Don’t you just hate it when people claim their job or role in life deserves an upper case initial?
I’m talking about the row over random capital letters that takes place in every council, blue-chip company and, sometimes, our own media world.
The Chairman who gets a capital C, the Managing Director who gets capitals M and D, and sometimes even the blessed Editor who gets a capital E.
“It’s a matter of house style,” a snooty personnel chief once told me, and yet when I suggested that the part-time Cleaner should therefore have a capital C, the Security Guard capitals S and G and the Driver a capital D, I was met with frowns and confusion.
Arggghhh… it makes me grind my teeth!
And so I was delighted to see the National Council for the Training of Journalists quash this delusion with their ‘List of attendees’ at the Journalism Skills Conference in Nottingham this week.
This introduced us to the likes of Brien Beharrell, editorial director and NCTJ vice-chairman, with lower case e, d, v and c; Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, with lower case c and e; and Peter Cole, emeritus professor of journalism, with lower case e, p and j.
A blissful document, strictly applying upper and lower case principles that should be adopted by all.
What better way to start conference than with a good, old-fashioned buffet lunch.
But the resulting queue-jumping by yours truly saw me narrowly avoid treading on the toes of Paul Connolly, group managing editor of the Belfast Telegraph, as we piled our pudding bowls with cheesecake.
My 16 stones would have been the last thing Paul needed with his right foot and leg awkwardly encased in a huge plastic boot after breaking his leg.
Well, not quite his leg; apparently Paul’s got a stress fracture of his navicular bone on the top of his foot, one that can only be cured by looking daft for six weeks.
And just how did that happen? Poor old Paul jolted his joints in a badly-sized pair of trainers on the running machine in his local gym. So much for keeping fit…
Heard the one about Olympic diver Tom Daley and the massive spike in his sexy swimming trunks?
That’s exactly how it came across from Stephen Rosenthal, communications and PR manager at Google, who was trying to tell NCTJ delegates about the latest search tools for journalism.
“This was the result of the first day of diving involving Tom Daley and all those skin-tight bathing costumes,” explained Stephen, “and just look at the massive spike that was caused.”
Cue huge guffaws from the normally serious training audience, and The Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliot leaning across to me to comment: “That’s the only speaker who’ll get a laugh all afternoon!”
Poor Stephen, of course, was pointing out big spikes caused by celebrities trending in Google searches, and had not meant to sully Tom’s entirely innocent behaviour during poolside sessions…
A hack-turned-academic fighting a battle to retain shorthand was the subject of one interesting conversation during a coffee break.
His university – both he and they shall remain anonymous – told him that they no longer wanted to insist on shorthand classes for their media students as it was “an out-dated qualification for secretaries”.
Our hero stood his ground for retaining shorthand, helped by various case studies like the graduate with 90 words per minute shorthand who failed to get a job specifically because he hadn’t passed a 100wpm test.
The ensuing conversation was full of tales of yore from experienced senior journalists and trainers all describing situations where a fast, accurate shorthand note still beats slower keyboard skills and fallible digital voice recorders.
Long live Teeline.
Delegates staying on after today’s sessions will be treated to a ‘Crime and Punishment’ tour at the Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham.
Starting at 2pm, this excursion for the great and good of journalism training sounds rather fitting, and the timing is perfect… just after Lord Leveson’s verdict on the profession is announced.