Thursday, 8 November 2012

Journalism Tips 52. Lessons from the movies: Shorthand.

How invaluable shorthand is cannot be underestimated. Sure you can do the job without it - and many do but if you want the best quotes than Teeline or Pitmans is the answer.

It is particularly valuable in court, even when barristers speak at a deliberate 70wpm to eek out their fees  - or choose a steady pace in order to carefully pick their words carefully.

And for those still doubting think of Glenn Hoddle who was quite prepared to sue The Times for printing his comments that disabled people had been bad in a previous life.

Fortunately reporter Matt Dickinson was able to produce his perfect shorthand notes and the threat of legal action faded away.

Of course having said that shorthand in the warmth of the office is nothing like that out in the street on a cold November day when you've been waiting in a freezing car (if you're lucky) for someone to leave their home.

Nor is it like the scramble down the street as the interviewee decides they want to walk and talk.

And as for the complete sentence... Alas no, people do not finish tend to complete their...

Or they veer off the point or don't appear to be saying anything of interest until, with a degree of verbal dexterity you could never have imagine, they make a brilliant, original and controversial point which becomes your instant top line half way through a sentence.

So do not think you don't need shorthand. But keep a digital recorder packed at all times.

One last thing. No one speaks at precisely 100wpm. As demonstrated in the clip above from Norman Wisdom's Press For Time (1966).

For me the beauty of this scene is not Stanley Unwin's brilliant town clerk gobbledygook routine but Tom Selby's County Chronicle reporter Harry Marshall. His studied boredom of the proceedings is priceless.

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