You will want to learn shorthand after reading this post

There aren’t many topics within journalism that divide opinion like shorthand. Some think it’s valuable, others a waste of time. UK journo degrees place a lot of emphasis on it; those in the US don’t really teach it at all.


We could debate till the cows come home about whether or not it’s a useful skill in the context of 21st century journalism. Yes, journalism on a wider scale does not rely on it every day but covering courts and councils is still important locally. Both sides have very strong arguments.

What is perhaps more pertinent is whether we should be spending as much time on learning shorthand as journalism courses currently demand? At City, we spend six hours a week in the class (and countless others practising outlines and speed tests) whilst short courses like the News Associates NCTJ course at Wimbledon spend between 3-4 hours a day on it. Even if shorthand is worthwhile skill, is it so necessary that we spend half of our working hours poring over a textbook, trying to learn little squiggles?… Again debatable.

What is beyond debate though is the following two stories I was told recently, which go some way to underline the importance of shorthand.

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Seven great ways to pimp your blog from Karl Schneider


This week I went to Pimp my Blog: an event held at City University about ways to use social media, widgets and apps to get your blog noticed (much more effective than a t-shirt, that’s for sure)…

The panel – including FT journalist Martin Stabe, editor Patrick Smith and Tim Glanfield (editor of Beehive City) – all agreed that the trick was publishing good content on a regular basis whilst having the mindset that it is a public and professional site not a ‘blog’ about your cat or other such trivialities.

Karl Schneider – another panellist and the Editorial Development Director of RBI – came up with a nice little list of widgets and apps that are free to use and which make the experience of visiting your blog a bit more exciting. So, in no particular order, here are seven greatways to soup-up your blog:

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‘Pitch Perfect’: Paul Bolding’s feedback #2


Over the past week or so – to celebrate today ‘National Freelance Day‘ – we’ve been asking people to send in their article pitches for our experienced editor Paul Bolding. We’ve had some great pitches and some equally interesting feedback from Paul so thanks to everyone for contributing to our online freelancing workshop/experiment.

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Five tips to get more traffic according to expert blogger Katie Lee

Katie Lee (@ShinyKatie) very kindly came into my technology specialism class to give a talk about blogging.

Katie Lee

She’s well qualified to do so too: founder of blogging network Shiny Shiny, currently director of Miramus Ltd, a publishing company specialising in web content, and blogger at Dork Adore and Good Hooking (about knitting, obviously).

She whizzed through the basics of how to blog but gave some very handy tips to getting your work seen by more than just your coursemates/friends/family. We will be employing all of the below because there’s a lot at Wannabe Hacks which we don’t do particularly well and which we could certainly improve on…

1. Set targets to extend your community

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‘Pitch Perfect’: Paul Bolding’s feedback #1

We’ve had a good response to ‘Pitch Perfect’: our online freelancing workshop-come-experiment designed to give YOU the chance to pitch to an experienced former editor.


It’s taught us, even more than previously, that pitching is an artform. Packing enough details into a 100 words or so (who you’re speaking to, why them, someone from the opposite view) whilst giving the editor a sense of the piece is a tough balencing act. We had the following pitch, from a young lady known as ‘Mel’ who had a good stab at it…

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Introducing ‘Pitch Perfect’ for National Freelancers Day

At Wannabe Hacks, we realise the pros and cons of being a freelancer. The Freelancer himself has blogged about the importance of pursuing article pitches and the temptation to sell out to a mass-media freelance company just to get your foot in the door. The idea of being a freelancer may be appealing but, in reality, very few are able to survive as one.


National Freelancers Day – you may or may not know – is fast approaching. Organised by the PCG, a not-for-profit association which supports the freelancer community, National Freelancers Day (Tuesday 23rd November 2010) is set aside to reflect on the contribution of freelancers to the UK’s economy. This year’s event is focusing on the lifestyle involved in freelancing and there are a number of free events which could be interesting if you have an evening spare.

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Debate: were the BBC justified in striking over pensions?

Now that all the furore has died down, The Student and The Chancer assess whether the BBC were right to strike over cuts to their pension.


FOR: The Chancer

A lot of the public attention from these strikes centred around the big names who didn’t cross the picket line and the fact that we were left with some nobody from Hampshire on breakfast and a second string XI to run the other shows. Once the big names started staying at home it was no longer about the action, or it’s cause; it’s the actors in the piece who matter.

And that is one of the problems here. Because now when we hear about BBC staff striking we think of Huw Edwards, Sophie Raworth and George Alagiah and grumble at these well-paid presenters who have temerity to demand more money. But it isn’t just about them. It is about everyone else at the Beeb who feels they are getting a raw deal.

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Hacks do Movember: an update

The Student

The Student

You could be forgiven for thinking that last week’s post signalling our collective intent to do Movember was nothing more than hot air. However, we thought we’d post a few photos of the Hacks to prove we’re committed to the cause and to let you get to know the Hacks a little better.

The Student has had a solid start to Movember and – although he hasn’t gone clean shaven on his chin yet – is looking like a real force to be reckoned with amongst the five wannabe journos.

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Wanted: a fifth Wannabe Hack

Wannabe Hacks are looking for a fifth hack to join our ranks.

Fifth Hack

As we explained on Thursday The Detective will no longer be blogging about getting into the media after deferring his postgraduate course place. It means that we would like someone to help blog about the ups and downs of getting into the big bad world of journalism.

The only stipulation is that you must be trying to get into the media in some shape or form.

Other than that, we’re easy.

It may be useful, but not necessary, if you are trying to do so through a path we do not cover at the moment – e.g. an NCTJ course, newspaper/magazine traineeship, trainee reporter on a local paper etc.

It would also be a bonus if you were in the vicinity of London (we like to share the odd beverage now and again). But this is equally not a must because we would happily welcome a Northern point of view on the getting into the media.

We’re also looking to hear from women trying to get into the media as we’re a male-dominated bunch – a female perspective certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

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Notes from a Notebook: The Student

The Student's notebook. (click to enlarge)

We all know how desperate you are to see the innermost thoughts, plans and desires of the Hacks, but rather than making you wait until one of us leaves a notebook on a train (it could happen), we thought we’d introduce a new series: ‘Notes from a notebook.’

If nothing else, it’s a chance to see the scribblings of  five Mad Men (not in the cool way like our avatars) but mad in the sense of wanting to get into journalism at this point in time. It also proves that there will always be room for a good notepad however dominant emails, iPads and smartphones become.

Up first, the decrepit diary of The Student.

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