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Northwoods court reporters training next generation through free classesSubmitted: 11/08/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com

Northwoods court reporters training next generation through free classes
RHINELANDER - Like many people who report to court, Marilynn Collins never intended to end up here.

"We don't know exactly when, but it's coming to an end," Collins said.

Finding out she'll soon lose her job with Ascension made an opportunity at the Oneida County Courthouse sound like a convenient fix. Collins heard about a court reporter introduction class in Rhinelander and signed up.

"This is just baby steps," Collins said.  "You feel like you're back in typing school, you know, typing class back in high school is how i kind of feel right now."


For two hours on Tuesday nights, a group of eight students like Collins and Kerri Ison sit at their stenographer machines listening and learning.

"Trying to put letters to make a word that really, to no one else, makes any sense," Ison said, with a laugh.

Those key combinations and letters make plenty of sense to 27-year veteran reporter Jean Wood.

"It's repetition, over and over," Wood said.

Wood volunteers to teach the free eight-week class with two other court reporters.

"They'll have a huge leg up when they start school," Wood said. "When I went to school, I didn't even know what the machine looked like."

Students learn the basics of court reporting: keys, letters, and word formation. It's a slow-moving lesson plan with an underlying urgency. The National Court Reporters Association predicts a shortage of 5,000 reporters by next year.

"It is a lot and it's a big undertaking," NCRA President Chris Willette said.

Willette visited the Oneida County class Tuesday night to thank the students and teachers. She hopes this class -- which is one of 50 across the U.S. -- will help close a growing gap in a profession that has a real impact.

"Preserving the record that means the difference, perhaps, between life and death," Willette said. "This is an opportunity to get their hands on that machine and see if it clicks with them. If it's something they think they would like to do for the rest of their life."

Willette says reporters can work beyond these walls, too, doing closed captioning for live TV and sports events. But Marilynn Collins is already hooked, hoping to spend a lot more time in a room she's choosing to stay in.

"Try it out, see if it's for me and then I think I will pursue it," Collins said.

Students of the class will still need to get a two-year degree before working in court reporting. Starting wages can be just shy of $50,000.

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