Jack’s Journal: Behind Closed Captioning

Closed captioning on television is very common these days. It’s vital for the hearing impaired and to everyone in a noisy room.

But how does it appear on the screen? It’s people like Kathy McBride who listens and types! She’s been doing closed captioning since retiring from a three-decade career as a Court Transcriptionist. As much as the two jobs are alike, they are also very different.

“In the judicial court your aim is to do verbatim. In broadcast captioning you want to convey what’s being said. Often times there is noise and you can’t get that verbatim.”

Here is an interesting twist: Kathy doesn’t caption here in the states. Even though she lives in Bear Lake, she is employed by a Canadian firm and follows along via satellite with Canadian TV, primarily for the “News Now” 24 hour news channel.

She says that even though she is paying attention, she really isn’t listening. 

“But if someone asks you afterwards what was said you wont’ have a clue. Because the word goes in and goes out. You have to move to the next one quickly. If you hang on one you loose the next,” says Kathy.

Captioning for Canada has forced Kathy to learn a few new spellings and develop an ear for the French Canadian accent, but she enjoys it. She has an unusual profession indeed. And yes she can get caught up in a program, it happens occasionally and when it does, she is all professional.

“Sometimes the paraphrasing comes in handy. When you lose your train of thought, you just have to stop, regroup to put out a clean product.”