Fascinating read about the future of journalism and advice to any recently graduated student.
“If you had a paper for every street, it would sell” – Really? – Bristol Editor – Social media, blogging, media relations, journalism and PR in BristolFebruary 11, 2011
When it comes to mastering shorthand there is little you can do but practice, practice and more practice. Unfortunately there is no other way of doing it. There are plenty of shorthand dictation tapes out there on the web, or from your course centre for you to pass. You should be practising for at least an hour a day if you want to get your 100wpm. However, there isn’t an endless supply of dictation and the passages can become familiar after a while. It is always nice to try something different to spice up your shorthand relationship, so why not try these five on for size?
Shorthand to the beat
It is possible to take down teeline to a song and it can be a novel way to change up your practice routine. Try and pick songs that have clear lyrics and a tempo that isn’t too fast for your shorthand speed. Not only will it help your shorthand but transcribing the words back will help you learn them for your next karaoke trip as well.
While watching T.V
Finding time and motivation to churn out an hours worth of shorthand practice can be difficult at times. But as all you need is a pen and paper sometimes it is nice to encorportate it into other activities like watching T.V (or listening to music). Taking down teeline to the news, or a chat show can be good practice at the faster speeds. Even if you are only at 60wpm trying to keep up for 30 seconds is still good practice.
On the move
If you take the train or the bus anywhere and you have left your Ipod at home, don’t worry. You can still practise your shorthand. Take down what you hear and try and get it back, it could be a mobile phone conversation or the radio on the bus (not sure if the bus plays the radio, to be honest) but it all helps towards that 100wpm.
Ask a friend to read to you
Probably the most unlikely of the five to happen on a regular basis. But if your flatmate or partner is around with nothing to do, asking them to read at a certain pace is a good way to break things up. If only to get you away from the usual shorthand passages and voices.
OK so it’s really a top 4 but it cannot be avoided. Your shorthand dictation passages provide the best way of practising your shorthand and getting up to speed. The above methods are good ways of getting away from the dictation when they become monotonus or familiar but the passages should never be kicked to the curb. Take a break from them to try something different, but keep them close at hand, they really will help you pass.
Some of you may have heard of Anneka Masih recently. She is the NCTJ student who caused quite a stir by getting her name tattoed on her ankle, in shorthand. Holdthefrontpage broke the story, the NCTJ website covered it too. Even media commentator and City University lecturer Roy Greenslade gave it some blog-time, but not everyone has been very complimentary. Well here are Anneka’s thoughts on the story, her reasons for the tat and her feelings on shorthand in general:
Shorthand is something that I find inspirational. I’ve been interested in journalism for almost four years and my tattoo serves as a reminder of how far I have come. I chose to get my name tattooed in shorthand on my ankle for a personal reason. The tattoo symbolises the stage of my life where I want to pursue my career as a journalist, and it’s something I can always look back on. I thought the outline of my name was really interesting and wouldn’t offend anyone, nor would it be pointless. Some people get tattoos of patterns and flowers, or a specific design because the design itself was quite pretty. But I wanted more than that. This tattoo represents a stage of my life where I worked hard to achieve a goal.
I really enjoy learning shorthand and agreed to the story being published. The fact that people started commenting on it was really interesting to me. I personally didn’t expect lots of people to read it, and I definitely thought it would only be a light-hearted story. Suddenly, it became really controversial within a few hours of being posted. Something which was supposed to be symbolic to me had become this central point for people to start attacking me personally. Some people called me an ‘idiot’ and one person even called me a ‘chav’, even though they don’t actually know me. This is my first tattoo and I wanted it to be significant in my life, and not something I did when I was 17 and drunk or something that will lose its relevance in years to come.
Some people have argued that shorthand will be dead in a few years and the tattoo will therefore be irrelevant, but I have to disagree. Newspapers have survived for hundreds of years and I think shorthand will be a part of them for at least another 50.
The outline of the tattoo has also been criticised, with some saying that it’s not correct and it looks more like ‘anthka’ rather than ‘anka’. That’s actually not true and the outline can be read back as Anneka by several people who have studied journalism. No-one I’ve shown the tattoo to so far has said that it doesn’t say my name. It seems that people are nit-picking for no apparent reason.
Shorthand is something that I am looking forward to mastering, as it’s such an important skill to attain, especially for journalists. My story was never designed to offend anyone, but to show people how passionate you can be about journalism.
You can’t remember everything and sometimes you need to look stuff up. That’s what are books are for anyway and the NCTJ course is no different in requiring their students to own certain textbooks. Each course will be different but you can’t go wrong with the below:
Your Own Notes
It’s important to take notes in the classes. Do not rely on the textbooks alone or the handouts you are given in class. When it comes to cramming revision for Law and PA you are likely to understand the meaning of your own notes a lot quicker than relying on long passages in books.
The only book you will need for the law classes. It explains every part of media law in simple terms and also includes very handy examples, the knowledge of which will score you extra marks in your exam. At the end of each chapter there is a recap of the major points in bullet point form to aid revision as well.
Public Affairs for Journalists
Again this is the only book you will need for any PA class. In contrast to McNae’s though, do not rely on it for examples. Always keep up to date with government news as things happen every day which can be related to your PA class. The examples in the book are by no means terrible but they focus on Blair and Brown’s Labour government. For more marks in the exam you want to keep your examples as relevant as possible. Again the end of each chapter is useful for revision with further reading, review questions and online resources all offered.
This book by Ann Dix was preferred by my course in Wimbledon but there are other options available such as NCTJ Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists. Teeline Fast, however, is compact and concise and used in combination with your lessons will really help to get you through the theory of why you write shorthand the way you do.
Not one that I used during my time but seeing as the NCTJ has changed slightly and now has a whole module called Reporting, I’ll wager that this would be one of the key texts for that subject. It looks at everything from how a newsroom works to handling sound, pictures and the web and with more of a focus on web reporting in the NCTJ these days, this book looks a good bet.
At the end of the course, although you will be very tempted, don’t burn your books in celebration. Keep them, they not only serve a purpose while you are studying but they can be handy reference material when you work into your first job and need to report on a rape case in court.
A list of the books mentioned, and others can be found on Amazon here
One of the criticisms of the NCTJ and the route into journalism is the cost of the course. There is a school of thought that only those who can afford the high prices reap the benefits.
Well this isn’t necessarily the case as the NCTJ owned Journalism Diversity Fund looks to receive its latest set of applications. An article on holdthefrontpage states that budding journos from diverse backgrounds can receive funding from the JDF to help them through an NCTJ course.
Applicants must have already been accepted on to a course that starts between September 2011 and August 2012 but the knowledge that such help is available would surely encourage more people to look at the NCTJ route.
The Fund has already helped 101 students and the deadline for this years applicants is April 29.
Those Wannabe Hacks have done it again, given me more food for thought about how to progress the NCTJ and Beyond blog. I was reading one of their excellent posts the other day (you can read it here) and realised that I haven’t really done number five on that list, interacting with my readers out there.
Firstly, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read the blog, comment on it and share it with others. In the short three months that I have been blogging there has been just over 1,500 page views. I consider that quite a success for a small, part time blog but I want to aim higher.
The blog has over 70 Twitter followers and 40 likes on its Facebook page. It is listed as one of the best “J-Blogs” on journalism.co.uk. It’s quite a solid readership base and there is potential to build on and I am very thankful to those who have jumped on board so far.
NCTJ and Beyond can always improve and reach greater heights and I would like to include the readers in helping the site grow. I would therefore like to open the blog to the floor and ask you all to give me some feedback. Is there a post you are screaming out for? Are there areas you think can be improved? Would you like to see more blogs more often? Any thoughts are welcome either on the comments, on Twitter or at the Facebook page.
In the meantime here are some of the most popular posts from the site that you may or may not have missed:
As a qualified journalist or recent graduate the final thing you need to do to get a job is stay patient, after all it is a virtue.
It is probably the simplest piece of advice that could be given to a recent graduate, but it is very important.
Things very rarely happen overnight and it could be a number of weeks or months before you get your break, but don’t panic you won’t be the only one.
Keep believing in your skills and your education and keep looking for jobs. Keep yourself fresh by blogging and networking in the mean time but stay patient, it will come eventually.
Try to keep yourself relevant during the time you are looking for a job, for example I enrolled on the NCTJ course to gain a further qualification and add another string to my bow. If you just look for jobs without keeping in touch with journalism you will only be hurting your chances.
Although it can be difficult if you are receiving knock backs or are just being ignored, stay enthusiastic as well. It can be easy to become pessimistic going into interviews after being turned down a few times, but put across your passion and your desire to succeed and, coupled with the things you will be doing in your spare time it won’t be long before you go from a qualified journalist to a paid journalist.
As I said at the start of this series I will be following my own advice as I hunt for my first job in the media, thank you to everyone that has followed the series and I hope at least some of it has been of use.