The National Council for the Training of Journalists have published draft proposals to change the qualification which would see students choosing different modules based on which career pathway they intended to follow.
While shorthand would remain compulsory for all students following the ‘news journalism’ pathway, it would become non-compulsory for those choosing broadcast journalism, magazine journalism or other specialist options.
But journalism course leaders have voiced fears that fewer students would choose shorthand as a result, leading in the longer-term to the demise of the skill.
The proposals have been drawn up by the NCTJ qualifications board chaired by Derby Telelgraph editor Neil White and were debated on Day 2 of the Journalism Skills Conference in Birmingham.
The NCTJ has denied the plans amount to the “death of shorthand” and have invited feedback on the plans, which are likely to be finalised next year.
But Rob Bailey of the University of Kent said: “If shorthand becomes an elective in most pathways, a lot of institutions will choose not to teach it because it is expensive to deliver.
“As a result we could precipitate the death of shorthand unintentionally,” he added.
Graham Dudman, pictured, a former Sun managing editor who is now an editorial consultant with News Associates, said: “Having an NCTJ qualification without shorthand is like having a driving test without the need to reverse.”
And Roz Mackenzie of Lambeth College questioned whether you could still have a ‘gold standard’ journalism qualification without shorthand.
Regional editors present at the conference also offered differing views on the planned changes.
Asked what she expected from journalists coming into the newsroom, Sunderland Echo editor Joy Yates said: “I want the core skills – and I want shorthand.”
“I am a lot more relaxed about the requirement for shorthand…..when it comes to political reporting or court reporting, of course we want shorthand, but I don’t want it to be a barrier for people coming into the industry,” he said.
Other changes suggested by the course leaders included introducing a ‘business of journalism’ element in the qualification to encourage students to learn about changing business models in the industry.
The only mandatory elements of the proposed new-look qualification would be essential journalism, media law and regulation, and ethics.
The qualifications board is due to meet again in January to consider the feedback.
NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher admitted that it had “not got everything right” and that there would be changes to draft plans.