Reflections on a S/Hand Exam… and life


So another day in the life of the trainee hack. The 60/70 shorthand exam came and went like so many fleeting passages about mundane Rutland Times-esque articles.

I worked for the Rutland Times for a year and know exactly the sort of stuff they like to print. Hazel Blears when I met her at a press conference laughed when I told her where I was from and reminded me that nothing much happens there… Cheers Hazel! But it is true. Its a weekly paper and the front page splash I remember once was about hanging baskets. Snooze.I think in that instance, if I were the editor for that paper I’d pay an impressionable friend to streak through a bowls game at the retirement home or something just for a bit of flavour!

Anyway, the 70 passage was about credit card fraud. Did the wrong outline for crime the whole way through correcting it only upon finishing the exam as I’d been writing the very clumsy CRM all joined rather than the tidier C intersected with the M because C is followed by R (journos will understand). Anyway, apart from that I think the only problem I had was an indistinguishable outline… or maybe an outline that was missing another outline to make sense. Anyway. I know I lost a point so I decided to fork out another £11.50 to submit both my 70 and 60 passages. The 60 was about a community centre being built and car parking being an issue. 

See what I mean about this crying out for a Max Moseley type story? I know I nailed the 60 but I didn’t want to risk failing the 70 and getting bubkiss. 

So, for worried future journos out there I’ll explain what it involves. Basically our exam was overseen by an NCTJ inspector so our tutor, Sue was even more crazy than usual and the pressure seemed to be too much. So she measured 3feet gaps between us so she wouldn’t be penalised. We got to have a dictionary for reference (which I did actually use for the word suspicious) along with 2 pens, a brief of exam rules, shorthand notebook for the passage, college pad for the transcription and tickets with 60 and 70 written on them. After a warm-up, sue read the 4 minute passage at 70 wpm with a gap in the middle. Then she read the 60 wpm passage. Only after that could we transcribe. I can’t remember how much time we got but I think it was 25 mins for the 60 and 30 mins for the 70. You can only write on one side of the college pad and had to show which one you were transcribing so Sue knew which time slot applied to you. After that time slot finished, the clock restarted so idiots like me could transcribe the 60. 

Its really quite simple. 

Then this PM we discussed Newsday tomorrow with Paul who has just had baby number two with his wife so was gushing and showing all us broody females pictures of the little fuzzball. Its refreshing as Paul’s wife is also a journalist and I remember when I was at a talk with arguably Britain’s most successful female journalist, Helen Bowden, who told us all that she wasn’t married nor did she have any kids and that was an advantage… A room full of girls sat in horror faced with a life of a redundant womb, no mans and a disappointed mother who is relying on you for grandchildren. Not that that is anywhere near my life plan as it stands but it’d be nice to know that in journalism you can have the option. 

So for Newsday tomorrow it turns out I am going to the Magistrates Court to get a story for SNN. That’ll be fun. And slightly worrying since I failed my Court Reporting exam. Paul had a raised eyebrow when I volunteered. 

So I have my Court Clothes all laid out for tomorrow. Boots, black skirt, red v-neck jumper and moc-croc bag. I wanna fit in. Too bad the cumulative sum of my outfit is probably about £42 including underwear. Thats the journo life I have to get used to. No sleep, no money but good company and a glass of wine in the evening.

Currently enjoying the last of my M&S £4.85 Soave from the weekend. That and the Magistrates Court Act.


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