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November NQJ: Examiners repeat warning over ‘weak shorthand’ skills

Steve NelsonJournalism examiners have repeated their warnings over “weak” shorthand skills among would-be seniors.

Earlier this year Steve Nelson, left, chief examiner for the National Council for the Training of Journalists, warned that  weak shorthand had left some candidates “guessing” at quotes rather than reporting them verbatim.

His comments, which came in his report on the March National Qualification in Journalism exam, were echoed in his latest report on the November sitting.

He said:  “Candidates with weak shorthand are unable to get down accurate quotes and information which leads to either made-up direct quotes or an incomplete story.”

Candidates had to pass each of the four sections in the exam – media law and practice, news report, news interview and logbook – with 40 of the 59 candidates proving successful.

Here is a summary of Steve’s report on how the candidates performed in each section.


Candidates: 49
Passed: 39
Pass rate: 80pc

The media law and practice paper was designed to test knowledge of the law on contempt, defamation and recent changes to the law on identufying juveniles in court proceedings, among other things.

Examiners said several candidates continued to refer to Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act instead of Section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, which replaced it in April 2015.

The question on ethics concerned the need for care and sensitivity when covering a suicide inquest and examiners were impressed with the standard of answers.

Said the report: “Candidates with a good writing style and a logical approach, allied to knowledge, tended to do better.”


Candidates: 46
Passed: 40
Pass rate: 71pc

The section featured a story about a local man had come forward at the 11th hour to claim his half of a £10m rollover Lottery jackpot and his decision to donate the entire prize to a donkey sanctuary.

The examiners expressed disappointment that key aspects of the story were “ignored or buried at the bottom as an after-thought.”

Examiners have previously highlighted poor shorthand as an issue in this section and was once again this was highlighted in their report.

“Shorthand always poses problems in this section. Candidates with weak shorthand are unable to get down accurate quotes and information which leads to either made-up direct quotes or an incomplete story,” they said.


Candidates: 52
Passed: 35
Pass rate: 67pc

The news interview concerned a dramatic story about a violent confrontation between rival drug gangs leading to murder and arson.

Those who passed had “good chronology and a readable writing style” according to the examiners report, but some candidates “did not seem to grasp the facts.”

“Several candidates got caught up in the timing details too early in the story with fire crews “scrambled” and “racing” to the scene, rather than concentrating on the drama,” said the report.

“Again shorthand appeared to be an issue and spellings and grammar could have been better.”


Candidates: 46
Passed: 45
Pass rate: 98pc

In the logbook section candidates have to present a selection of their work in a digitised format.

Examiners praised a good round of submissions with all but one candidate achieving a pass.

The report said: “A good round of submissions demonstrated that trainees have a clear grasp of what is required from the logbook key tasks.

“As always, we would recommend trainees double-check all uploaded copy carefully and also seek a second opinion.”


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  • December 15, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I remember my editor telling me when I was a trainee that if I failed the log book section that I should resign in disgrace and take up another career. “No excuse” – he said. And he was right.

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  • December 15, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Can vividly remember my publisher’s comment on hearing I’d failed my 100wpm shorthand exam for the third time – “At least there won’t be a fourth time because if there was you’d be out on year ear, pal.”

    Suffice to say, I duly passed the next time…

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