We are celebrating today because our trainee reporter Gemma has celebrated passing her 100 words per minute shorthand exam.
This achievement is not to be underestimated.
Learning another form of writing is hard but the months of sitting in front of Eastenders scribbling down Teeline outlines on a notepad to bring up your speed are far outweighed by the benefits of having your own secret language to scrawl down on your notepad.
Of course this traditional shorthand skill baffles some people, even some less informed journalists.
But I can assure that is does not matter how many state of the art recording devices and cameras you can buy, nothing outweighs the speed and accuracy of a shorthand recording for a journalist.
For one thing, many people do not want a recorder shoved in their face during an interview. and for another, I can assure you that technology often fails.
But thirdly and most importantly, not only is this the only way of making an accurate recording of proceedings in a court or inquest (cameras and recording devices are not allowed in) but should a story be contested through legal proceedings – shorthand notes are admissable evidence while recordings generally are not.
Unfortunately this is a skill this seems to be increasingly undervalued particularly by entry-level journalists.
When talking to journalism students I am often asked if they need shorthand qualifications to get a job. I personally would never take a reporter on without it. (note Gemma has passed 90 when she was taken on.)
I do understand that reporter roles vary these days and many entering broadcast jobs may only be doing bulletins rather than ever fully interviewing or obtaining information from a source.
Many will never go to court.
Those that do are often to be spotted tapping qualified newspaper journalists on the shoulder and requesting favours of information.
Of course the most successful and respected journalists all have shorthand – just ask Ranvir Singh and in the future, our Gemma.
This first appeared in the Lancaster Guardian. Click HERE for link.
@jabberingjourno May 2015