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'Shorthand skills remain vital for the modern newsroom' – trainer

Shorthand teachers are being urged to stress the importance of good shorthand skills to their trainee journalists.

Michael DeFroand, chief reporter on the Kentish Express, and an examiner on the NCTJ shorthand board, conceded that achieving 100wpm would prove the toughest exam of their lives for many trainees.

But he said: “An accurate shorthand note remains a vital requirement for all reporters and unlike a dictaphone, rarely falls victim to background noise.

“While dictaphones may lead some to stop listening to what’s being said confident in the knowledge that they are getting it all down on tape, a reporter using shorthand will be prompted to ask questions and to clarify spellings.

“It remains an important skill and one which all reporters should pursue.”

Speaking at a seminar at the British Library in London organised by the NCTJ and attended by more than 35 shorthand tutors, he said that this essential skill was the sign of a truly professional and competent journalist.

At the seminar, Audrey Skervin, who trained at Lambeth College, was awarded the Harry Butler Award for the best 100wpm examination. Audrey is now working for a company contracted to produce subtitles for Sky News.

She said: “All those hours of listening to other people’s conversations on the bus and taking them down in shorthand paid off after all!”

Lancashire Evening Post trainee David Coates, who trained at the University of Central Lancashire, was awarded the Cumbrian Newspapers’ Award for 110wpm.

In the academic year ending in 2004, 3,287 examinations were sat by candidates at 80, 90, 100, 110, 120 and 130 wpm and there were 1,299 passes.

In the 100 wpm exams 39 students achieved 100 per cent accuracy in their shorthand transcriptions and in the 110 wpm exams two students achieved 100 per cent accuracy.