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.


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?)