Founder of the world’s first positive newspaper passes away
For two decades Shauna Crockett-Burrows pioneered a new approach to journalism by focusing on the good in the world and reporting the positive changes taking place. In 1993 she began Positive News; a unique newspaper that has had an immeasurable impact, with each article bringing hope and inspiration to thousands of readers. With every issue, people’s perspectives shifted, new initiatives were sparked and ideas about what kind of world was possible, expanded.
As an editor, Shauna, who has died at the age of 81 after a short illness, sought to empower people to realise humanity’s potential. Fundamentally, it was her belief in the interconnectedness and sacredness of all life that fuelled her drive to create a better world.
Sadly, Shauna did not live to know that she was in fact under consideration for an honours award from the Queen. Earlier in the year however, she had accepted an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, which she was due to attend at the end of May.
Shauna passed away on 3 May 2012 in Shropshire. She had lived just outside the market town of Bishop’s Castle for 17 years, in a small and charming rural cottage with a garden that she loved dearly – and which at one time gained her a local gardening award.
Born in Brighton on 1 June 1930, Shauna attended Worthing High School for Girls before leaving for London to become an actress (a term she preferred to ‘actor’) with the Children’s Film Foundation. During the 1950s Shauna also worked as a model, and it was at this time that she met her first husband.
The couple moved to Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, where they raised two daughters, and Shauna began promoting the work of local artists, sometimes giving over the family home as an exhibition space.
Meanwhile, when a road was proposed along the route of the River Adur, Shauna formed Save Our Saltings, a successful local campaign against the plans. The Adur estuary is now managed by the RSPB, while her campaigning at that time led her to become an independent local councillor.
Shauna went on to work for the Arts Council before establishing Shoreham Youth Workshop in 1970, a charity that organised arts and drama projects for young people.
Having remarried in the late 1970s, Shauna travelled extensively with her second husband. A pivotal moment in her life then arrived when she visited a spiritual and sustainable community in Scotland; the Findhorn Foundation. It was here that Shauna “woke up,” as she would later describe it, to a more holistic understanding of the world and a greater sense of life purpose. It was her experience at Findhorn that would catalyse her desire to serve humanity, which found its expression through Positive News. Shauna was honoured as a Findhorn Fellow, having developed ongoing links with the community.
But before beginning her publishing career, Shauna’s next enterprise involved growing and drying herbs, which she used to create products that were sold at Anita Roddick’s first incarnation of The Body Shop, in Hove. As an early proponent of natural approaches to maintaining health and wellbeing, Shauna also had a spot on local radio talking about the uses of herbs.
By the early 1980s, Shauna had moved to the Cotswolds and established her first publication, Link Up. Created from her kitchen table, Link Up was a newsletter to connect people with a spiritual conviction and an interest in ideas and issues outside of mainstream debate.
The editorial approach of her early publications set the tone for what was to come in Positive News; in a 1989 edition of Link Up she wrote: “As a magazine, we choose to focus on the many things that are working in the world rather than emphasising the things that are not; but at the same time, we acknowledge the truth … and see what positive action can be taken.”
Link Up grew from a local publication into a full colour national magazine before changing its name to Global Link Up in 1990 and Planetary Link Up in 1992. The following year it was replaced by a new publication, Planetary Connections. Already launched in the US by Michael Lightweaver, Shauna partnered with Michael to establish a UK edition.
It was 1993, the year after the first Earth Summit, and Planetary Connections was Shauna’s first publication on newsprint. When the US edition failed to thrive, Michael handed the full operation to Shauna. In the meantime, Jane Taylor, who had a background in television journalism, joined the paper as news editor (before continuing as associate editor and a co-director until 2008). By issue 10, in 1995, Shauna had moved to Shropshire and the paper’s name was changed to Positive News.
The response was tremendous. A letter from a young woman in Wales was typical; she wrote: “I had given up newspapers when I discovered Positive News. Your paper has given me hope for the future and the future of my 18-month-old son – please send me 200 copies to distribute in my area, there is such a great need.”
Reflecting its focus on the grassroots, Positive News – which like its predecessors was printed quarterly – developed a unique distribution network. Its dedicated readers donated the cost of postage and packing to receive bundles of the paper, which they then spread far and wide and the circulation soon averaged more than 50,000 copies.
While there were specialist magazines, Positive News was providing a unique snapshot of what was happening across diverse fields of interest that were yet to be approached by the mainstream press, such as new economics, organic agriculture and renewable energy, as well as covering the positive side of current affairs.
Shauna received The Schumacher Award in 1998, which honours people and grassroots organisations in the UK who are working to transform society. She was also recognised as one of the World’s Inspirational Women in 2007 as part of a project created by human rights campaigner Zerbanoo Gifford, which, through a book of interviews and an exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery, documented influential women working for a more just and peaceful world.
At this time, Shauna was also publishing Living Lightly, a magazine for Positive News subscribers, and instigated the launch of sister editions of Positive News in Spain, Hong Kong and the US in 2004, and in Argentina in 2007.
In addition, shortly after establishing Positive News, Shauna founded Global News Education Trust (later renamed Positive News Trust), a charity promoting the achievements and ideas of young people and giving them opportunities to gain experience in the media. The trust supported Positive Youth News, a supplement in Positive News between 2006 and 2010, while Shauna also co-published an annual educational magazine titled Ethos, which ran for two issues.
As well as offering numerous in-house training opportunities for young people, in 2008 Shauna fundraised and established a short residential course in positive journalism for 16-18 year olds, in conjunction with the Arvon Foundation.
Shauna was 63 when she launched Positive News and remained editor-in-chief right up until she died, a month short of her 82nd birthday. Breaking any convention of what senior years should entail, she was renowned for her strong will, fiery independence and endless energy. Shauna Crockett-Burrows was a media revolutionary, and a steadfast light in the world.
Shauna is survived by her two daughters, Siobhan Scott and Jo Crockett, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Thanks to Jane Taylor, Siobhan Scott and Jo Crockett for their contributions and assistance.
If you would like to offer a donation in Shauna’s memory, to support the ongoing work of Positive News, please donate here: www.positive.news/donate or phone 01588 640 022