Why journalism students should learn shorthand BEFORE universities teach it

There’s a debate among journalism students and academics about when shorthand should be taught on university degrees.

It was ongoing when I studied (2007) and it’s still going on now. With shorthand’s detractors claiming that it should not be taught at all. Well, clearly on a journalism course, shorthand should be taught (ignore anybody who says it shouldn’t – they’ve never worked in the Press).

Getting back to when shorthand should be taught…

Some universities teach shorthand in the third and final year of an undergraduate course, while others teach it in the second. Students on masters and post-graduate courses tend to learn shorthand in the one year that they do the journalism course.

The University of Cenral Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston, where Teeline shorthand is taught to journalism undergraduates in the third and final year of their course

The University of Cenral Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston, where Teeline shorthand is taught to journalism undergraduates in the third and final year of their course

There are very few, if any, universities that teach shorthand to first years students on their journalism training course, probably because it would just be too intense for them to have two hour lessons every day.

At the University of Central Lancashire, the institution that I attended, they taught Teeline shorthand in the third year of the journalism undergraduate course.

The argument behind this was that they used to teach it in the second year, but then in the third year the students would stop using shorthand. By the time they graduated, and found a job, they had all but forgotten how to write in shorthand and had to spend several weeks re-learning the skill.

Well, that’s tough for them. If they had been doing journalism regularly throughout their final year they would have remembered – and refined – their shorthand skills.

What’s more, they would have performed better in coursework, on work experience, and at any other journalism gigs they had such as student newspapers, magazines or selling stories freelance.

Because all of the above are things that journalism students will have to do if they want to succeed and ensure that they get a job at the end of their degrees.

So my argument is this: Journalism students who want to be successful need to learn shorthand before the university begins teaching it. This is particular true if your course waits until the third year to start teaching shorthand.

There were many times when I struggled as I frantically took notes in longhand. If I had known shorthand that would not have happened.

So if you have to wait until the third year of a degree before taking shorthand lessons then start early. When the second year of the course start, get yourself a shorthand text book to start learning. If you have a bit of spare cash find a local teacherand take a lesson once a fortnight. You can even take a distance course to learn shorthand online.

By learning shorthand before your fellow students you will be light years ahead of them. You will excel at work experience, on coursework, and on extra projects such as writing for the student newspaper.

And most importantly, when it comes to finding a job, you will have an added advantage – just one of the many benefits of learning shorthand.


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