Award-winning journalist Sarah Chapman shared some shocking stories and interesting tales of her time as a court reporter at the NCTJ Shorthand Seminar in Manchester yesterday (20 June).
Speaking about her experiences of court reporting, Sarah told the story of someone cutting his own throat in court after receiving a guilty verdict. She also explained what it was like covering gangland murders and police corruption stories, describing reporting on court cases as “very high pressure” and the importance of being “super accurate.” Sarah offered some tips for court reporting and spoke about the effects of tweeting from court.
Sarah has worked for some of the UK’s biggest regional newspapers and spent six years as court reporter for the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo. She also worked as a freelance journalist for BBC Radio Five Live and as a media law expert with Greater Manchester Police.
Now a journalism lecturer at the University of Salford, Sarah eulogised about the importance of shorthand. She said that despite being a traditional skill, far from being outdated it was even more essential with newsrooms under such pressure. “It’s absolutely vital to be able to flick through pages of a notebook and find the quote you need quickly rather than having to trawl through an audio device”, she said. “Shorthand gives you extra gravitas and a competitive edge when searching for employment and demonstrates commitment to the job.”
Sarah was speaking at the NCTJ’s annual seminar for shorthand tutors. Delegates debated a range of topical issues including course and lesson planning, new exam procedures, punctuation and grammar, and marking criteria. Marie Cartwright, the NCTJ’s chief examiner and author of Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists, led the open forum where tutors discussed a range of issues including penmanship, exam content, the use of ‘text speak’ by students, exam fees and use of full stops.
Robert Laird from Aberdeen College, who teaches NCTJ students on the MSc in journalism course at The Robert Gordon University, talked about good shorthand teaching practice so that students are motivated and equipped to achieve their full potential. Robert, a senior examiner for the NCTJ and member of the shorthand exam board, explained how his students are taught in daily classes of one hour for 26 weeks with most achieving 100wpm before the end of the course and an impressive number reaching 120wpm.