Unsung hero: Teenage campaigning journalist

Unsung hero: Teenage campaigning journalist

Unsung hero: Teenage campaigning journalist

First published in News This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy editor

James Giles was an eight-year-old pupil at Burlington Junior School when he first hit upon the idea of a newsletter for students.

"I noticed that parents were being given letters and updates every month, but nothing ever really came to the students,” said James, from New Malden.

"So I started the Burlington Weekly."

The Burlington Weekly quickly expanded to become the Weekly Express, which began covering news outside of the school.

When the time came to move to secondary school, James took the idea with him.

On his second day at Coombe Boys’ School, he produced the first edition of Coombe Monthly.

“At first, it was kind of small, and nothing much came of it,” said James, recalling the first edition.

“But then our drama teacher, Miss O’Reilly, who was in charge of marketing the school at the time, thought it would be a really good way to advertise the school.”

Miss O’Reilly was right. Today, Coombe Monthly is far more than a school newsletter.

It has its own fully fledged news website, coombe monthly.co.uk, with Twitter followers including Kingston MP Edward Davey, most Kingston councillors and the Surrey Comet team.

Earlier this year, James – now aged 14 and editor-in-chief – dedicated an entire edition to the subject of fracking, with contributions from the likes of Labour’s Kingston Parliamentary candidate Lee Godfrey.

He has just interviewed Kingston Council leader Kevin Davis for the next edition.

As editor, James oversees a team of about 15 fellow students, who all work on the newsletter outside of school hours.

Samantha O’Reilly, Coombe Boys’ School’s head of drama, said: “I am extremely proud of James and pleased to support all the hard work he and other members of the editorial team undertake to independently produce their newsletter.

“The learnings and creative skills acquired by way of engineering and circulating the newsletter are most impressive.”

When he is not editing Coombe Monthly, James is also an active member of the New Malden community, and has led a campaign against plans to cut staff at New Malden post office.

"I would say my passions are journalism, helping local people and trying to do good things for people,” said James.

“I don’t know why it is. I just enjoy it.”

l Do you know an unsung hero? Call 020 8722 6318 or email newsdesk@surrey comet.co.uk.

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