New exam format backed at Shorthand Seminar

Picture: David Rowell, group editorial development executive of Johnston Press speaking at the NCTJ Shorthand Seminar.

David Rowell, group editorial development executive of Johnston Press, supported the new format for NCTJ shorthand examinations when speaking at a Shorthand Seminar.

NCTJ shorthand examinations at speeds of 90 to 120 wpm will change format in September as part of the introduction of the NCTJ’s new qualification, the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

In the revised exam, the second half of the four minute shorthand speech will include a key quote which students must take down with 100 per cent accuracy to pass the examination.

This change is being introduced to ensure reporters listen to what has been said as well as having the ability to accurately record it in shorthand.

David Rowell, group editorial development executive of Johnston Press backed this change in the shorthand exam format at the Shorthand Seminar held in London on Friday 18 June.

David said: “Editors know that shorthand is an essential journalistic skill. We rely on our reporters being able to work fast and accurately – and shorthand is the ideal tool to achieve this.

“Journalism has changed totally. Gone are the days when we all had to take down verbatim notes of courts and council debates and reproduce them across several columns of newsprint. We now work in a digital age where the sound-bite is the key.

“That’s why it is my belief there is a need to change the way our journalists learn shorthand. That doesn’t mean we drop standards, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a 100 wpm pass rate and it doesn’t mean we give less importance to the written note in the notebook.

“In this age of instant publishing we need sharper, quicker trainees who can hit the ground running when they join their first newsroom.

“What we need them to do is take a note and just as importantly to have heard what’s been said to them – I call it active listening.

“It’s almost like conditioning reporters so that they can make shorthand the skill that supports the journalism, the interviewing, questioning and listening process – and stop it being a sole note-taking syndrome.”

David added: “This is a massive challenge because it means changing the shorthand learning and examining culture, but it is critical if you are going to provide editors with journalists who can hit the ground running from day one.

“This means changing the emphasis of the NCTJ exam format – it can only be for the good of our future journalists – and journalism.”

Marie Cartwright, chief examiner, chair of the NCTJ Shorthand Board and author of Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists, said: “The introduction of a quote into shorthand speeds of 90-120 wpm shows how the NCTJ shorthand module has changed to reflect practical use for working journalists.”