‘It’s not just the content that takes a different approach’

Positive News intern Tom Lawson reflects on his first two months of positive journalism

As I type this, copies of the summer print edition of Positive News are making their way around the country, concluding what’s been a hectic and very rewarding first few of months as an editorial intern for me. It’s been incredible to see the whole thing from start to finish and to gain insight into every stage of the process, from sifting through the stack of leads and press releases to reading through the final paper.

Although I’ve been writing pieces here and there for a few years now, it’s been my first experience of being fully immersed in the world of journalism. I’ve learnt an incredible range of skills since joining Positive News, however what I think has changed most are my thoughts on the media. Being exposed to so many under-reported positive stories has made me think about the power of the press and the role it plays in society, as well as its potential for good.

Comparing our summer edition to today’s mainstream newspapers is almost like looking into a parallel universe. Many of the issues are the same, but the perspective is totally different. For example I read recently that the number of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work had soared by 874%, from 6,260 to 60,955 since the year 2000, going up by 264% in the last year alone. Other headlines speak of a failed Rio +20 and the eurozone crisis. All focus on problems. Positive News recognises these problems as a reality but focuses on those trying to change things for the better.

For example Hanna Thomas looked at how green jobs could help young people out of unemployment and many of the stories I wrote for the issue looked at ways young people can, and have, shown initiative to create opportunities for themselves.

Erica Crompton’s piece about wwoofing also resonated with me as I’ve been staying at a local organic farm and helping out on my days off from Positive News to gain different skills and as a way of getting by cheaply.

It’s the mindset of realising problems but not dwelling on them and instead looking to what is changing for the better that I believe will help cause the shift that we need to create a more equitable and sustainable society.

It’s not just the content that takes a different approach. Positive News still has a DIY charm about it and it’s not what many would expect from a modern journalism outfit. It’s a very small team, which means unlike the stereotypical internship tasks of tea making and photocopying, I’ve been able to be involved in all aspects of the paper, from writing and editing to sourcing photos and having input into elements of the design. Although after a couple of weeks the editor, Seán, decided I had to do at least one typical intern job and handed me a box of pens to test, which took up all of five minutes.

The office location is also quite unique. In fact I was told that many potential interns initially assumed the placement would be in London. On the contrary, we’re out in the middle of the Shropshire countryside. It’s a beautiful place, although it often throws up it’s own challenges. “I’ll just go and get the farmer, the delivery man’s stuck in a ditch” are not words you generally expect to hear from your editor.

Overall my Positive News experience so far has been wonderful. It’s opened my eyes to what the media could achieve and it’s good to know that not all internships are like the ones you read about in the papers.