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Shorthand course cancelled due to lack of demand

A Midlands university has cancelled a non-compulsory shorthand module because only four of its journalism students were taking it.

The foursome at Coventry University were the only ones from 40 final year journalism students to opt for Teeline classes as their so-called ‘add+vantage’ module – an extra class chosen in addition to students’ main degree.

The cancellation meant none of the four were able to complete the course or take the shorthand exam.

One of those four affected, 20-year-old Carly Sumner, told the Coventry Telegraph: “I’m hoping to get a reporting job when I leave university either at a newspaper or magazine and shorthand is going to be vital.”

All students must pick an add+vantage module each academic year and they are designed to make them more employable.

The university offers three different undergraduate journalism degrees – English and Journalistic Studies, Journalism and English and Journalism and Media – none of which are accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

A university spokeswoman told HTFP: “There are 60 different modules for different courses and it depends on whether there’s enough uptake as to whether we run them.

“It really was not something we could keep up – it’s a financing issue more than anything.”

Earlier this month NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher said that shorthand was “more necessary than ever” in the modern multimedia world during an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme.

And at last year’s NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference in Salford, then Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks and Lancashire Evening Post editorial director Simon Reynolds both said shorthand must remain as a core part of university courses.


Phyllis Maiden (23/11/2009 08:50:01)
I am a shorthand tutor in Lincolnshire.
I took on a large group of students at Grimsby Uni a few years ago. It was a disaster. No one wanted to do it, and many times students did not turn up for lessons. The Head of theDepartment (who has now left) told them it was not compulsory! I was cross because I had worked at many newspapers teaching and shorthand is a vital part of a journalist’s life. I had to sit back and watch the students obtain degrees in journalism (!!) without them even having shorthand.
I tried to instil in them how important it is for going to court. They were under the illusion that they could tape all their interviews. Not one of them gained even 50 wam.

oldbill (23/11/2009 09:25:28)
I find it unbelievable that shorthand is not compulsory for all journalism students. What sort of idiots are running these courses? Have any of them ever worked on a newspaper? Do they know anything about journalism? And what is the point of employing a reporter who can’t do shorthand? Please spare me the rubbish about tape recorders. You can’t always use them and an accurate note is vital. I eventually reached 110wpm at Pitman and it was struggle all the way but it had to be done. But what do I know about these things. I have only spent 43 years in newspapers and am still working.

Alison Moore (23/11/2009 09:57:50)
We all need to get across to potential journalism students that they need to assess courses carefully to ensure they will get the skills they need for jobs in the industry. For print journalists, that includes shorthand – no ifs, no buts. That’s a message we need to give when we have students for work experience, if we give talks in schools, and through careers advisers and sixth form tutors. And papers need to follow this up in their recruitment procedures.

Unfortunately many 18 year olds will opt for courses without realising they are not industry recognised and may not give them much of a headstart in getting a job in journalism.

Beth (23/11/2009 10:17:21)
Let’s be honest, these kids clearly haven’t got a clue to begin with if they opt out of doing shorthand. Not one of them has spoken to a working journalist to ask what they need to get into the industry. If they had, they would have been told that you can’t use a dictaphone to tape phone conversations or take one into court, let alone have the time to transcribe it. I cannot believe any of the students were serious about journalism if they thought for one minute they could get jobs in newspapers, and keep them, without it. One thing you need for journalism is commitment, and without finding out the basics before they started, they just demonstrate they don’t have it.

Onlooker (23/11/2009 10:25:13)
You don’t require shorthand to sign on the dole, which is what most – if not all – of these ‘journalism graduates’ will be doing.

Alan Salter (23/11/2009 10:57:13)
My shorthand is rubbish…but I wouldn’t employ a reporter without it.

hacker (23/11/2009 10:59:14)

Journo1 (23/11/2009 11:39:31)
Bad times if it’s right about the lack of funding.
Shorthand is vital, just try covering a court case or council meeting without it!

JP (23/11/2009 12:03:35)
Shorthand is vital. Can anyone transcribe the following call from the MD at 100wpm? “We are not replacing any staff – you are now the reporter, sub, tea boy, copy typist. And you won’t get a penny more for it. I’m off to take the Jag for a spin then it’s nice big lunch.” Doing that at 100wpm can be tough enough!

Chesuro (23/11/2009 23:59:35)
I am a mature student in my second year of an NCTJ accredited course. There are around 20 of us on the course – all school leavers apart from me. Despite it being drummed into us how important it is to get 100wpm, the majority of the class just don’t see the need. Why? Because they don’t want to work on newspapers or do court reporting. They are interested in magazine work. The benefit of gaining this qualification is therefore a harder sell. Me? I’m converted. I’ve wanted to learn the shorthand for years and do want to work on a local paper once qualified. So I am aiming for 120wpm, if I can. But I’m not everybody.

oldbill (24/11/2009 00:54:11)
Not a word from the useless professors of jounalism. Why? Let’s ask them ALL what speed he or she achieved. Good survey for some bright young thing at a college.

Phyllis Maiden (24/11/2009 07:43:05)
I am glad that so many people agree with me. I know of another Uni that offers ‘degrees’ in journalism and then charges the students an extra fee to have shorthand lessons! I have on occasions ‘finished off’ students from that Uni who have been taught for one semester out of three years, one lesson a week!
The studentsd apply for jobs on papers, and then realise they need shorthand.

jeremy beadle (24/11/2009 09:20:41)
you can finish me off with your short hand any time you want phyllis :)

James (24/11/2009 10:21:04)
The message here (to aspiring journalists) is simple: don’t even consider going to Coventry University.

oldbill (24/11/2009 11:44:50)
Deafening silence from Coventry University, its staff and all the pseudo “meeja” academics around the country. And if young Chesuro ever sees a job ad on HTFP saying “if you can’t do shorthand don’t bother to apply”, he should apply!

a haynes (24/11/2009 12:55:23)
Students and would-be students who are serious about becoming journalists will take an NCTJ accredited course where shorthand will be compulsory.
There’s nothing at all wrong with courses which, rather than being vocational, offer a study of journalism or modules which let students sample ‘real’ journalism – but no-one should be under any illusions about them leading to jobs in journalism. Competition for those is tough enough among those who have all the relevant qualifications.
What’s important is that students on whatever kind of course are made aware of what the industry actually wants – which is, unfortunately, often still at odds with the advice given by careers offices and
teachers at all levels.
To answer oldbill, this journalist turned academic has 130wpm shorthand which I still use every day

JustifiedPessamism (25/11/2009 11:05:33)
It’s quite simple. If they don’t do shorthand they won’t become newspaper journalists. This industry is hard enough to get into anyway let alone for people who can’t even be arsed to acquire the core skills.

Standing alone (25/11/2009 14:33:48)
I had a long and happy career in journalism from grass roots to editor level and I NEVER got shorthand.

Don F. (25/11/2009 15:25:48)
Love the fact that these deluded kids all want to work on magazines, and therefore don’t need their 100wpm. Has nobody told them walking into a magazine is ten times harder than walking into a newspaper, which is currently 100 times tougher than getting a job in any other industry?!