Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Universal journalist prototype

The pros and cons of shorthand for journalists is a question that seems to vex j-students up and down the UK, as I discovered when Tom Rouse asked me for my view recently. 
As our conversation continued on Twitter and others joined in I learned that a) shorthand was essential b) shorthand  was not essential and c) North America isn't as enamored with shorthand as the UK.
So, that's less than conclusive. Personally, I think it's necessary to have a benchmark standard and 100wpm shorthand does offer that but I think ruling out everyone who doesn't have it is pretty short-sighted to.  

Tom's journalism.co.uk article is here; I think that possibly the best advice I'd be able to give would be this: If I were a student shopping for journalism courses right now, and wanted to go into mainstream media, I'd pick one with shorthand and bust my chops to get 100wpm. 
Once you have that piece of paper no one can take it from you and many editors will not consider anyone who doesn't have it. But... I think that within 5 years this will no longer be the case, and shorthand will be with the 'nice to haves'.
I know award-winning journalists with shorthand and without; editors who insist on it, and editors who take pride in clambering the slippery slope without ever troubling a dipthong. 
Such dichotomies are of no use to would-be reporters considering courses though. 
But I'd have more concerns about the journalistic attitude of an interview candidate who couldn't talk - with enthusiasm and authority - about sourcing, verifying and creating content. That sort of thing is a lot harder to learn - and time-consuming to teach. 
Frankly, my universal journalist prototype gets tweaked all the time but, in addition to having a mind that was basically one big question mark, I'd want them to be a bit like this...

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