Captioning Corner: Unknown End Times and E-mail Names

By Deanna Baker

I have been approached with a few situations that independent captioners have been facing.

Unknown End Times

One scenario is when a government meeting runs shorter or longer than expected. One person asked me, “I was contracted to cover a government meeting from 3-4 p.m. but the meeting only went ten minutes. How do I charge for that?”

Government-type meetings, councils, board of supervisors, Department of Education meetings, etc., have an unknown stop time and can go longer than expected, as well. As captioners, we have to understand that this is the nature of public meetings and need to compensate for that.

In addition, many new reporting freelance agencies are contracting with this type of work and aren’t fully aware of the many nuances this type of work entails.

Independent captioners -- those contracting with the captioning companies that have the captioning contracts -- need to make a few things explicity clear before agreeing to cover the captioning assignment. When contacted to cover the assignment, explain clearly your policy as to these various situations.

  • If you are contracted to cover one hour, will you invoice for time contracted or actual time of the meeting, i.e., whether meeting goes five minutes or 60 minutes.
  • Your availability if the assignment goes longer than expected and how is that invoiced: in 30-minute increments, 15-minute increments, etc.
  • If you are to hand off to another captioner, when and how is that expected to be handled.
  • If this is a new assignment for the IC, ask if the captioning company provides the necessary prep material that is needed before the meeting begins or is that the IC’s responsibility.

With the many new venues that captioning is popping up in, it is now more important than ever to be networking with other captioners by attending seminars and conventions to share the many experiences so we can all learn from them.

E-mail Monikers

Another situation that I and other captioners have noticed is that some people are using an alias other than their actual name for e-mail, Instant Messaging, text messaging, caller ID, Blackberries, SmartFone, Skype, Speche, and the various IDs that people are using these days. Some of these aliases – such as are a little unprofessional. Some, frankly, are a tad bit offensive!

However, here is where the problem arises. Many captioning companies send out group e-mails to all the independent captioners on their distribution list and may be sending schedules showing:

10-11 p.m. news –
11-12 a.m. news –
12 noon – 1 p.m.  news – Yahoo IM - wingading

On a practical level, how would I know what to call “lovethemariners” and “wingading” -- simply as a professional courtesy? It’s just good business to know who we’re sharing information with and coordinating with. I prefer to have a clear understanding of who I’m contacting and not having to have a cheat-sheet reminding me who is.

The other issue I see and take great pride in is professionalism. Many e-mail lists and forums for debate on the Web have rules requiring full names instead of the nicknames -- simply for professional reasons, as well as for the security of the members.

Don’t get me wrong. These fun monikers are terrific for friends, spouses, family members, and so forth. But when dealing in a business environment, professionalism is the best course of action.


About the Author

Deanna Baker, RMR, is from Flagstaff, Ariz. If you have a question about captioning, you can ask her at