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The dark side of The Sun: Former Trinity student talks about his 10 years in showbiz journalism

by Abbey Maclure and Harry McMullen

Tommy Holgate, former showbiz and comedy writer at The Sun, returned to Leeds Trinity University today to talk about his dynamic career.

After a decade of working at the biggest selling newspaper in the UK, Tommy sought a change in career and is now studying for a masters in Health and Wellbeing here at LTU.

Tommy delivered an animated talk as part of the university’s 10th annual Journalism and Media Week, drawing on his experience to give tips to the audience.

He advised students to make as many contacts as possible and always have something ready to pitch to an editor.

Tommy said: “The fear of a swift moment of social awkwardness doesn’t need to trump the opportunity and the respect you are going to get from that person in return.

“I went and met everyone [in the office], trying to make myself ‘semi-indispensable’.”

After working at The Sun for 10 years, Tommy said he was on the path to becoming the editor of the showbiz section, which would have earned him a big salary.

When taking questions from the audience, Tommy said that his values sometimes conflicted with the ethical practice of the paper.

He highlighted a piece he was asked to write after the 7/7 London Bombings, when he was directly asked to find three young male British Muslims who were happy to say that they were young, male, British Muslim and proud.

He said: “That was the top line that was required. When they weren’t saying it, it got to the point where I was thinking – please say it as that’s what the page needs.

“I felt this weird feeling, as it wasn’t a proper conversation, the story had already been written.”

Tommy left tabloid journalism to run for Parliament in 2015, representing the Peace Party in the general election.

After a short political career, he is now studying an MA in Health and Wellbeing and hopes to use his experiences at The Sun to produce content related to these topics.

He said: “I jacked [showbiz] in to try and do something better because it doesn’t really make your heart feel good when you’re just making a billionaire richer every day.

“I miss that ego boost, but then in vocalising that I realise that’s not actually to be missed either, because it’s more important to do what you love.”

Glyn Middleton, senior lecturer at the university, said: “There’s one important message to take away from everything that Tommy has said: we try to tell students to default to ‘yes’.

“The more you say yes, the more you get that foot in the door.”

What do you think?