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INSIDE TRACK: A reminder that journalism is a force for good

MUCH is often made these days about the death of newspapers and the crisis in journalism.

To that negative end some of us within the industry have been our own worst enemies.

Long before Hackgate, journalists were, in the eyes of much of the general public, generally regarded as being about as worthy as something you would scrape off the sole of your shoe.

For such critics their job has only been made easier through the abject failure by many within the ranks of the press itself to say unequivocally to its own readers and the public: hang on a minute, don't tar us all with the same brush.

Amid all this gloom and dire predictions of the crisis in journalism, how good it was this week to see that, far from being deterred by the profession, many young aspiring journalists show the passion, commitment and intelligence that would suggest the reporter's role is in good hands.

I'm speaking of the Future News International Young Journalists' Conference hosted this week in Scotland as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme. Coming off the back of the already hugely successful Aye Write! Glasgow Book Festival, what an eye-opener this gathering was.

At its Monday launch, some 150 young people from more than 14 countries came together. Among them were aspiring journalists from as far afield as Jamaica, Malaysia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Zambia as well as the UK home nations.

Selected from across the Commonwealth by the British Council, which worked in conjunction with Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, how terrific it was to see this diverse group of young people throwing themselves enthusiastically into the many workshops and discussions.

During one session, along with a young journalist from the Reuters news agency, I found myself fielding a myriad questions.

"What did we think of the role of the paparazzi?" asked one young man from Pakistan. "What tips did we have for an aspiring foreign correspondent?" enquired a young woman from Glasgow, while another from Jamaica highlighted the dangers indigenous journalists face in countries where to report on crime or politics means risking your life.

Following up from the Future News conference, Glasgow will host a Live Newsroom during the Games, where some of this young talent will work on Games-related stories that will be accessed by young people from across the Commonwealth.

Within what is generally perceived as a desperately cynical profession, there remains little room for theorising about journalism, let alone anyone asking the question: why does journalism - especially good journalism - matter?

The Future News conference did just that. Among the grizzled, time-served veteran reporters invited as contributors, there was nothing but praise for their young up and coming counterparts. What a pleasant change it made to be reminded that journalism can and should be a force for good.

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