Some say it’s outdated and irrelevant, and with our increasing usage of sophisticated technology it might seem hard to argue otherwise, but I bet if you ask any journalist or reporter today how valuable shorthand is to them; they will more than likely tell you how vital the skill is to be able to carry out their day-to-day job.
So what actually are the benefits of shorthand?
Aside from being an essential addition to any aspiring journalist’s CV (you are unlikely to even get to the interview stage unless you have shorthand on your CV); the benefits of this skill are huge.
It’s convenient – think about how hard it would be to get an accurate recording of someone speaking at their natural pace using longhand. It’s virtually impossible. Plus, if you need to go back through your notes, you will find going through your shorthand notes a lot quicker than going through a digital recorder to find what you need.
Transcribing notes from shorthand is, as you would imagine, an awful lot quicker than doing so from a recording.
Furthermore, there’s always that dreaded chance of a technical fault with voice recorders, words appearing muffled or undecipherable, jeopardising the quality and accuracy of the story. After all, precision is vital for any respectable reporter, and if your story is inaccurate or a vital piece of information has been muffled in the tape, you could end up in trouble with interviewees, readers and even the law.
The Sensitivity Issue
When conducting an interview with someone involved in a distressing case, shorthand is again, the preferred method. Of course, no one would want recording equipment placed in front of them when they are in a sensitive situation, and here the benefit of shorthand is clear again; it’s unobtrusive, discreet, and only those trained in shorthand will be able to decipher it.
In addition, with recording equipment being banned from courtrooms, journalists will always use shorthand in the courts to report on events.
Practice makes perfect!
If a reporter’s shorthand isn’t up to scratch, they could end up in court. No, not for crimes against shorthand – journalists are required to keep their notes for three years by law, so they can refer to them if their quotes are ever called into question.
Imagine how one journalist felt when Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo won damages from the Telegraph, after quotes published about him were deemed to be inaccurate. It turns out that the journalist in question’s shorthand was regarded to be so sloppy that his reporting could not be accurate. Indeed, said journalist would definitely benefit from a Pitman Teeline refresher course!
You can see how the ‘practice makes perfect’ cliché could not be more appropriate for the art of shorthand, and anyone looking to prosper in a career in journalism is strongly advised to take a shorthand course. It’s not just practical; it shows dedication to your profession.