Kamal Ahmed: Why journalists should become volunteer champions

In all the arguments about The Big Society and whether David Cameron is really on to a game changer, one thing is in danger of being missed. The title might be new, but the idea is anything but.

Opportunities to join in and make a difference are already all around us. Journalists, as a breed, might not be the first group you would name when thinking of volunteering their time to make a difference. But there are already many who do and there are lots of organisations which help them.

One is Media Trust, an organisation I support. Through Media Trust many people give their time to help charities and voluntary groups to get their voices heard and support the next generation to get a foot on the ladder.

When I was approached to become a volunteer champion last year, I was asked why I was keen to spend a little time (and, of course, nowhere near enough) doing something different.

This is what I said: ‘I am very fortunate to have a career in the media and think it is important to share that experience with any groups and individuals who think it might be helpful.

“I also believe it is vital to encourage the next generation of leaders and stars in our field, whatever their background. As professionals we can share our skills, time and resources with those groups less able to access what are sometimes euphemistically known as the ‘usual networks’ – whether it’s voluntary groups or charities. It is also a way of supporting people as they take their first steps in the industry.”

That’s it, really, in a nutshell. We can sometimes forget what a privilege this job is and how most of us only got anywhere because someone once, much higher up the greasy pole than we were, bothered to spend a little time helping that young guy in the badly fitting suit out.

Media Trust helps many organisations become better at communicating their story and allows groups to ask for precise types of help that media professionals can give.

They also support mentoring networks where building confidence and opening doors is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

A clever part of their site at http://www.mediatrust.org/get-support/one-to-one-support/media-matching/ allows people to match their skills with people who need them.

Last year, at a Media Trust event in Downing Street, Sarah Brown spoke passionately about the work the organisation does. But the clincher for me was the inspirational stories of Sabian Muhammad, Oushka Duncan and Dorian ‘V.Go’ Wright. A video journalist, a youth worker and a graphic artist, the three young people were all supported by Media Trust and have since given that support back by mentoring other young people. There is no better reason to get involved than success stories like that.

Kamal Ahmed is business editor of The Sunday Telegraph.

Read Press Gazette sister publication Charity Insight for in-depth news about the charity sector.

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