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Lifetime achievement award for former political editor

The former Scottish political editor of the Press Association has picked up a top industry accolade.

Joe Quinn picked up a lifetime achievement honour in The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year 2011 awards.

Joe took early retirement last year after almost 35 years with PA where he was chief Scotland correspondent before taking on the politics brief 10 years before his retirement.

On his retirement he spoke to AllMediaScotland  and gave some insights into his life and times as a newsman on the top of his game.

Speaking about his shorthand skills, which he became well known for, he said: “My shorthand skills are greatly exaggerated. They used to be quite good, but that was in a more forgiving era when people spoke more slowly.

“Nowadays, politicians, in particular, speak much more quickly – out of a combination of nervousness, trying to cram everything into a short broadcast interview, and a touching belief that if they speak fast enough no-one will be able to get a question in.

“What they overlook is that the equitability of what they say is in inverse proportion to its speed and length.

“There is also a world of difference between taking notes at something like First Minister’s Questions – where you would be mad not to have a dictaphone – and the more orderly and measured setting of a court case, where you would be mad to even think of taking a recorder.

“Incidentally, I found tape recorders make you very literal-minded. Previously, I would not hesitate to tidy up the grammar of a quote. Now, when it’s a fast-talking and sentence-mangling politician and you know it’s going out on live TV, I tend to play safe and stick with the exact words, even though that can look daft in cold print.”

So a journalist without shorthand is not really a journalist at all? “Not at all – horses for courses, it depends on the type of event you’re covering.

“But surely it’s a pretty basic thing to ask of a reporter – you were there, what did so-and-so have to say for themselves?

“If you haven’t got shorthand you can do it with a tape-recorder but it will take a lot longer – assuming it’s an event where you can use a tape.”



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  • November 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Shorthand – the bane of a young reporter’s life. I recall interviewing a local celebrity 30 years ago. When I got back to the office, my shorthand was indecipherable apart from three words ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘probably’. The rest I did from memory.

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  • November 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Years ago a local councillor complained to the weekly I worked for that his speeches in council were not being accurately reported. So next month we exactly did that, including the sentences with no subjects or verbs, some “ums” and “ers” and some sentences that did not make any sense, but were just Prescott-style stream of consciousness thoughts. The only problem was that the councillor was thrilled and congratulated the paper on its good reporting!

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