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Shorthand still vital say industry chiefs amid claims uni is to drop subject

James Mitchinson newIndustry leaders have insisted shorthand remains an “essential” skill for journalists after a regional daily editor claimed a university on his patch was considering dropping the subject.

James Mitchinson, who edits the Yorkshire Post, sparked a social media debate after revealing an unnamed university in the county was contemplating dropping shorthand from its syllabus because students “don’t like it” nor feel it’s “relevant”.

Posting on Twitter, James, pictured, pointed out that it is only those who pass the subject who “get jobs” in journalism.

His sentiments have been echoed by leading industry heavyweights including JPIMedia editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford and Newsquest editorial development director Toby Granville.

In his post, James wrote: “Dear university (in Yorkshire) contemplating dropping shorthand from your syllabus as students ‘don’t like it’ nor feel it’s ‘relevant’.

“Here’s a thing: it is, and those who show the minerals to pass it are the ones that get jobs. End of.”

Also posting on the social media site, Toby wrote: “At Newsquest it is still required as a necessary skill for our journalists to have – and I can’t see that changing any time soon.”

Jeremy added: “Shorthand, in my opinion, is still an essential tool for journalists working in an environment where accuracy & legal challenge exists. Until the law changes for shorthand notes and transcriptions being required, it should remain an essential qualification.”

Pete Clifton, editor of the Press Association, went even further, telling Press Gazette that job applications from those without shorthand go “straight in the bin.”

“Speed and accuracy is everything to PA and, rest assured, shorthand will continue to have a vital role to play in that,” he said.

But Kristian Walsh, editor for Liverpool FC projects at the Liverpool Echo, took issue with James, arguing that making shorthand a requirement could stop talented people getting into the industry.

He wrote: “I understand the sentiment here and do think shorthand should be an option for all students, but I don’t think ‘minerals’ has anything to do with it.

“I’ve worked with a number of excellent people who don’t/didn’t have it. Let’s not obstruct talented people in this industry.”

“I think there is far more to journalism than passing shorthand now. The Echo took a chance on me without it – I didn’t have it for several reasons – and subsequently passed it.  Others deserve a similar chance.”


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  • January 21, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Interesting that for really sensitive and potentially troublesome interviews a lot of journos use voice recorders. I guess the reason is someone might always claim the reporter made up the shorthand note.
    I know I wouldn’t trust the work of any reporter who covered court not having shorthand. Some of those witnesses speak very fast!
    On the other hand I have worked with many young reporters who boasted about their shorthand speeds but could not dig out a story or write one for love nor money. Better to have it than not, though.

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  • January 21, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    There is nothing more tedious than journalists arguing about shorthand.

    @Paperboy above makes the most valid point on this argument is that now, in the “fake news” culture we live in, shorthand notes are not accepted as the unimpeachable record they once were.

    Unless you have a recording of what someone said they can always claim you misquoted them and no matter what your words per minute is you will never convince the court of public opinion (you won’t lose an IPSO complaint but that really doesn’t matter in a social media world).

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  • January 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Of course shorthand is necessary, in court it’s essential. Which Yorkshire university is considering dropping shorthand, can we be told?

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  • January 21, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    Might as well drop it – it can go the same way fact checking and accuracy have been going for some time.

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  • January 22, 2020 at 11:45 am

    James Mitchinson makes the classic mistake of assuming that journalism = papers. Any journalism courses that focusses purely on the demands of Britain’s fast declining newspaper industry would soon go bust. There is a wider world of journalism – content creation, PR etc etc – and their demand for shorthand is, erm, zero.

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  • January 22, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    From the North. I guess none of these content creation jobs (whatever they are) require an accurate note of what is said and the writers scribble down what they can or use a tape. It doesn’t matter who or what you are writing for, you had better be able to prove that quotes were correct. Having said that I once worked with a superb journo, a brilliant writer, who invented his own shorthand after hating Pitmans (anyone remember that?). He worked 50 years without a single complaint. Maybe he was just got lucky, but he was good.

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