RSS Feed

Tag Archives: kingston journalism

Shorthand: We should not be amused

20121115-150133.jpg

Amidst my media law woes, I’ve found time in my busy schedule for something else: stressing about shorthand. It comes second on Independent blogger Martin King’s list of important journalistic skills, but is also one of the hardest skills to learn.

After two months of learning outlines for such bizarre words as ‘pebbly’ and ‘frolic’ (try using both of those in the same sentence) we have been deemed ready to sit our first exam. This entails taking shorthand notes on a four minute passage, read at a speed of 60 words per minute. Given that the average person speaks at two or even three times this speed, we have a long way to go before we’ll be able to take notes from actual people, but the idea of writing at 60 w.p.m. is still faintly terrifying.

Yesterday, our tri-weekly dose of shorthand was scheduled for 4pm. I had been at university since 10am, and had already endured three hours of local government and a gruelling law revision session. I was not in the mood. By the time we started dictation, I had already tried to read the word television as ‘T…V…shun’ and forgotten multiple words which I was supposed to have learnt already. Then Sue decided that as a special treat, we would do our dictation at 70 w.p.m. rather than 60. This was to be my undoing.

Surprisingly, the problem was not actually the speed. With shorthand passages, the word ‘a’ counts for one of your 60 but so does the word ‘supervise’. Therefore a 70 w.p.m. passage can actually be easier to write than a 60 w.p.m., which seemed to be the case here. Then came the fatal sentence ‘Mr Brown had returned from walking his dog to find that his pet parrot, Jack…’ Don’t ask me why I found it hilarious that a man would name a parrot Jack, but I did. So did several other members of the class. And the teacher. The passage had to be paused and restarted, but once I’ve found something funny, I can’t stop laughing. I tried to muffle my laughter enough that I didn’t disturb anyone else in the class, but unsurprisingly my own transcript had several large gaps. These gaps seemed to coincide with the mentioning of a certain name.

So my advice to anyone who is learning shorthand is this: do not find anything funny in the exam! Unfortunately, I have no tips as to how to help with this problem, and if anyone has managed to combat it then I would appreciate their help. In searching for solution though, I have discovered this useful article from Wannabe Hacks on passing 100 w.p.m. shorthand. There may be hope for me yet, providing that no other unusually-named birds show up, of course!

If you want to share your own shorthand-learning stories or tips for passing the exams, then please leave a comment below.

Advertisements

In at the Deep End

As of today I’m halfway through my first week at Kingston and I think it’s fair to describe it as intense.

For one thing, that halfway mark also means that I’m halfway through a module, one which requires me to do a group presentation on Thursday. I hate presentations with a passion, so this should be interesting.

Terrifying summative assignments aside, the past two days have been fun. We’ve had a crash course in the future of the journalism industry (with three very different views of where that future looks brightest), a lesson in editing copy, and a fairly scary assignment: finding our own story.

Yes, that’s right, yesterday afternoon we had two hours to get out onto the streets and find a story for either the university’s newspaper or its local news website. My partner and I explored a few different options, including sitting in on the beginning of two boring court cases, but ended up choosing a story about accessibility for disabled students within the university. We pitched it to two of our journalism lecturers, who said that it would be a good story if we kept it focused, and went away feeling that bit more like real journalists. Because at the end of the day, that’s what this course is all about – that and seeing how long we can survive on the bare minimum of sleep!