Does shorthand give you sleight of hand?

Shorthand has basically been expunged from modern journalism courses. However, in a time where speed is of paramount importance, the relevance of shorthand should be reevaluated. Marissa Calligeros (@marissa_sc) the breaking news reporter at, debated that shorthand is a valuable skill for journalists to have as it allows them to record with speed, which is pertinent when time is of the essence. Leah White of the Australian said “transcribing and extracting quotes from audio recordings, when there are no glitches, takes precious time out of tight deadlines. I now believe that not teaching shorthand to a student of journalism is the equivalent of not teaching a carpenter how to use a hammer and nail, while educating him with academic theory and history behind house construction.” White believes this due to the indispensable ability to write accurately, quickly and under pressure that shorthand provides.

Roy Greenslade of the Guardian highlighted the advantages of using recording technology over shorthand as it guarantees evidence if someone disputes quotes. This is exemplified in the situation where Lord Young was caught on tape saying that people had never had it so good and was thus forced to step down from his role. Had this not been recorded and only written in shorthand, Young may have protested that he had been misquoted and there would be nothing to substantiate the quote. Beyond this, Greenslade emphasised the shortcomings of shorthand when it is not taught well and is consequently indecipherable for editors. Shorthand also can allow much greater room for error, which a recording device will not permit.

However, in a situation where a deadline is looming, Observer journalist Denis Campbell contended that a journalist would be greatly disadvantaged if they did not possess the ability to write in short hand. He does agree that a recorder will get the words exactly, but it is arduous to transcribe and also has the capacity to break down. Charlie Beckett of the London school of Economics and Political Science said the technique is useful, but in collaboration with recording and a variety of other skills.

I agree, while shorthand may be very advantageous in certain situations, the additional utilisation of a recording device will cover all the bases.


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