A reporter's life: The power of communication

Finola Fitzpatrick at yet another assignment - a  feature on the Ripon Workhouse Museum, which will appear in a future issue
Finola Fitzpatrick at yet another assignment - a feature on the Ripon Workhouse Museum, which will appear in a future issue

Trainee reporter Finola Fitzpatrick has joined the Harrogate Advertiser and writes a weekly column. The power of words and the impact of how we communicate is something that never ceases to amaze me as a trainee reporter.

In this week’s newspaper we have shared the remarkable story of a daughter who, after 73 long years of not knowing, found out how her father died in the Second World War - and it was all through a community website for Bishop Monkton appealing for information about a Sgt Renton listed on their war memorial that she came to find out.

A German crash site investigation team got in touch saying they had just located a new crash site, and Sgt Renton was among the dead.

It is staggering to think that a single post on one website can lead to such an extraordinary chain of life-changing events and discoveries.

This story has really inspired me for the Ending Loneliness campaign I am working on for the Harrogate Advertiser, as it has made me stop and reflect on how our weekly calls to action and appeals to readers to get involved in alleviating loneliness could, if we all really work together as a community, change someone’s life and end loneliness for them.

We have already heard that some readers have contacted charities for support after reading the campaign, and it is just so exciting to think that we all do have the power to end loneliness through even just the smallest of actions.

The editor of the community website which published the appeal for more information about Sgt Renton said he did not in any way expect to hear anything back about answering his appeal, and yet now he has been instrumental in bringing closure to someone after decades of not knowing how her father died.

Every week I write calls to action for the campaign, designed to encourage readers to make a difference in a specific way, and I really have been moved by the fantastic response we have had so far.

I firmly believe that if we keep pushing and ploughing on as we are doing, together we might just be able to do something remarkable.

This week I have enjoyed discovering the importance of social media as a campaigning tool. I posted a tweet on the Harrogate Advertiser Twitter page inviting readers to share their ideas of how to tackle loneliness and got a great response.

The immediacy of technology and social media really is revolutionary for journalists, and as the story of Sgt Renton shows, it can bring about connections in the most unlikely of ways that you would never expect.

From just one tweet we have been sent some great ideas that I am really looking forward to sharing with readers, and by sharing these ideas, it could inspire many more to come to fruition.

This week’s Ending Loneliness campaign feature focuses on how sharing memories can be a powerful tool for easing loneliness and social isolation. It is interesting that the immediacy of social media and publishing something could lead to change that ends loneliness for someone, but traditional communication of sitting down and having a chat with someone can also be as powerful.

Leading the campaign I am increasingly developing my understanding and appreciation of how a combination of traditional and modern communication methods could end loneliness for someone.