Building a positive career in journalism

Tom Goulding, an intern at Positive News, reflects upon his time at the paper during the summer of 2011

Three years ago, I was invited by Positive News to attend a course for aspiring young journalists. Alongside other like-minded teenagers, I spent a week at The Hurst, Shropshire – a writing centre owned by the Arvon Foundation – where we were given a fascinating insight into the tricks of the trade. The course, run by Positive News Trust, left me with a newfound enthusiasm for the career path I had chosen.

Now, in 2011, that path is less certain. This September will be my third and final year at university, and like many soon-to-be graduates, the thought of entering a tough job market in bleak economic times is a frightening prospect.

For even the slightest chance of entering a highly competitive industry such as journalism, a degree in English Literature is no longer enough; hard proof of experience is needed.

Fortunately, while many organisations are closing their doors to students looking for a break, Positive News has stepped in to fill the breach. At first I was sceptical by their apparent enthusiasm to back an intern in the current financial climate. What would I be doing? Was I doomed to a summer of making tea? Thankfully, my cynicism was misplaced.

By the end of my first day I had searched through press releases, chased up leads and written an article. Two months on, and I’m still waiting for someone to thrust a kettle in my hand and request two sugars.

This willingness to support my independence as a writer has largely been down to the friendliness and support of the staff members, who would not have dreamed to condescend or exploit my relative inexperience.

However, the overall ethos of the publication has also played a crucial part in creating a relaxed office environment, in which the pessimism of the mainstream press does not exist.

Some people may dismiss their approach as delusional, but reporting on the positive can really help alter your perception of life. While it would be irresponsible to ignore the grim reality of war, famine, disease and poverty in the world, it is just as reckless to overlook the stories that are making a positive difference to people’s lives.

This contrast is perhaps best demonstrated in the News of the World phone hacking scandal this summer. The shattering revelations that war widows and relatives of 7/7 victims had been subject to illegal phone hacking during their most private moments, could not have differed more from my own reporting on community-inspired initiatives and charitable events.

I soon found the ethical implications of journalism at the forefront of my mind. What kind of journalist did I want to be? Did I want to chase easy stories that could potentially ruin lives, or use the written word to help others?

During my time at Positive News, I have started to answer those questions. Journalists should be part of the solution, rather than the problem. People say it is much harder to write positively, but if this experience has taught me anything it is that the opposite is true.

For every tragedy there are a remarkable number of people who endeavour to stand together and show the best of humanity, such as the public led riot-clean up in Hackney or the nationwide vigil following the horrors in Norway.

In an article printed for this paper three years ago, Hurst tutor Marc Leverton wrote: “If there is just one factor that should secure our trust in a positive future, it is the youth of today.” As I prepare to enter the job market in 12 months time, I’m grateful that my summer at Positive News has once more reignited my passion for a career in journalism.