What's happening?

Is the art of shorthand dying? No, it’s not.
22 Jan 2016
by Dani Wozencroft

Recently the BBC published an article called – Is the art of shorthand dying?
I’d just like to answer it: no.

As a former journalist, now PR account manager and – perhaps most influential in this circumstance – teacher of journalism including shorthand, I found this article everywhere I looked on Facebook and Twitter.
My friends were sharing it, commenting on it, discussing how ludicrous the story was and offering the reasons why shorthand is indeed far from dying.

My favourite comments on social media included: “I do my shopping lists in shorthand so no one knows I’m looking for camomile infused fabric softener. Don’t want to lose them man points.”

“I also back up all my interviews with a dictaphone but very rarely use it! Transcribing a real life interview would take hours, it’s much easier to use my [shorthand] notes.”

“Haha That just sums up bloggers! They think they are journalists.”

And from a fellow shorthand teacher: “You don’t know how much all your comments please me! I’m a happy lady. It’s nice to know you youngsters will keep the art of shorthand alive long after I’m gone.”

I teach shorthand to my class every year. Some struggle with it – really struggle with it – and others pick it up and they’re at 100words per minute (wpm) at the first attempt.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a student who is happy to admit she can’t stand it, is aiming for 60wpm (the minimum requirement) and is then giving up. But even she said she’ll always be using it in life, just the odd word like ‘the’ ‘be’ ‘or’ ‘and’ because it’s so much quicker.

Once you learn it, you can’t avoid it.

The comments I’ve seen are true too – how long would it take you to transcribe back an interview if you had to listen to the whole thing again rather than just the best quotes you’ve written down?

How about when your technology fails? Let’s face it, if we’re relying on it all the time these days then the battery will need to be charged about three times a day.

At a recent conference I attended the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) revealed a plan to review the Diploma in Journalism which could mean students have an option to get the diploma without doing shorthand.

The response from the former managing editor of The Sun, Graham Dudman? Having an NCTJ qualification without shorthand is like having a driving test without the need to reverse.”

And yes, I know I’m biased but besides whether the art of shorthand is dying or not, I think the BBC article proves something else. Bloggers are not trained journalists.

The best bit of the article is the quote from a blogger who goes by the name of Fuzz Junket (I know….).

“Honestly, shorthand? Who still writes that stuff?
“Who even reads it? The art of shorthand doesn’t just have one foot in the grave, it has the other planted firmly on a banana peel.”

Later in the blog Fuzz, if I may affectionately call them, wrote: “Of course I don’t read shorthand but I knew enough to recognize it.”

Well there you have it. (I’m hoping Fuzz is American or i’ll also pick up on the spelling too).

I write it – and I read it. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to read it because it’s my notes for my story or press release.  You would never expect anyone to just be a ‘reader’ of shorthand. This blogger must not have been trained in journalism and yet, like so many other people, they feel qualified to comment or write stories online.

If you need a job doing – or an article writing – remember, bloggers are not trained journalists. And that includes all parts of journalism training, not just shorthand.