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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NCTJ is still industry standard – but it might not be for much longer

Following the post by The Student about the relevance and worth of an NCTJ course Rhys Hayward – one of the latest hacks in the production line of the News Associates NCTJ in Wimbledon – gives his thoughts on the NCTJ and its future.

In my opinion it is impossible to judge the NCTJ certificate in black and white because of the vastly variable nature of both the industry and the centres which are approved to teach the qualification. I recently qualified at News Associates in Wimbledon as a 100%er – that is someone who has passed all four main disciplines taught by the NCTJ: News Writing, Media Law, Public Affairs and Teeline Shorthand at 100 words per minute.

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We must wait and see if NCTJ is still industry standard

Roy Greenslade has flagged up an interesting point in his latest Guardian blog. In short, he questions whether university journalism courses need to be accredited by the National Council for the Teaching of Journalism (NCTJ) and, citing the example of the University of Strathclyde (who withdrew from the NCTJ in 2008), asks whether the course actually provides the skills for the ‘journalists of the future’.

Journo Students

This is particularly pertinent to the Wannabe Hacks as myself, The Chancer and The Detective will be starting journalism masters at City University next week.

City (as Mr Greenslade points out in his article) is not NCTJ certified.

In the year or so before applying to study journalism at City, I had to weigh up whether it was better to study a postgraduate course at a non-NCTJ accredited institution (like City, Goldsmiths or Westminster) or to do a short course NCTJ qualification and supplement that with work experience. In effect, I was torn between what I was told was the national standard for journalists – the Michelin Star for journalism courses – and what I thought would equip me with the skills to be a top-class reporter.


One question that I had, and that many young journalists may have too, is whether or not having an NCTJ qualification would affect job opportunities in the future. My answer would be probably not.

National newspaper generally don’t deem any journalism qualifications essential and, although some local newspapers editors swear by the NCTJ and will not employ anyone unless they have passed it (the editor of the North West London Newsquest titles told me as much), it’s not a hard and fast rule.

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