Off The Beaten Path: Shout Out To Captioners

Karen Kozenczak via Journal & Topic

Although not as colorful, dirty, or smelly as the careers featured on the once-upon-a-television-series “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”, the responsibilities of the live person behind the captions that have wrapped themselves around our lives on television, YouTube, live theater screens, and phone devices for the hearing impaired, are often taken for granted. Most of us, so accustomed to these scrolling messages just being there to the point of ignoring them all together, give little thought to the trained captioners, who make a living transcribing the audible word.

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If you cannot hear, a captioner can be your right arm, or ears. A captioner dictates and is responsible for writing, key stroking, what a program or audible source is relaying. Captioning may be closed or real time. Closed means words are added to a prerecorded program. Real time means the words are spontaneously transcribed as they are spoken and heard by the captioner. Real time limits the amount of editing that can be done, so speed and accuracy are paramount. The goal of the captioner is to have what comes in his/her ear go out his/her lips and fingertips perfectly.

Many of us unknowingly have performed some closed captions. We might have edited a few onomatopoeias (remember the “Whams” or “Bams” from the Batman day). Perhaps we added a few “slaps” or “heartbeats” on Facebook updates. Closed captioning, like what we watch flash across the screen while watching television, requires editing software that involves the captioner working with codes to sync the spelled-out words with the video. (On that topic, doesn’t it just drive you crazy when captions are flashed off before you get a chance to read them? Or what about the font type that is just too small to read?)

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Audit Finds Court Reporters Make Extra $1 Million in Side Work

Mark F Fitch, Yankee Institute for Public Policy

The Connecticut Judicial Department paid out over $1 million in extra pay between 2012 and 2016 for court reporters and monitors to type transcripts for other agencies, and allows those employees to produce work for private parties on state time, according to new state audit.

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Although state auditors could not determine how much court reporters earned working for private parties while on state time, the extra pay earned typing transcripts for other state agencies is counted toward their salaries and can be used to spike their pensions.

The findings by the Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts mirror the 2010 findings by the Committee on Court Reporting Monitors and Court Reporters, which found “court reporters and court recording monitors are able to supplement their annual base income by preparing transcripts of judicial proceedings.”

Those extra transcription fees — on top of their regular salaries — can add up. The committee report noted that in 2009 alone, Connecticut paid over $1 million in additional compensation for court reporters and monitors to produce transcripts.

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Closed-Captioning Provides for a Better Movie Going Experience

Tom LaVenture, The Jamestown Sun

The management of Keim Theatres said new assistive technology is making it possible for more people to enjoy the movie-going experience at Bison 6 Cinema in Jamestown and Valley Twin Cinema in Valley City.

 Cory Keim, general manager of Keim Theatres, shows the new wireless closed captioning devices for the hearing impaired. 

Cory Keim, general manager of Keim Theatres, shows the new wireless closed captioning devices for the hearing impaired. 

The two theaters now provide wireless closed captioning devices for the hearing impaired patron to use at any seat by attaching it to the cup holder, said Cory Keim, general manager. The theaters also provide audio description headphones for the visually impaired that provide a supplementary soundtrack to describe the visual elements in the film, he said.
"Our hope is that these new advances will dramatically enhance the movie-going experience for our guests," Keim said. "The devices are available for all showtimes, every day by just asking about them at the box office counter."

To accommodate the deaf, hard of hearing, blind or otherwise visually impaired, the U.S. Department of Justice required digital movie theaters to provide closed captioning and audio description devices in January 2017. To be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act all digital theaters must have the technology in place for use before June 2.

The rule outlines that theaters with two to seven screens must have at least six closed captioning devices. Bison 6 Cinema has six screens and Valley Twin Cinema has two screens, which require six devices at each theater, Keim said.

The Bison 6 is required to have 19 audio description headphones on hand as a theater with 900 to 1,000 seats. The Valley View Cinema with just over 200 seats must have eight sets of headphones.

Lyman Keim, managing director of Keim Theatres, said the closed captioning device has a cover with a deep window to limit the amount of escaping light from the device.

"It doesn't distract the people around you because of the size of the hood," said Lyman Keim, managing director.

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"Oh God, It's About Grunting Again": An Official Stenographer Dishes On Transcribing Tennis Players

 Photo: Clive Brunskill ( Getty )

Photo: Clive Brunskill (Getty)

Tennis players do press constantly; it’s part of their job. They field questions about all the unforced errors on their forehand, why their first serve was so effective, or what does it feel like to pull off an upset like this, and they generally give tame and compact answers. So the journalists can write off of a central and accurate account of what was said at a presser, the tour employs a transcription service. These people have perhaps listened to more tennis players more carefully than anyone else in the world. (They have now also faced the challenge of transcribing Overwatch character names phonetically.) Linda Christensen, who helps to produce the official transcripts for the Indian Wells Masters and has worked various tennis tournaments for over a decade, told me what she’s picked up on the job.

Deadspin: You’ve been doing this for 11 years. Across those years you must see a total range of players from different countries, different accents. Are there certain accents that you’re especially familiar with now, or others that are still tricky?

Christensen: Some are still tricky. Quite honestly because we deal with speed as well, the funny part of that is the hardest speed-wise are the English speakers. The Australians and the Americans. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the English as in—even Andy Murray sometimes can be a little tricky, or he was in the beginning.

His brogue.

Yeah. But the Aussies, especially if you are having Australian journalists asking an Australian player, they talk on top of each other and they anticipate what they’re gonna say.

 Photo: Linda Christensen at work on her stenography keyboard

Photo: Linda Christensen at work on her stenography keyboard

Is there slang that’s sometimes hard to keep track of?

There’s little colloquialisms. And funny sayings. You know, Lleyton Hewitt. It’s just kind of fun to hear him say that he put in his “hahd yahds.” Or they always say—we as Americans for good luck say we “knock on wood.” And a lot of other nationalities say, in the middle of the phrase, “so I hope to do that—touch wood.”

What questions do you hear the most of? Are there any questions you hear so many times that you just tune out the answers?

It goes in cycles as well. For a few years it was about the grunting. So they would ad nauseum talk about how they were going to do away with grunting. And those who had already been coached to grunt as part of their swing took great issue with that. So it became, Oh God, it’s about grunting again. And then you’d get to a smaller country tournament where the local journalists hadn’t heard about it much, so you thought that issue was done, and they’d say, “I wanna talk about grunting.” And then the player would go, “Oh dear God not this again.” [Victoria] Azarenka had a funny one in Doha where a local reporter said, “I wanna talk to you about your grunting.” And she says, “Let me ask you this, do you snore? Do you think you could stop snoring if you had to?”

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York County court reporter wants more people to have her job

Maria Yohn, York Dispatch

It's National Court Reporting and Captioning Week, but across the nation, there are fewer court reporters to celebrate it.

However, the association is facing an uphill struggle as educational institutions rapidly eliminate court-reporting programs because of lack of interest, and courts around the country delay important proceedings because of their inability to find a court reporter.

 York County Chief Court Reporter Christine Myers shows how she uses a stenotype machine for shorthand use during court hearings. (Photo: Maria Yohn)

York County Chief Court Reporter Christine Myers shows how she uses a stenotype machine for shorthand use during court hearings. (Photo: Maria Yohn)

York County: York County chief court reporter Christine Myers is well aware of the looming dearth of court reporters in the legal system, but she says that York County, which currently employs 19 full-time court reporters, has not been affected at this point. 

"We have a couple of really good freelancers that we can call upon to help out when there are vacations, a death in the family, etc," she said.

However, she predicts changes in the next few years as two or three official court reporters are expected to retire along with several court reporters she knows in the freelance world. Meanwhile, the county's 14 judges will continue to be very busy on the bench. 

"There will be plenty of jobs in this area, but there is also a growing need across Pennsylvania and into Maryland," she said. 

Effects: A report commissioned by the National Court Reporters Association in 2014 predicted that an estimated 5,500 new court reporter jobs would be available by 2018 in the United States and that demand for court reporters would likely exceed the supply. Myers said that the position of court reporter was recently listed in Forbes Magazine's list of top 20 jobs to get.

According to the NCRA, criminal proceedings are already being delayed in certain states because of the court-reporting shortage.  The NCRA reports that the future of the profession looks even more dire as enrollment and  graduation rates continue their free fall and court reporting schools close as a result.

Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that the population of court reporters is aging, as 70 percent of court reporters are now 46 years of age or older.

Opportunities: After graduation, the prospective court reporter has a few options, Myers said.

Some might choose the official route by applying at a courthouse, and after they are hired, they will be assigned to a courtroom. Official court reporters usually start at $40,000 to $50,000 per year, she said, and have the advantage of set hours, job stability and medical benefits.

However, many court reporters choose freelancing, as it offers a more flexible schedule, more travel and the prospect of earning as much money as they are willing to work for, she said. The downside is that there are no benefits, but freelancing is ideal for individuals who wish to spend more time with their families.

According to Myers, it's possible to work two days a week and earn a healthy income, while she knows some court reporters who are ambitious enough to bring in six-figure salaries. 

 

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Local groups work to end court reporter shortage and speed up Tulsa County case flow

via Fox23 News

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TULSA, Okla. - Allison Hall, a court reporter for 18 years, says there’s a national shortage for court reporters. Hall says Oklahoma is about 300 hundred court reporters short. Currently there are between 375 and 400 court reporters working in Oklahoma.

Hall says the Tulsa County case flow has slowed down as a result of the shortage.  She says fewer cases are being litigated, because there aren’t enough court reporters available for court proceedings.

The situation has captured the attention of Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Doug Combs. This year, he formalized a task force dedicated to investigating solutions to this shortage.

Experts says in the next few years the trouble will be problematic for court systems. 

Tulsa County Court Administrator Vicki Cox says backlogged cases aren’t something they keep a count on. However, she did state that officials have noticed the shortage of court reporters, and it’s becoming a problem.

Tulsa Community College and Gordon Cooper Technology Center are both currently enrolling students to train them to become court reporters.

It takes two years to finish court reporting school, and salaries typically start at $40,000.

Court reporters also provide close captioning for sporting events, depositions for attorneys, live closed captioning and captioning for deaf individuals.

More than three quarters of court reporters are in their 50’s and 60’s.

Demand is growing in the captioning and court reporting profession

via Adam Burroughs, Smart Business Online

There is major demand for captioners and court reporters. According to a recent National Court Reporters Association survey that looked at the trends affecting job opportunities in the profession, it’s expected there will be 5,500 job openings available in the field across the country in the next five years.

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“We have a 100 percent employment rate for graduates,” says Kelly Moranz, CRI, program manager and adjunct faculty in the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College. “I’m always getting calls about job openings. Court reporters and captionists are being hired locally and all over the country.”

Smart Business spoke with Moranz about the captioning and court reporting career field, its outlook and requirements.

 

Why is demand for captioners and court reporters increasing?
Part of the reason for the strong demand is an increase in the retirement rate of court reporters. Jobs are opening up and there aren’t enough people to fill them.

It’s not a well-known profession, which means people don’t often think of it as a career choice despite court reporting programs working locally and nationally to get the word out about the opportunities that exist.

Also, the FCC has instituted tighter regulations for broadcast captioning that may curtail the use of transcription software because it isn’t as accurate or as consistent as the new regulations demand, so human providers are needed.

What tends to draw people to this career?
A big draw is the great deal of flexibility there is in the field. Captioners and court reporters often can work from home. And, though many people don’t know this, there is significant earning potential. It’s not uncommon for experienced and capable reporters to earn $100,000 or more annually.

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“MAD DOG” MATTIS MAKING LIFE INTERESTING FOR PENTAGON STENOGRAPHERS

 U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis awaits the start of an honor cordon welcoming UK Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon at the Pentagon on July 7, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis awaits the start of an honor cordon welcoming UK Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon at the Pentagon on July 7, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia.

by Ryan Grim at the Intercept

Speaking at a troop event last week, Secretary of Defense Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis offered up the kind of rhetoric that helped earn him his nickname.

And it leaves stenographers to grapple with the question: When a sailor curses like a sailor, what does the official government transcript look like?

For last week’s event at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state, the stenographers just rolled with it.

“You will have some of the best days of your life and some of the worst days of your life in the U.S. Navy, you know what I mean? That says — that means you’re living. That means you’re living,” Mattis told the assembled sailors.

“That means you’re not some pussy sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be lying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say, ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”

Mattis, of course, serves a president who is no stranger to what he calls “locker room talk,” but Trump’s infamous use of the word was meant literally, not metaphorically.

Mattis, a former Marine Corps general, also shared his own brief experience underwater.

I wish — I was I was young enough to go back out to sea, although I will admit it takes a special kind of person to be in submarines. I was in the Marines, and there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean? (Laughter.)

I spent seven days underwater once on a submarine so small it’d fit in half of this thing, and I was never so happy as when I got back to the surface, you know what I mean? (Laughter.)

Real-time captioning helps overcome hearing loss: Neeson

By Rob Lamberti, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
 Kim Neeson

Kim Neeson

Real-time captioning offers opportunities for those hard-of-hearing to integrate in school and work, says Neeson's Court Reporting founder and president Kim Neeson.

She tells AdvocateDaily.com that Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) is used in courts, workplaces, meetings and conventions, and even at schools, and it helps put people with hearing issues on the same field as everyone else.  Some 3 million Canadians have hearing loss, the largest disability in the country, according to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA).

"If one's hearing is significantly compromised, sign language doesn't help unless the person knows how to read sign," Neeson says. "But they do understand the written word, so we become their ears."

The service is provided either in person or remotely through electronic devices and programs to provide instant voice-to-text translation for display, Neeson says.  Her staff uses shorthand providing a blazing 225 words or more per minute with a near perfect accuracy level.  

CART can also help those who use English as a second language or have a cognitive impairment by both hearing and reading to help them fully understand what is going on, Neeson says. 

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The Sport of Realtime

via JCR  By Ron Cook
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Before I even knew what court reporting was, I majored in physical education in college. It was then that I started to see advertisements for court reporting school, and I began to think, “Hey, I could do that.” Shortly thereafter, I dropped out of the college I was attending and began court reporting school, never to look back.

I have often equated the work that I do at my machine during a deposition with that of an athlete. I’ve always been competitive, and I carried that competitiveness over to my writing. What can I do to make myself faster? What can I do to make myself more efficient? How can I beat this machine? How can I get my computer to work for me instead of me working for it? I’d like to share some of the mental approaches I’ve learned to adapt from sports and life, in general, to reporting.

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Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer based in Seattle, Wash. 

Court reporting makes comeback as more legal proceedings demand human touch

Ginger Adams Otis via NY Daily News

 Student practicing on a stenotype machine via Daily News

Student practicing on a stenotype machine via Daily News

At last, the humans win one. Court reporting, a skill that seemed destined to be replaced by electronic tape recorders, is making a comeback — and bringing a lot of very good jobs.

Once upon a time, the fast-tapping typers — who must hit 225 words-per-minute with 95% accuracy to be deemed competent — were a ubiquitous sight across the city’s court system.

They were a fixture in every sort of courtroom drama, both in real life and on TV’s “Perry Mason” and early “Law & Order” episodes, drawing attention whenever a judge or an attorney demanded, “Readback, please.”

Demand for live court reporters faded in the 1990s, when budget cuts prompted many of the city’s courts to switch to electronic recorders and farm out the tapes to inexpensive freelance typists.

Yet even as that happened, the realization slowly dawned on many court administrators that tape recorders couldn’t fully replace human beings after all — especially when the machines occasionally didn’t get turned on.

“There have been many, many instances in the past when recordings have failed, the machinery didn’t work, or it just wasn’t turned on due to human error,” said Eric Allen, president of the Association of Supreme Court Reporters.

 

Eugene City Council considers hiring stenographer to keep minutes of meetings

via Register-Guard

In an era of streaming video and social media, residents may in coming months be able to read what is said at Eugene City Council meetings.

Every single word of every single meeting.


Providing verbatim minutes of City Council meetings in a digital format is one of the proposals that elected leaders are mulling as they seek to improve transparency and public trust in City Hall.

 Eugene City Coucil

Eugene City Coucil

In May, the city budget committee — the eight city councilors plus an equal number of citizen members — recommended that the city restore the position of “City Council stenographer,” or minutes recorder, pending future approval by the council.

If the council gives its OK, the money would be added as part of a budget change made in December.

The stenographic record wouldn’t come cheap. City staff have estimated the annual labor cost at about $200,000, not including materials and other equipment.

The city once had a pool of recorders who took detailed minutes of meetings of City Council and other city advisory boards for public review. Those minutes didn’t list every single word, but were still very detailed. But budget cuts slowly eliminated those positions until the last one was cut in 2012, City Recorder Beth Forrest said.

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Courts Fear Effects of Stenographer Shortage

via Daily Item

Susquehanna Valley courtrooms are bucking a nationwide shortage of court reporters, which is expected to peak in 2018.

The shortage was identified by the National Association of Court Reporters which found that the demand for stenographers would outpace supply by about 5,500 in 2018.  The looming shortage was on Charles H. Saylor’s mind when he took over as president judge in Northumberland County last year.

“I was concerned that we would have (adequate court reporters) to cover all our needs,” said Saylor, who oversees three courtrooms in the Sunbury courthouse. 

It turns out that staffing hasn’t been a problem even with the retirement of John Onesi, one of the county’s two full-time staff court reporters. Not only was Onesi’s position quickly filled with an experienced stenographer, Saylor said, but freelancers have been available as well. 

In Snyder and Union counties, the courtrooms are also well staffed with two full-time and one part-time stenographer, said Judge Michael H. Sholley

As a member of the statewide Committee on Court Reporters and Transcribers, Columbia-Montour Court Administrator Tami Kline said she is aware of the shortage, but like neighboring county court officials, she hasn’t encountered any problems filling the stenographer seat. 

‘Saul’ better call local court reporter

 From “Better Call Saul” (Season 1, Episode 1), real-life veteran court reporter Jennifer Bean appears with a Big Gulp drink cup and an authentic steno machine, circa early 2000s. (Ursula Coyote/AMC TV)

From “Better Call Saul” (Season 1, Episode 1), real-life veteran court reporter Jennifer Bean appears with a Big Gulp drink cup and an authentic steno machine, circa early 2000s. (Ursula Coyote/AMC TV)

Jennifer Bean, an Albuquerque veteran court reporter, helped open the recent premiere of AMC-TV’s “Better Call Saul,” portraying a role she does best: being a court reporter.
“I wanted to be part of this, but I was worried about how I would be portrayed. It had to be ethical. I couldn’t play a sleezeball court reporter and then have my (real-life) judge see that and wonder what I was doing in that show,” says Bean, 60, a New Mexico certified court reporter since 1977 and owner of Bean & Associates Inc., a professional court reporting service.

Bean helped nail her role by providing her own prop, an authentic steno machine, circa the early 2000s, the time period 

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Karen Sole - our New School Administrator

The New York School of court Reporting is pleased to announce Lisa Sole as the school's new Administrator. Karen brings over 25 years experience in the court reporting industry including stints at Bryan College and StenoTech Career Institute, Karen is an NCRA Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), NCRA Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI), and an NCRA Certified Program Evaluator (CPE). Karen is also an instructor at the school.

Severe staffing shortages grind NY courts to a halt

via nypost.com


Despite historic case backlogs, dozens of city judges are pushing pencils instead of banging gavels because there is not enough staff to conduct courtroom trials, judges and court officers told The Post.

A Brooklyn Supreme court courtroom sits empty last year because of a lack of Court Reporters

The state court system in New York City is operating at only “70 percent” of capacity and is down 250 officers and 250 clerks, charges Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association.

“There are judges who could be working who aren’t working, and it’s the public that’s getting [cheated],” Quirk said.

“The judges can’t talk about it on the record, but I can tell you that they complain about it every day to the powers that be,” he said. “It’s been going on for the last two years and it’s getting worse. Every day there are judges sitting in chambers not able to conduct trials because there is not enough manpower.”

A criminal trial requires two court officers per defendant, one clerk and one court reporter.

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America's Court Reporting Crisis

VIA CNBC.COM

WANT TO MAKE SIX FIGURES AND SET YOUR OWN SCHEDULE? CNBC'S JANE WELLS REPORTS AMERICA IS SUFFERING FROM A MAJOR SHORTAGE OF COURT REPORTERS.

As Americans overloaded with student debt question the value of a college degree, training for one high-paying profession begging for employees costs relatively little.

Jane Wells on CNBC

 "There is going to be a demand, and a need, for at least 5,500 new positions over the next three to five coming years," said Sarah Nageotte, president of the National Court Reporters Association. Fifteen percent of the industry is poised to retire. Nageotte said a lot of people are not even aware the career still exists.

Court reporting not only exists, it's expanding.

Most new reporting jobs are outside the courtroom, doing depositions or closed captioning. There is a new federal initiative to provide captioning services to hearing-impaired students. The pay for those jobs can range from $35 an hour up into six figures. One opening for a court reporter in San Francisco starts above $100,000, plus benefits. 

Shortage of Closed Captioners in US

via NBC 9News Colorado

We've been told that the TV news show Next occasionally airs in bars. And the people watching in bars probably can see Kyle's face but can't hear his voice, and instead, read the closed captioning at the bottom of the screen.

Stacey Potenza in Eastern Colorado

Well, People Watching Next in Bars, did you know it's not computer generated?

The words are the fine work of a real live human, like Stacey Potenza, who lives in Eastern Colorado and watches TV like it's her job. Ya know, because it is. 

Potenza lives in Limon, connected to the rest of country through the interstate that forms its northern border, and connected to anyone in the world through a computer in her home office. 

“I don’t think, outside of a few close friends in Limon, anyone in my town even understands how it works.” she says. 

That's probably true for most people.

"Live TV like news, sporting events, conferences – anything that’s live – chances are it's somebody sitting at home in their pajamas (who's typing it),” Potenza says during our interview, when she was captioning for a student in a classroom at CU. “I also love getting to be a perpetual student, getting to learn something new, whether it’s through classes or even newscasts, and specialty shows across the United States.”

Potenza and other captioners have to be certified at 225 words per minute, and but she can go up to around 300 word-per-minute bursts if she needs to. The average single speaker rate of speech is around 180 words a minute, but things get complicated with speedy talkers, or multiple speakers. We put her to the test with Kyle Clark's commentary about snow on patio furniture, and she stayed around 220 the entire time.

You might think technology would be threatening her job. After all, that Siri is getting pretty good.

“She’s pretty good, though. Anybody who has an iPhone and talks to Siri knows how frustrating it can be to try to get her to hear exactly what you’re saying.”

Captioners used phonetic keyboards that type by the syllable, instead of by the letter. Each key represents a letter, and combination of keys will type a letter that isn't represented on the 22-key keyboard. The job requires just as much skill in listening as it does in typing. Closed captioners actually undergo the same training as a stenographer in a court room, which is what led Potenza to this job. 

"My dad was a court reporter for 24 years. His mom was also a court reporter for 20-plus years. I had an epiphany one day. I woke up and realized they were home more than they were gone, and that was a perfect career for me to pursue." 

Potenza says there are about 400 captioners in the United States, meaning there is a shortage of them. 

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