The Death of Shorthand?

CURRENTLY as a final year Journalism undergraduate, I am slaving away to get my shorthand speed up. I’ve been learning shorthand for just over two and a half years now, obtaining a speed of 70 words per minute up until this point.

But recent developments in this technological, bloody revolution in the media world have left me with questions regarding the relevance of shorthand. In particular the news that reporters would now be allowed to Tweet from court.

There is a whole host of legal implications of allowing this but I’m not going to delve into those. What I am curious about is where this leaves the trusty notepad and pen and more specifically the shorthand adorned on said notepad?

The one crucial foundation holding shorthand’s relevance and one that is used by many tutors on my course to give shorthand its justification is that, in court you’re not allowed a recording device. But what is to stop someone from taking out their phone under the pretense of Tweeting and then recording proceedings on a built in voice recorder on the same smart phone? Surely it is just a matter of time before the courts decide to permit recording devices in court?

I know many would argue that there is nothing stopping you from taking a concealed recording device in and recording despite it being contempt of court. But if as a reporter you are expected to multi-task, by tweeting and reporting in depth accurately, how are you supposed to do both at the same time. How is it humanly possible to take a shorthand note and tweet at the same time as the verdict is delivered?

Despite this the fact remains that if your shorthand note is decipherable to you and is fairly accurate and you’re speed is good, shorthand is actually a time saving device. Between transcribing a written shorthand note and a voice recording it is so much easier and quicker to get back shorthand.

As opposed to stopping and starting the recording device. But then again technology is once again looming as a great big cloud. You now have what are called transcription services, which transcribe audio recordings into text. I don’t know how accurate they are but since they exist you can bet your smartphone that some boffin is looking to further advance this software.

My tutor argues that shorthand is important as it’s foolproof. He says what if your dictaphone stops working? He has a point, shorthand has survived when its obituary was being scribed by those who believed the voice recorder would nail the coffin of these archaic squiggles.

Whatever may be the case, shorthand for now has a stay of execution. But no one can predict its fate or the fate of journalism as a whole.

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One Response to “The Death of Shorthand?”

  1. Twm Owen Says:

    A recording device that transcribes its recordings into text might be okay for recording a well spoken judge but what about defendants and witnesses in trials. I’d be impressed if such a device accurately recognises regional accents, I suspect though you would be filing some very amusing copy from court if relying on such a recorder.
    Btw there is a big murder case ongoing in South Wales in which the defendant, according to the BBC, has a stammer. Probably makes taking down a note of what he’s saying easier.


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