More Flimflam

IAll of us here at WUNCRA have been spending a lot of time dissecting NCRA’s “Social Media Response” to their ill-considered approach to test retention.

The flimflam continues:

”It is unusual for a certification body to allow test-taking, from beginning to ultimate passing, to extend as long as three years. And it is to the NCRA tester’s advantage that multiple testing opportunities are offered throughout those three years. For instance, over that time a tester has 24 discrete occasions to take and pass all legs of the RPR, an unusually high number of opportunities in the certification world.”

Using words like “unusual” in this situation is so vague. NCRA decided to change a policy that’s been around for at least 50 years and has now been lopped out of existence because it’s “unusual” to extend testing from beginning to passing for as long as three years? That is absolutely ludicrous! It’s not unusual. The policy has been around for 50 years! What is unusual is not to grandfather the legs that have been banked for MEMBERS that have passed tests under almost onerous circumstances! Why wasn’t the policy forward-looking, if there was going to be a change? This makes no sense!

And since the RPR is the entry level to so many reporting students transitioning from school to work, why just allow 24 discrete opportunities to pass that test in three years? Why not give them 24 discrete opportunities to pass the RPR a year? Why hold anybody back from earning a paycheck for one second? It’s a skill. They can either pass or they can’t. So give these newly minted reporters as many opportunities as possible to get to work as soon as possible! -especially since so many have experienced “icing” * because of the testing scheme that NCRA has chosen to hang its hat on.

NCRA’s next bullet point is self-congratulations about all of the wonderful things that NCRA has done to notify members of this crazy, unnecessary change. They talk about 22 separate individual announcements in the JCR Weekly, print magazine and the website (we’re sure an NCRA employee was tasked with finding and counting all of those announcements). They talk about a one-page chart, a link to the chart, footers about the policy change and the deadline at the bottom of emails since January 2021. They talk about how they posted numerous ads in the publications and on social media. They go on to say that they sent postcards to the tester database from 2000 forward reminding members who have passed legs of tests under the most rigorous of testing protocols that time’s almost up. And, of course, the website even featured a countdown of the retention policy since January 2021.

But NEVER MENTIONED in all the flimflam is the reason for taking away tests from members that were passed under the most rigorous of testing protocols.

Wake Up, NCRA!

Frank N. Sense

*Please see the WUNCRA “icing” blog post from June 1, 2021.

NCRA’s “Foundational Issues to Keep in Mind” (AKA Talking Points to Guide the Discussion or Keeping the Eye on “Our” Ball)

Thank you to the WUNCRA readers who have sent us NCRA’s “Social Media Response” regarding NCRA’s testing retention debacle. We will endeavor to clarify NCRA’s doublespeak for pissed-off members who are losing their banked tests that were taken and passed under the strictest of rules.

They start out by saying:

”As a membership organization, NCRA always appreciates feedback from its members. The Board is receiving feedback and questions on the upcoming deadline for those who have not passed all finishing legs of testing in the allotted three-year period. This discussion, and Board vote over four-plus years ago, has been ongoing for more than five years, with progressive implementation taking place from 2016, so there is a long history of thoughtful and vetted steps regarding these actions.”

Yes, indeed, NCRA is a membership organization. And the members — that the Board represents and pays the salaries for NCRA’s employees — are vehemently opposed to this policy! The memo of “talking points” explains that the Board voted over four-plus years ago, and this has been on-going for more than five years. Had membership known and had a voice BEFORE the decision was made, NCRA would have known how upset membership would be over this awful decision. We must ask: Why was the issue even brought to the Board in the first place? This is a practice and a promise that has been in effect for  time  immemorial. Why has it been changed?

The memo continues:

”CAPR (Council of the Academy of Professional Reports, an NCRA volunteer committee established in our Bylaws and comprised of NCRA members who have attained the designation of Fellow), after research and consultation, made a recommendation to codify and better manage our certification process. The lack of an established policy regarding accepted length of testing and expiration of exam scores falls well outside certification best practices of any accrediting body.”

Whoa! There’s A LOT to unpack in that paragraph. Let’s blame it on the poor Fellows that volunteer for CAPR, and let them take the heat for this terrible policy! After all, they’re the elite of the elite, right? That’s the way to deflect the questions! BUT the questions remain: Why was it ever brought to CAPR in the first place? Who brought it to CAPR? You just don’t decide “Let’s go to CAPR to solve a problem that hasn’t been a problem for 50 years.” AND if CAPR decided to make changes to the policy, why not just make the policy forward-looking and grandfather the tests that were taken under the strictest of testing protocols? None of what NCRA has done here makes sense. NOT ONE BIT!

Enough! With NCRA’s used-car salesman “I need to check with my manager” flimflam (talking points). Membership needs some real answers AND it needs a restoration of NCRA’s policy of banking of tests that’s been counted on by its members for the past 50 years.

Wake Up, NCRA!

Frank N. Sense

 

 

NCRA Exam Retention Policy

We’ve been hearing A LOT from some very angry members of NCRA regarding the change in the exam retention policy that NCRA is implementing at the end of the year.  As a matter of fact, we believe that anger over this issue is one of the hottest buttons since WUNCRA came into existence.

As a background, NCRA members have been able to take tests in “legs,” and those legs remained active until the final leg was passed – no matter how long it took.

Suddenly, out of the blue, NCRA changed the policy, requiring members who had been “banking” legs of certification tests to take the outstanding legs by December 31st, 2021.

Some of the outcries that we’ve been hearing against this new policy are:

  1. When the passing legs were banked, those tests were taken under the strictest testing standards.  So why discount the veracity of those tests now?
  2. Those tests were paid for with hard-earned money, often requiring a lot of traveling when the tests were given at brick-and-mortar locations.
  3. Realtime Coach and its association with Proctor U has been ONE, BIG FLOP. So even members that have tried to comply with NCRA’s new mandate haven’t been able to because of the ineptness of the testing scheme.
  4. Proctors don’t show up at scheduled testing times – what does that do psychologically to a person taking a skills test?
  5. There is not a human to talk to when dealing with Realtime Coach’s and Proctor U’s business FLOPS.
  6. Being timed out (automatic failure) from uploading notes within the three-minute window while waiting for a Proctor U employee to come to the chat box.  Then when a proctor finally arrives, and if they can be understood because English is a second language, they have no clue about what they are even proctoring!
  7. Proctors chime in in the midst of dictation of the skills test!!!
  8. Why does the Proctor U owl logo show up on computer taskbars weeks after a test was taken? CREEPY!  Are there videos out there on the dark web of NCRA members walking in front of their computers in their underwear – or worse – we wonder?
  9. We have not heard one single word from NCRA regarding these issues with Realtime Coach and Proctor U!
  10. During the Treasurer’s Report at NCRA’s business meeting, there was a lot of self-congratulations about the amount of money that NCRA’s three-year testing deadline brought into NCRA’s coffers just in this last year.  So, is that it? We now measure the success of any initiative not by how well it serves members, but by how much money it squeezes from members?
  11. When a policy is changed, people who have banked tests usually are grandfathered, and the policy only applies going forward.  (When states implemented certifications, they didn’t require every stenographer who had already been working in the state to sit for tests – they were grandfathered in, making them certified stenographers in those states.  We cannot find a state requiring certifications that has not had this as a policy.)

The above are just a few of the concerns cited off the tops of our heads since we have been inundated with emails here at WUNCRA.

This policy needs to be back-pedaled and re-evaluated, NCRA!  Why was it even implemented?  What prompted this dubious, money-over-members policy?

WE WANT ANSWERS!

WAKE UP, NCRA!
Frank N. Sense

P.S. Please send this to every NCRA member that you know, so they can understand the outrageousness of this dubious, money-over-members policy of NCRA, too.

Less than Two Hours Left to Vote NO! Allowing Videographers to Become Voting Members of NCRA!

Less than Two Hours Left to Vote NO! Allowing Videographers to Become Voting Members of NCRA!

There is a past president of NCRA that spoke from the floor of the business meeting that videographers should become voting members of NCRA because one CLVS recently dropped everything to make a video for an NCRA committee.  And THAT’S WHY she thinks that videographers should become voting members of NCRA.

Jeesh!

Please Vote NO! to videographers becoming voting members of NCRA.

WAKE UP, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE

VOTE NO! ON AMENDMENT NO. 7! VIDEOGRAPHERS SHOULD NOT BE VOTING MEMBERS OF NCRA!

VOTE NO! ON AMENDMENT NO. 7!
VIDEOGRAPHERS SHOULD NOT BE VOTING MEMBERS OF NCRA!

The polls are open!  Please vote NO! ON 7!

WAKE UP, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE

P.S. Please send this to all of the NCRA verbatim stenographic reporters that you know to remind them to VOTE!

 

VOTE NO! TO AMENDMENT NO. 7 ON JULY 29TH VIDEOGRAPHERS SHOULD NOT BE VOTING MEMBERS OF NCRA

We enjoy reading the “rationales” for changing the Constitution and Bylaws of NCRA.  It adds a little spice to some really dry text.  

Here are the rationalizations put forward regarding Amendment No. 7:

  • “In Purpose 1, of the Purposes of this Association, underrepresented CLVS members DO NOT want to be seen as an alternative method.”

Well, we’ve heard through the grapevine that the 1-800 consolidators have been requiring underrepresented videographers to become notaries so that they can swear witnesses because verbatim stenographic reporters won’t work for them.  It’s our opinion that swearing in a witness, videoing without a stenographic reporter present, and sending that digital audio to India for transcription is “an alternative method.” 

  • “In Purpose 5, the CLVS members feel that they can assist in promoting the proper technical research that ensures the verbatim stenographic record and video record remain lawful.”

How does becoming voting members of NCRA accomplish this, we wonder?

  • “Purpose 8, to cooperate for the benefit of the public.”

That’s a weird rationalization for making a major change to the C&B of NCRA.

  • “CLVS members are not asking for a seat at the table.  By requesting this change, CLVS members are asking to have a say in who sits at the table, to have a voice in their own governance.”

Hey, CLVSs, if you want a say in who sits at NCRA’s table, go pass a stenography course and become a verbatim stenographic reporter.  If you want to “have a voice in your own governance,” start a new association just for CLVSs.

  • “Currently, CLVS members are Associate Members with annual dues of $179.  As Participating Members, CLVS annual dues would be raised to $300 annually.”

We agree that CLVS Associate Membership should be raised to $300.  THAT’S  a great idea. And it won’t even require a change  to NCRA’s C&B.

WAKE UP, NCRA!
FRANK N. SENSE

P.S. Isn’t this déjà vu all over again?  How many times does membership have to say NO! to this, Board of Directors? Is it time for new leadership that will focus – and stay focused – on Verbatim Stenographic Reporters?

P.P.S.  Please forward this to all NCRA verbatim stenographic reporters that you know so that they will VOTE NO! TO NO. 7, too.

“Icing” – Can You Take the Pressure?

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.

How so?

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.

YOUR EXCITING NEW JOB … TRAINING YOUR ROBOT REPLACEMENT!

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

POLLS OPEN UNTIL 2:00 P.M. MOUNTAIN TIME! PLEASE VOTE NO! ON AMENDMENT NO. 7!

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!!!

Business Meeting on Thursday AND Please Vote No! on Amendment 7

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.