News agency boss says journalism degrees which don't offer shorthand are 'Del Boy' courses

A news agency boss has dubbed some journalism courses  “Del Boy degrees” because they don’t make 100 words per minute shorthand compulsory.

Jon Harris, managing director of Cavendish Press based at MediaCityUK in Salford, said shorthand was a “vital tool of the trade” for reporters but many are choosing not to learn it.

Harris said that journalists without shorthand skills were incapable of covering basic day-to-day reporting duties such as court and tribunal reporting.

Harris has spoken out after taking on work experience students who did not have 100wpm shorthand.

Courses accredited by the National Council of Training of Journalists (NCTJ) do insist on students passing 100 wpm shorthand in order to reach the "gold standard" pass level.

“Sending out journalism graduates without shorthand is akin to sending them out to get a reporting job with one arm tied behind their backs", said Harris who is currently recruiting for journalists.

''There are sadly some in newspapers and in universities who believe 100wpm shorthand is no longer a ''must have' in journalism due to Twitter and recording equipment – but in my view that is complete and utter nonsense.

''Many important and major stories emerge from courts, inquests and tribunals and the fact remains you need at least 100wpm to cover them properly. You simply cannot rely on live blogging and tweeting to cover court cases effectively.

''Mistakes can be made, there are many occasions when key quotes cannot be taken down accurately and many courts and tribunals don't allow live tweeting or recording equipment anyway

''If there is ever a legal problem with a particular story it is notebooks filled with shorthand that are asked for by lawyers – not paraphrased blogs or tweets which would probably be laughed out of a libel court.  In the post Leveson-era it is more important than ever that all journalists of tomorrow are trained properly – and that starts at college.

''We've had several journalism students who are genuinely bright prospects and ready for intense on-the-job training with us – yet they can't even begin to do their job properly because they've got no shorthand.

''It simply means once they graduate and having spent many thousands on studying journalism, they have to shell out even more cash to go back to college again to get the vital tool of the trade they need.

''I believe many journalism course leaders think shorthand is a necessary part of the job – but those who devise some of these courses need to step out into the real world of how reporting works.

''Shorthand makes for a more rounded reporter – yet without it some of these courses are just Del Boy degrees – journalism qualifications without the key mechanism for journalism. These places are failing their own students – it's disgraceful.''

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