Has taping usurped shorthand at the News of the World?

An interesting insight into journalistic best-practice at the News of the World has been provided courtesy of a leaked email from newsdesk chief Ian Edmondson – which suggests that tape recordings have usurped shorthand at the paper.

It says, courtesy of The Guardian:

‘I am only going to say this once. ALL interviews are carried out the following way. 1. TAPE the interview. 2. TRANSCRIBE word for word the interview. 3. WRITE the story from these words only. If it is NOT on tape do NOT file it unless expressly requested by myself or in my absence James/Neil. You have all been warned.”

This is the exact opposite of what I was always taught to do as a trainee. With time of the essence I was always told to write up my story from my shorthand interview notes – typing up only the bits that would be used.

Having a complete transcript of all interviews sounds like a luxury most busy journalists would not have time to do. But then the News of the World does deal with some particularly contentious stuff.

The quality of notes taken were an issue at the recent Max Mosley case.

Mr Justice Eady suggested that the NoW would have been better able to prove that its bugging of Mosley’s Chelsea flat was justified in the public interest if chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was able to provide notes of conversations with Woman E – the NoW source for the story.

Referring to an inconsistency in Thurlbeck’s evidence, Eady said: ‘The problem is naturally compounded by the absence of any contemporaneous notes of the conversations he purports to record. There are undoubtedly inconsistencies, which make it very difficult to decide how much can be relied upon.”

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