NCRA: Please Don’t Talk About Us On Social Media, It Might Force Us To Address Your Concerns…

National Court Reporters Association:

Message from Kristin Anderson, new President of the NCRA 2023-2024
Message from Kristin Anderson, new President of the NCRA 2023-2024
Message from Kristin Anderson, new President of the NCRA 2023-2024

I’ll start with an admission: The headline is not entirely fair. It’s my belief that the individuals involved with NCRA care very much individually. Especially STRONG. But the organization itself has problems, and I’m ready to write about what I’ve experienced and largely why I no longer have confidence in the association.

I do take umbrage with the whole concept of “don’t use social media to discuss the issues.” It restricts effective communication? As a guy who runs the equivalent of a stenographic spy network, I would say the communication’s pretty poor no matter what we do. In the time that it took to systematically dismantle the corporate campaign against stenographers, I’m hard pressed to name anything NCRA has done besides conventions and business as usual. Telling us not to discuss the issues is basically saying “we do not want you to participate.” I have found in my dealings with NCRA that the association doesn’t do anything unless you have an army at your back, and social media is exactly how that army organizes. The army wouldn’t need to organize in the first place if the association was proactive instead of always playing damage control. That’s not Kristin Anderson’s fault. She’s doing what she has to do as president of the association. But there is a real deafness in NCRA’s organization culture and core.

Let me put out there that I was not, historically, an NCRA hater. In my early years I disagreed with some stuff, but overall, I saw the benefit of a large national association for stenographers. I used the power of media to change minds when Frank N Sense was harping on NCRA. I joined NCRA STRONG and put in a lot of effort to try to make a difference, including preparation of a draft white paper and video to help get the message out there that there were issues with recording versus stenography. My efforts were mothballed without explanation. See that from my perspective: Took the time to volunteer, attend discussions, work on materials, and then had hours of time deleted for a reason I was never given. It’s amazing I didn’t call them out right then and there. Then I proposed a series of amendments in 2021 and one of them was so popular that the NCRA made up a reason it couldn’t be voted on. That’s right, this organization that’s always whining for people to take part didn’t even allow members to vote on what I proposed.

Then I had my medical incident, and I wrote some stuff about Dave Wenhold, the Executive Director, that I didn’t have the evidence for, and that was wrong of me. And I genuinely understand if people in the NCRA felt unsure about me at that point, but I was still trying to be a team player and alerted the organization to the fact that its name was being used to spread lies. I also became a National Court Reporters Foundation Angel in 2022. Next thing I know, it’s two or three months after the incident, and I’ve got then-president Dibble calling me to write something retracting what I said about Dave. At first, because I was still recovering from what I had been through, I was genuinely hesitant. I didn’t know what to believe, and I said something along the lines of “I get that you guys want what you want, but don’t discard the information I sent you.” It was only at THAT point that the lie about NCRA got scrubbed from the internet, presumably thanks to action taken by them. But I felt heard, and my recovery progressed to the point where I knew what to believe, so I did what I had been asked to do.

Next thing that happened was I tried to put together an advertising campaign for the Journal of Court Reporting to the tune of thousands of dollars. The idea behind the scenes was that our antitrust training was incomplete, and I was going to make connections and start building interest in re-imagining it. For example, the NCRA says you can’t discuss rates. That’s a lie. Right on the FTC site it says trade associations can collect and distribute aggregated rate data. The ad didn’t talk about any of that, it just gave the name of the project. You can see the ad image here. That got rejected. So here’s an organization that’s resistant to telling the truth. Why? Do you think stenographers are too stupid to understand the nuance that the association doesn’t entertain rates discussions because it can lead to a lawsuit? And if you do think that way about us, why are we paying dues?

There was also a point where I nominated a stenographer from New York that has done amazing things for the field to be a FAPR. Not only was he not made a FAPR, but the rules were subsequently changed so that he would no longer be eligible. And, I, moron that I am, continued to give the NCRA a pass, and even promote them where I could.

But now the silence is broken. There have been a number of things that have come to my attention over the past week. A lot of the small stuff, I still give a pass. It’s hard to run an organization like NCRA. But the continued alienation of the organization’s strongest supporters is disgusting. I have watched with my own eyes a die-hard supporter that had just about every idea she ever had struck down. I’ve heard that a certain educator — one that has gotten graduation times down to a year in some cases and set the wheels in motion to sponsor lots of students for the convention — wasn’t acknowledged. I’ve heard that someone with a real talent for putting together events was looked at as competition and not potential collaboration. I’ve heard the qualifiers weren’t fully acknowledged. I’ve heard that a student got escorted off premises at the convention. Again and again, stories of people giving what they can and getting shit on for it. And that’s just this year. If any of you are reading, here’s a question: Why does an organization begging for talent shit on all its potential talent?

Well, I’m here to tell all of you: You are not alone. They did this shit to me too, and I tried the whole grin and bear it thing for the greater good. It’s not worth it. They don’t change direction. They just cycle to the next president and we all hope it’ll work out better this year. It doesn’t matter who’s in leadership, the organizational inertia just comes up with reasons why we can’t do whatever the members, volunteers, or probably even board members want to do.

It’s become clear to me that the direction that the NCRA is headed is going to continue alienating members, the membership is going to dwindle, eventually the digital-friendly stenographers will have enough votes to pass digital membership, and then the corporations I’ve been blogging about are going to co-opt the organization, its resources, and the brand recognition. And even if they don’t go that way — and it would be dumb for them not to — the dwindling membership is going to let all our enemies point and say “look, all their members are retiring, it must be the shortage. Guess we just have to use digital.”

At this point, the NCRA as an organization is a liability. People believe in it as a vehicle for change and they waste their time pushing for incremental changes that never really amount to anything as we continue to slide back in wages adjusted for inflation and lose jobs to other methods. The myopic tunnel vision of “sticking to what works” isn’t working in this decade. These people can all make a real difference. They’re being held back. They’re not being given the institutional support necessary to foster a healthy profession. And if that support isn’t forthcoming, then what’s the point in donating any amount of time? We’d be better off privatizing our efforts a la the Project Steno thing.

There’s a quote out there, “hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” Maybe that’s what happened. The golden era of stenography made us top of the food chain. By the time I got here, the bulk of us had no idea how to compete. So when competition came calling, Steve Townsend basically ran circles around everybody, because he’s damn smart. This is not to say the amazing women of this profession are weak or stupid. They are this profession. But many were not set up to succeed. After all, their 100-year-old associations had made no institutional ties to help safeguard against the propaganda campaign that was sprung on them.

What more is there to say? If there’s interest in starting a new national stenographic association with safeguards against institutional inertia, then I’d be happy to put that together and seek pledges. One idea I’ve had in the past is a grand assembly type structure that can petition or even force the board / organization to act as long as it’s not a violation of law. Maybe the mere threat of more competition arising will encourage organizational change. Every person alienated will become another potential ally for me. Good luck, NCRA. I suppose this is my very public resignation from an association I held in the highest regard. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I am a slave to my moral compass as much as anyone. I will always do my best to be fair. But what was done to me was not fair. What’s done to others isn’t fair. Silencing ourselves for some greater good that never comes isn’t right. And if any of you are feeling that, remember that this blog exists for your

Words & Voices,

6 thoughts on “NCRA: Please Don’t Talk About Us On Social Media, It Might Force Us To Address Your Concerns…

  1. STTI was formed, I presume, because a subset of members weren’t getting their way (the wrong way, in my opinion.) It never got off the ground, really, and it’s non-existent. Fixing what we have will take less effort than building something anew. I’ll endeavor to fix it, but doing that will be much harder from without than from within. So if people quit torpedoing the boat before they jump ship and start bailing some water, we have a chance of a successful voyage forward.

    1. No STTI was not stenographers that didn’t get their way. Townsend was president. Veritext, US Legal, Stenograph, and Kentuckiana were all represented on the board. It was very clearly a digital op.

      I tried to bail the water from within. Now the organization has a lifelong enemy. It can be responsive to us or it can die. I no longer care.

  2. Let’s not miss the irony here. Hours after that email went out, a director posted it on social media. You can’t make this shit up.

    As to everything else you wrote about, I hope the days of NCRAsplaining and gaslighting are over. Time will tell. And then we’ll just have to worry about next year.

  3. I had been a 40-year member of NCRA and I finally had had enough and happily left NCRA behind and got reciprocity for my certs with NVRA, which appears to be a more inclusive organization. At least, there are options. In my mind, it’s either NVRA or we start a whole new organization. I don’t believe NCRA can be “fixed.”

    1. These were my feelings as well. I can be convinced otherwise if there are serious and systemic changes, but short of that there is no reason to believe things will improve.

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