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Training Matters: Shorthand and sports journalism

skysportsThis week’s guest blogger Laurie Tucker works for Sky Sports News as a day editor and in journalism training.

Here he shares his reasons why Sky Sports News put much stock in the value of shorthand for all their sports journalists.

Serious about sports journalism? Heart set on working in a sector of the industry where demand for content is relentless? Want to further nail the lie that “sports journalism is the toy department of the news media”? *Then get serious about shorthand.

And as that distinction between hard news and sport-centred stories becomes ever more blurred, just ask Wayne Rooney, so too does the notion that journalists working in sport can get by without shorthand.

To excel, sports journalists need all the skills of their counterparts in news. Vital is the accuracy and speed that shorthand brings to news rooms and sports desks in the multi-platform era where social media adds so much competition.

For Sky Sports News, be it one of our reporters at a news conference filing a website piece from location, or a text sub back at base watching that Q and A and responsible for keying in a breaking news strap, or a social media journalist feeding the Twitter account, all tasks are done more quickly from an accurate shorthand note.

Then there are presenters calling a contact during an ad-break for reaction to a breaking story, taking a shorthand note, reading it back to that contact, them seamlessly relaying the details to the viewers moments later. In a two-minute ad-break longhand won’t pass muster.

The discussion around shorthand and court work is well documented. At a recent trial involving a high-profile footballer, our reporter took a shorthand note while two sports correspondents in the press box concentrated on live-tweeting the proceedings. Comparing the streams against his shorthand note later our reporter noticed discrepancies, not bad enough to interest the Attorney General, but inaccuracies all the same.

Gold-standard shorthand also reveals much about a journalist’s character. Employers with the skill know that getting that 100 words per minute pass is tough and demonstrates a commitment and determination to succeed.

So whether applying for work experience, a graduate placement or an entry-level job as SSN, shorthand is a key requirement. You may know the nicknames of all 92 league football teams, the top ten century scorers in Test cricket or every F1 world champion since Fangio but if your application doesn’t have shorthand, or you’re not learning it, it’s heading for the bin.

Finally, for shorthand teachers with budding sports journalists in their classrooms, this blog should take four minutes to read at 100 words a minute.

(*”Sports Journalism is the toy department of the news media” – Prof David Rowe, 2007.)