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How I became a Journalist by Dhara Ranasinghe - The Charlotte Project

There was a part of me that always knew I wanted to go into journalism, an interest perhaps triggered by hearing about the likes of Che Guevara and Nelson Mandela and asking my parents about them. In primary school I set up a newspaper, which we sold for 20p, splitting the proceeds between Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund. The passion went dormant in secondary school, deliberately as I went to a run-down high school and grew up on a council estate where going to university was rare and it was best to just stay quiet. Getting into university was a shock, but one that gave me the confidence to finally let a hidden passion come back to life. At Freshers’ Week, I made a bee-line for the university newspaper, The Beaver (stop laughing). I joined the news team and was news editor after a year or so. The newsroom, conveniently located under the student pub, was piled high with papers, photos, empty pint glasses and the occasional mouse. It became my second home for the next three years as I covered everything and anything I could – student protests, politicians that came to speak, student union politics, while making some of my closet friends along the way. That gave me the confidence for the first time to think that perhaps I could go into journalism. I used every holiday or opportunity to get work experience – a day at the Economist, a week at The Times, another with the BBC and Sky – learning how to read a map (before the days of smart phones!) and navigate the countryside with a cameraman to locate Paul McCartney’s house. As my university time drew to a close, an opportunity to do a three-month stint on the Telegraph’s business section opened up, which again to my surprise, I was offered. But then a low point – the editor told me I was too quiet to be a journalist and didn’t want to keep me beyond my internship.  Well, quiet people can make good journalists, you just need to persevere and trust your instincts. Also, now I had stumbled into financial journalism and that had stoked an interest in economics and finance – a path that led to me being offered a job as a forex (foreign currency) reporter with Reuters at the age of 24 – something that I never thought I could achieve. Over the years this quiet girl from a council estate has interviewed Central Bankers, lived and worked in southeast Asia and reported on the bombing in Bali amongst many other assignments.