reporter!
Do you know those national contracts that have taken work out of your community? Those contracts that require your best clients to use a 1-800 company when they schedule depositions? Those contracts that you get called for to cover now that don’t pay you for all the copies that the 1-800s are selling? Yes, THOSE contracts!
Well, once this remote judicial reporting (RJR) gets traction, with the aid and blessing of the National Court Reporters Foundation — which also means with the blessing of the NCRA because lawyers don’t know that the NCRF even exists — you won’t even be getting the calls to cover work for your best clients because those depositions will be covered remotely.
Ah, yes, the argument that is going to be made is that they’re only looking at judicial reporting now. But once they get that national notary through, all gloves are off. (Remember all of those defectors to the tape-recording convention earlier this year? That’s a large organization to get behind the national notary, isn’t it?) Believe us when we tell you that this “RJR” thing is VERY calculated.
Below is an excerpt from Tami Keenan’s letter in May’s JCR magazine:
“NCRF has formed a new task force to explore the feasibility of remote judicial reporting, or RJR.* This often-misunderstood process allows for a stenographic reporter to work from a remote location at the time the job is being conducted. The virtual venue can help fill the job gap by supplying reporters to locations where there are shortages** or places that are too far to travel to. In addition, RJR has the potential to appeal to the next generation of court reporters, as the millennial and Generation Z populations place a high value on flexibility and efficiency. “
Look, Tami, this is NOT a misunderstood process! We understand perfectly why the NCRF is doing this!
Who are Tami’s besties? Who are Sandy’s besties? Who was on the NCRA board when Sandy received the DSA? Who did Tami sit on the NCRA board with all of those years? This nepotism must STOP … RIGHT NOW!!!
We believe that it is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS and UNCONSCIONABLE that the NCRF, under Tami’s leadership, is giving its blessing for “RJR” to help two past presidents and one past director market their remote reporting business!!!
Adding millennials and Generation Z’ers to the equation is one, big, fat smokescreen!
Where is the NCRA board while the NCRF is in the process of annihilating most of their members’ businesses? Why is the board just standing on the sidelines?
It is time that membership DEMAND that the NCRA board get involved and INSIST that the NCRF cease and desist!
Wake up, NCRA!!!
Frank N. Sense
P.S. Would you have even donated your hard-earned money to this foundation only to find out that they were going to use it against you?
P.P.S. Please send this to every stenographic reporter that you know so that they know what the foundation is doing to ruin their businesses.
* What gives the National Court Reporters Foundation the authority to even explore the feasibility of remote judicial reporting anyway? We believe that it’s in violation of its charter and bylaws.
** PERCEIVED SHORTAGES!
We all know that Dave Wenhold’s big focus was getting a national notary through Congress when he was the lobbyist for NCRA. Now that he’s the Interim Executive Director and CEO, is that still NCRA’s big goal?
Recently, a bunch of past presidents and leaders of NCRA, as well as executives from the big-box shops, “Benedict-Arnolded” to the electronic recording organization, so we’re sure that they’ll all be advocating for a national notary, too.
The big gathering of state leaders from around the country ends with face-to-face meetings with Congressmen and Senators on “The Hill.” Is it a push for a national notary that is going to be touted, or will the NCRA board take a public stance against being able to swear witnesses over the Internet and phone lines?
We want to know: Where does the NCRA stand on a national notary?
Will this be the final nail in the coffin for independent steno reporters – still the bulk of NCRA’s membership?
Wake Up, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense
P.S. Please don’t play semantics tricks on us by coming up with a new name for “notary.”
P.P.S. State leaders attending boot camp: Beware! Remember, you are there representing your membership.
From a past president who has been screaming from the mountaintops that the sky is falling regarding a shortage of steno reporters across the country; has a company that uses steno reporters remotely; is pushing for a national notary so witnesses can be sworn in across the country from his own basement:
“I’ll try to be less snarky … We NEED a way to swear witnesses nationally.”
Yep, you’ve read it correctly. His thoughts from his head down to his fingers, sent from us to you.
Like we’ve said before: The National Court Reporters Foundation is putting together a “best practices” guide for remote reporting (paid for by the sweat of the donations of Angels!) to benefit one remote reporting company. This “best practices guide” will be wonderful for marketing, along with the sanctioning that the title of “president of NCRA” will give them. It will be so much easier with a national notary, too.
And here we also have a quote from an NCRA board member recently appointed by the board, even though he lost a past election or two:
“Kudos to Reesa, Bill, Judy, and whoever else may be involved. A remote reporter fills the gap in remote areas where, yes, the shortage (or unwillingness to move there) doesn’t allow for a reporter on-site.”
So, do you think that “Reesa, Bill, Judy, and whoever else may be involved” (in the remote reporting company) are going to show up with NCRF’s best practices guide, the imprimatur of two past presidents and one past NCRA board member, AND a national notary, and limit their marketing to “remote areas where, yes, the shortage (or unwillingness to move there) doesn’t allow for a reporter on-site”?
Yeah, we don’t think that they’re going to stop where there is a perceived shortage either. Of course, we believe that the shortage is going to be work for reporters living in every state in the country that the remote reporting company enters.
Wake Up, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense
P.S. Please send this to steno reporters that you know, so they are informed about what the National Court Reporters Foundation is spending their hard-earned donations on AND what past and present leadership are doing to line their own pockets.
P.P.S. NCRA Board: How much more are you going to help the national consolidators put your rank and file membership/local reporters out of business? You MUST put a kibosh to the NCRF publishing “best practices” for a company owned by former leaders of NCRA. When is enough going to be enough already?