Yes, journalists do still use shorthand – and here’s why

I’m a huge fan of McFly but Tom Fletcher, singer and guitarist, has annoyed me today.

It’s all because of this story about a disabled student who’s been told he would not be able to pass a Scottish journalism qualification as he is unable to do shorthand.

I get the uproar about this. I think that Kyle should be able to get a qualification – just perhaps with the caveat on it that it does not include shorthand, since employers will otherwise assume that his certificate will encompass that too.

He’s a teenager with cerebal palsy and journalism desperately needs more diversity, not less, so give him a chance to cut his reporting chops and get a slightly altered qualification. We don’t want to keep a good journalist out of the field just because of shorthand.

But that’s not what’s spurred me on to write this blog. Tom Fletcher chipped in with this:

“I can’t even remember the last time I saw a journalist use shorthand,” he said.

Well that’s probably because you haven’t been to a court hearing or a council meeting recently.

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International Cat Day and why I love my job

Not every job would let you go and pet cats at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in Old Windsor on a Tuesday afternoon!

International Cat Day was the perfect opportunity to organise this – the day was trending on social media all day and we had incredible success earlier in the day asking people to send in photos of their cats on the Get Surrey Facebook page. I’m sure the fact I put a photo of my beautiful cat, Shanti, on the post made it all the more attractive to readers ūüėČ

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Spotlight – Worthy Award-Winner

As a journalist, Spotlight is inspirational. For a non-journo, I suspect it is just as fascinating and perhaps scarier as they can see how hard it can be to tell such an important truth.

The film follows the Boston Globe’s investigative team of four, Spotlight, during 2001 as they are assigned a new story by the paper’s incoming editor, a hard-lined Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). That story is the Catholic Church’s decades-long systematic cover-up of child abuse by priests in Boston.

They start thinking small, just a handful of priests, but each new discovery is a shock, even knowing what we know today. This means that despite the fairly static, small-scale nature of the film, the emotional twists and turns are riveting. It is impossible not to be swept along in the disgust and outrage felt by the characters.

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Serial: The Podcast Sensation

serial-social-logoI was a bit behind with Serial, the podcast following a journalist examining the case of Adnan Syed, who has been in prison for 15 years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The podcast ran from October to December and I started listening in January, but at least I could listen to them consecutively instead of having to wait for the next piece of the puzzle. It made great commute material.

Regardless, I’ve listened to it all now and it was fascinating. As a local newspaper journalist I’ve been to court a fair few times and generally understand how the system works, but obviously that’s in the UK rather than the US and I don’t really see what happens, if anything, after conviction, or behind the scenes during a trial.

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One year on: the end of a journalism MA

That’s it – it’s over! Last week I handed in my final MA Journalism project and ¬†I still can’t believe it. So much has happened in a year, I couldn’t even have dreamed last September that everything would have aligned so closely to my plan.

I only made the decision to switch from music to journalism in the early part of 2013 when I was trying to decide what to do when I graduated in July. I decided on my new career path after sadly deciding that a career in music performance would be out of my reach and a career in teaching was not up my street. So I decided that, since I like writing and news and hearing people’s stories, journalism would be a good step for me.

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Work Experience At 2 Very Different Local Papers: Part 1

Work experience is a strange thing. You might end up doing any level of work – following people around, doing work that won’t get used, doing proper work like a proper employee, or just sitting in the office and letting the knowledge seep in.

This Christmas holiday I undertook two work placements, both with reporters at local newspapers, and while they shared the basics, they were quite different in several ways.

The first was with the South London Newsquest group, in an office covering the Surrey Comet, Kingston Guardian, Richmond and Twickenham Times and Elmbridge Guardian papers. I wrote bits for all of these, meaning I needed to be aware of several different patches and that I was flexible with who I answered to.

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Term One Of Kingston Journalism MA Is Over!

With lots of new things learnt, experienced and tried, our first (almost) three months of studying MA Journalism has come to a close. Here’s my summing up:

  • Everyone seems to feel very differently about shorthand – although everyone loves our lovely and hilarious teacher, Sue. Personally, I do actually enjoy it, which definitely helps in the learning process. I passed the 60wpm exam with 100% and took both 80 and 100wpm yesterday, although I’ll have to put that out of my mind until January 3rd now! If I can get to 120wpm by April I’ll be over the moon.
  • We also studied for the NCTJ’s Essential Media Law exam which we took towards the end of November and, though it beats me how, I managed to come at the top of the class with 89%. Considering I’d never really done anything on this subject before, I found the law really interesting, especially as real life examples kept coming into the news this term – most notably perhaps with Peach Geldof’s contempt tweet.
  • I’ve been the arts and entertainment editor for our website, the Kingston Courier, which has had its ups and downs but I’ve loved it. I’ve been to see lots of shows, spoken to some lovely local performers and also found a few news stories about things like free schools and parking. I don’t really want to give my arts section up but we all swap round next term and we’ll also be producing a paper pullout for a newspaper which sounds like a fun project.
  • The material for the NCTJ Public Affairs exam has been long and intense, with lots more still to go, which is one thing I’m not really looking forward to next term…
  • My specialist module is arts and entertainment which I enjoy and feel good at, although I still need to finish my portfolio due in January. Next term we either create a specialist website or newspaper/magazine spread which I’m excited to try.
  • We’ve gone into court and into a council meeting to get used to how these things work as we’ll have to go to them at some point. Court was okay but the council meeting was pretty boring, although at least I got to practise shorthand in both.
  • We took the NCTJ Reporting exam last Monday and it could have gone well – the big news story was about a guy who chased down thieves and then got told off for keeping contact with the police on his phone whilst driving, which was at least an interesting one to write – but it’s the one that it’s basically impossible to predict as it’s marked so harshly.
Photo courtesy of Natasha Bernal <3
Photo courtesy of Natasha Bernal ‚̧

As you can tell, we’ve been busy – and there are still the odd other things that I didn’t mention such as lunchtime lectures, news quizzes and interview practice – ¬†but I don’t get long for a break.

This Christmas, I’m doing three weeks of work experience, one week at the Surrey Comet and its newspaper group and two at the Isle of Wight County Press. It’s a bit nerveracking but exciting and hopefully I’ll have lots to talk about afterwards.

The Start Of A Journalism MA

I’ve just finished the third week of my Journalism Masters at Kingston University and I can honestly say I’m having a brilliant time. It’s intense and busy, but the people – students and lecturers alike – are all wonderful and we very quickly became a tight bunch; the constant stream of interesting material and enthusiasm also makes every hard moment worth it. I thought I’d write something about what we’ve been doing so far and what anyone in the future may be able to expect.

The First Week

Our first week was slightly different to the others, in that it was a packed 10-4 schedule every day and we started pushing the Journalism In Context: Law, Ethics And The Industry module, with introductions to the print versus digital debate and ethics questions posed. Around these lectures, we had a very short time frame in which to work towards our first assessment, a presentation in groups of three on the Thursday in which we spoke and interacted with the group on a topic relevant to the industry. This proved to be a very interesting day with many different debates started, although everyone was starting to flag by about half past two!

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