The Ripple Effect


The Ripple Effect

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By Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag


Everything we do has a ripple effect.

I recently heard a story about a man who influenced the day of a frazzled, disheartened busboy by thanking him for the important work the boy did. The busboy later offered his freshly cleaned table to a young mother with aching feet, who, as she finished her refreshing lunch, left a nice tip for her waitress. Each of them made the world a better place —and every day we can do it, too. Our actions create ripples, whether we’re sharing job openings or encouraging membership, certifications, and Foundation donations.

Writing Our Future, creating the NCRA that will carry us into the next century, is dependent on you. This is your call to action — what are you going to do about it? We need your ripples of influence among your peers, encouraging them to speak up and be part of our future success.

What are you going to do about increasing your marketability? Do you provide innovative, cutting-edge service to your clients, be they lawyers, court administrators, or segments of the public?Are you meeting with decision-makers to share your views about why a realtime steno writer brings value and increased efficiency to the court system and deposition suite?

Are you mentoring a student, showing them the ropes and helping them start on the right foot? Are you “paying it forward” to help our profession prosper? Are you promoting the profession and recruiting fresh new talent to fill our schools and succeed us? Are you linking to NCRA’s student recruitment site,, from your company website? Are you using all of NCRA’s resources to maximum benefit?

One of the saddest stories I hear as president is when in-court and deposition reporters are replaced with electronic  recording not because it’s less expensive or preferred but because our end users have a hard time finding qualified reporters — or believe that will become a future problem.

When I hear reporters can’t find work, it makes me wonder if part of the answer for promoting and protecting our profession is simply ensuring that we are exercising our ripples of influence and making full use of our networking capabilities.

As a firm owner or managing reporter, advertise your open positions in the JCR, post classifieds on our Web site, and use the managers’, state leaders’, and officials’ listservs to make sure you’re leaving no stone unturned to tell the world that you have court reporting positions to fill, as New York and Illinois have recently done.

When we hear of a reporter looking for work or to relocate, it is our duty to put our personal networks to use —passing along e-mails, making phone calls on that reporter’s behalf, making Facebook and Forum posts, and otherwise directing reporters to available resources for finding that next opportunity.

Ultimately we find ourselves right back in the perception/reality situation — is there an actual lack of stenographic court reporters to fill positions, or is it simply that we haven’t promoted the positions widely or loudly enough?

I don’t know that answer, but what I do know is that by continually updating our skills — whether it’s striving for the  CRR, the RMR, or the CCP and CBC — we not only create enormous opportunity for ourselves but we open up positions for other qualified reporters. As a New York official said, “Someone retired to open a spot for me; now it’s my turn to help someone else” as she embarked on part-time freelancing.

That’s the way the cycle is supposed to work. When we share information about open positions and avail ourselves of the opportunities that await, we are doing the profession — and our colleagues within — a service. We’re using our ripples of influence to promote the profession and fill open spots with qualified people.

Next month we may hear about six official jobs in the southeast that went to an ER provider because the court administrator believed she couldn’t find qualified realtime reporters — or we may hear that six NCRA members who had been out of work in snowy locations have found themselves with lucrative new positions in the warmer southeast.

A reporting position should never be filled by another method because the qualified stenographic court reporters who would have appreciated that opportunity never knew about it. The best way for each of us to protect and promote stenographic reporting is to share available opportunities.

We stand here with a fresh new year, a fresh new slate, and an opportunity to make a difference in our profession. Who are you going to influence with your ripples? How will you share your networks? What are you going to do to ensure our profession thrives? We have a year full of possibilities!

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, RDR, CRR, FAPR, is NCRA’s current president. She can be reached at

This article is reprinted with permission of the author and NCRA: The Professional Association for Reporters and Captioners from the January 2011 JCR.

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