Thursday, 15 December 2016

Shorthand Sylvia outlines a new future

A final outline from Sylvia
(I trust you can all read it!)
One of the giants of the newspaper industry retired today. Sylvia Bennett, as many of you will know, wasn’t one of the big-name editors or investigative reporters … but her role was just as important. Sylvia was the person who gave essential skills to many of today’s best journalists. She was their shorthand teacher. 
Sylvia’s great strength - apart from the fact she could teach Pitman, Teeline and keyboarding - was that she was the strictest disciplinarian. She suffered no fools, knew when you were slacking and accepted no excuses. Yet despite her tough regime, she was loved and respected by all her trainees (and her colleagues). 
Sylvia, of course, also got fantastic results. If anyone could get you to a 100wpm in record time, it was Sylvia. 
She started working with journalists on the Westminster Press course in 1980. Fifteen years later when I bought the training centre in Hastings from WP, and turned it into the Editorial Centre, she came with me. When I sold it to the Press Association in 2007, she continued to work on PA’s London course. She must have trained at least 2,000 journalists - probably more. Among them are some big names … Andy Coulson, David Yelland, Rachel Johnson, Gillian Tett, Ed Conway and too many others to mention.
When I worked with Sylvia her professionalism meant I was always confident that trainees had their best chance of leaving our courses with 100 words. She was the ace card when persuading editors that we had the right course for their staff. 
That success rate continued right through to her last session today. Fiona Webster, who runs the PA course, said: 'I have never worked with anyone who inspires such affection - and awe - as Sylvia. I've watched trainees tower over her, yet quake at her feet. Her professionalism and commitment are obvious in her teaching, but she is also compassionate, honest, intuitive and kind. And a joy to work with. Thousand of journalists have benefitted from her teaching and common sense. Her retirement is a real loss to the industry.’
I can’t really believe Sylvia is retiring - and neither can she. 'I must admit I feel too young to retire and thoroughly enjoy the work,' she said today. The reason behind the move is that she is going to live in the Midlands. But she is already wondering about teaching opportunities there. We may not have seen the last of her yet. 
Good luck Sylvia. It was professional, it was successful, at times it was tough … but it was always a pleasure.


  1. Good luck Sylvia - pass on my best wishes for a well deserved break (ladies & gentleman of the jury etc etc)

  2. I worked with Sylvia during my year or two at the then-WP Training Centre in Hastings. A wonderful colleague and a great teacher.

  3. A fabulous teacher and a decent person