After riding out the 2008 recession at a construction company, captioner Robin Smith, CRC, decided to pursue the career she went to school for: court reporting. But she needed to build up her speed and found her first job as a CART captioner. Smith has been captioning for Caption Pros since 2016, specializing in legislative events, news broadcasts, and CART captioning in the classroom. Caption Pros has a team of highly trained and Certified Realtime Captioners.
Get To Know Robin Better
How did you get started in captioning? What was your career path like?
Robin: My story is different than most captioners. I went to school for court reporting when I was 21 and finished at 23. I had every intention of getting out into the field of court reporting; but when I finished school, my boss at the time offered me a promotion and a raise to stay at the construction company where I was working. I took the offer but when the 2008 recession hit, my pay was cut by 20 percent. Layoffs ensued. And while I kept my job, I also had to take on the job of two other people who were laid off.
At that point, I had been out of school and hadn’t touched my writer in three years so I had lost all my speed; therefore, I couldn’t just jump over to court reporting. I decided to quit my job and take very low-paying work as a transcriptionist to build my speed back up. After a couple of years, I finally felt like I had it and was perusing the Journal of Court Reporting’s employment opportunities section just to see what was out there.
I stumbled upon a listing that said they were looking for CART providers and that they were willing to train. I reached out, tested and got a contract with the company. My career has only blossomed since then.
Q: What are some of your favorite events to caption? Any favorite industries?
Robin: I’m one of the few people who really enjoy captioning legislative events. I learn so much about what is going on in other parts of the country. Once a bill is passed in one local jurisdiction, other cities and states usually follow, so I know what will be happening across the U.S. before most others do. I also love the classroom setting or any one-on-one setting because the consumers are always so appreciative. It really makes you feel like you’re doing some good out there in the world.
Q: What is the most challenging event you’ve ever captioned?
Robin: It was an event for Jen, actually. It was for a consumer who was attending a convention that brought together a bunch of rocket scientists, or something like that. It seemed like every presenter was from somewhere else in the world and had a thick accent. They were rattling off words I had never heard before in my life!
Q: Tell me about a “day in the life” of a captioner. What is your work schedule like when you are getting ready to caption an event? How do you prepare?
Robin: Monday through Friday I have a morning news broadcast based in Charleston, South Carolina. I don’t need to do much prep for it anymore, as I’ve been covering it for years and now know the surrounding cities, streets, highways, political figures, landmarks, et cetera.
Other than that, my schedule is different every day. I have various classes this particular semester. I’ll take whatever prep I’m given, like a syllabus or an agenda for a legislative meeting. I go over it for names and terms I’ve never heard before and enter them into my dictionary. I like to prep the hour before a job starts because if I prep the prior day or too early in the morning, I’ll forget how I entered my briefs, and all that prep winds up worthless.
Q: Do you have any hobbies outside of work that you’re passionate about?
Robin: I have a 5-year-old daughter who eats up most of my time outside of work. We love getting outdoors, even on a rainy or snowy day. We live in northern Arizona, so we have the National Forest ten minutes from our doorstep. I also foster dogs for fun. I love running outdoors and swimming in open water.
Q: Why should people care about captioning?
Robin: People should care about captioning because so many people rely on it. Before I started in this career, I thought closed captioning was simply for the deaf. I just never thought about the many people out there who are hard of hearing. There are so many seniors who would be totally in the dark if it weren’t for captions. As far as live, in-person events, again, before I started this career, I just assumed all deaf/hard-of-hearing people knew sign language. I’ve since learned that 70 percent of people with hearing loss don’t know sign language at all.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge for the captioning industry today?
Robin: If you would have asked me this question six months ago, I would have said voice recognition software. While I do still think it is a big threat to us down the road, TODAY I believe it is getting the word out about our services. I believe we’ll lose a lot of broadcast captioning (captions on TV) to speech recognition in the next few years, but there are so many live, in-person events – classroom settings, conference calls, forums, conventions – where the people actually care deeply about the quality of the captions they are receiving. Those are the places I feel captioners will be able to find security. Getting the word out about our services and convincing people that we are the best people for the job would be the biggest challenge today, in my mind.
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