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Editors in plea to save shorthand

Shorthand must never be compromised as a modern-day journalism skill, regional press editors said today.

Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks and Simon Reynolds, editorial director of the Lancashire Evening Post, agreed that whatever upheavals 21st century journalism underwent shorthand must remain.

The pair were speaking in Manchester today at the first Journalism Skills Conference, hosted by the National Council for the Training of journalists, and attended by lecturers and regional press editors.

One lecturer asked the discussion panel what skills could be compromised on university courses to allow the inclusion of new media skills such as video journalism and audio editing.

Mr Horrocks said: “Shorthand has got to be number one. Things that can be given away may be less time on modern processes such as video journalism. We can teach that.

“Still the core skills that we come back to are public administration, law, shorthand, interviewing technique and writing stories.”

Mr Reynolds added: “The problem is, if you haven’t got shorthand, you are just too slow. Reporters need to be fast – I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.”

He said that law would also need to remain an essential part of the curriculum, adding: “To take away those core skills is a killer.”

The ‘Ask the Editors’ panel also discussed digital technology and imaging, with the MEN enjoying some of its highest video web views on footage sent in by readers or from CCTV.

This was seen as evidence that, while quality was important, the content was still the most relevant factor in driving people to the MEN’s website, Mr Horrocks said.

Looking to the future, he added: “I think the newsroom is a more exciting place to be and a place where journalists want to come to.

“It would be easy for us to get depressed and self-fulfilling about the future.”

Comments

Mr_Osato (05/12/2008 13:07:02)
They’d have more time to learn shorthand if they weren’t having video ‘n’ audio foisted on them. Nothing slows down a reporter like having to make a video that no-one but their immediate family and those caught on camera will ever watch. And Mr Reynolds is a leading perpetrator

Golam Murtaza (05/12/2008 19:04:26)
If they are going to continue forcing us to be so-called multimedia journalists they should a) train us PROPERLY, b) factor in the extra time it will take to produce stories c) pay us for any additional hours we end up doing.
If the suits can’t get the above points right they should all resign and move into jobs more suited to their moral and intellectual capacities.

David R James (05/12/2008 19:28:54)
There’s a simple answer to this – acquire Pitman’s shorthand skills at 140wpm on a secretarial course as I did in 1963 before seeking a job in journalism or a media course placement. It gave me an edge over job candidates. And I can still recall the jealousy of engineering and building trades students that I was the only chap among 356 female secretarial students!

John Simpson (06/12/2008 01:15:06)
Mr Osato point about the number of people who actually view audio/vid is spot on. On our paper’s website, the number of ‘hits’ they received can be as low 10, on something that has taken hours to make/edit.
While I totally agree there should be extra pay and training – the reality is this is never going to happen. Management types who are so concerned with cutting costs fail to see that the standard of most papers has become shockingly bad. It’s no wonder readers are deserting local newspapers in their droves.

jsam (06/12/2008 14:36:49)
Some of you just don’t get it, do you!

Chris Gaynor (06/12/2008 15:03:15)
I’d like to disagree with the NCTJ top dogs regarding Shorthand. I did work experience on a Romanian magazine and the editor of that magazine had originally worked on a newspaper and only had 60 words/min shorthand. So, qhilst shorthand is important, I don’t think it is the beall and end all…. Also, just because you dont have shorthand does not mean you are SLOW…total rubbish these authority figures speak sometimes…Also, there is more to journalism than just the five core skills….

John Simpson (07/12/2008 02:34:49)
Don’t get what Jsam?

Roy Heelas (08/12/2008 10:44:50)
Chris Gaynor (06/12/2008 15:03)
I’d like to disagree with the NCTJ top dogs regarding Shorthand. I did work experience on a Romanian magazine and the editor of that magazine had originally worked on a newspaper and only had 60 words/min shorthand. So, qhilst shorthand is important, I don’t think it is the beall and end all…. Also, just because you dont have shorthand does not mean you are SLOW…total rubbish these authority figures speak sometimes…Also, there is more to journalism than just the five core skills….
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