Are you a story teller, or a story writer? While some would argue they possess both qualities, this is one instance in which we know the chicken(spoken word) came before the egg(written word).
Stories, whether hard or soft, were first heard. They were heard, and then told, and eventually written. Today we use Greg’s Shorthand. Introduced in 1888, Greg’s shorthand replaced Benn Pitman’s earlier style. Shorthand, formally known as stenography, translates to ‘narrow writing’ in Greek, and has its origins there.
The introduction of shorthand into contemporary journalism brought forth a new obstacle for journalists, and also relieved them of the pressure to remember. As we’ve discussed in professor Steve Klein‘s class, “strong shorthand replaces a formidable memory as a job qualification.” The advent of stenography as way to record events in history came with its strengths and pitfalls.
Shorthand was a new technology to the Europeans. They were no longer responsible to call up entire speeches from memory, but they did have to learn how to adapt to stenography. It is a possibility, then, that much of the early reporting based on shorthand missed several important details. Written word also has a tendency, as we know, to alter or reposition the tone of a story.
Early journalists probably greeted shorthand with open arms, but I’ll keep using my voice recorder, because the the truth and voice of a story starts at the source, and I think most journalists and writers alike are glad technology didn’t end with pen and paper.