I can only echo what George said - you gotta have faith

George O'Shaughnessy
George O'Shaughnessy
Brent geese flying into the Solent for the winter,, having travelled thousands of miles	Picture by Alan Price / HIWWT

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The turn of the year is always supposed to be a time of new beginnings.

It’s a time to take a deep breath, throw off the past 12 months and hope the next 12 are as good or even better.

The trials of 2016 and the uncertainty it brought us have been the subject of much discussion.

They’ve been mentioned in the Christmas addresses from the heads of the churches and by the Queen herself in her traditional Christmas Day message.

And I suspect a few of us ordinary mortals will say good riddance to 2016 and be welcoming the new beginnings 2017 will offer.

For me, however, the start of the year is marking an end.

Why? Well, this is my last column for The News after almost five years.

The most important thing to do is to say thank you to all of you who have read this page over the years.

And a special thank you to those who have taken the trouble to write letters to The News or commented online at portsmouth.co.uk to say you agree or, more usually, disagree with what I’ve been saying.

To have been able to write this page is a huge privilege, and prompting a bit of debate means I’ve done my job right.

It’s not just me who’s allowed to have an opinion in print, read by thousands of people every time.

Every person who writes in to the paper gets the same chance.

And haven’t they had a lot to talk about over the past 12 months?

There’s been human tragedy in Syria, the Western version of the Arab Spring in Brexit and Trump.

Then of course there are the celebrity deaths that seem to have dominated the headlines in the meantime.

This past year has been challenging to write about, challenging to make sense of.

It’s only after spending a few days with my family and friends over Christmas that I can put it in some sort of perspective.

But as the year opens and we look again to the future, I can only echo what the late, great George Michael had to say about how it’s all going to turn out.

You gotta have faith.

THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD PEOPLE OUT THERE MAKING A DIFFERENCE

One of the things I’ve loved writing about over the past few years is the good work people do to raise money or help other people.

It’s nice to be reminded that there are people out there doing something for others.

Just last week this paper reported runners in Portsmouth’s Great South Run had contributed to the Great Run series’ fundraising total of almost £54m for good causes in 2016.

And then there are those who signed up to the bone marrow register to try to help George O’Shaughnessy, three, survive leukaemia.

It can be easy to focus on the doom and gloom, but there are a lot of good people out there making a real difference to our lives in one way or another.

We just need to take some notice of them.

PAPERS WILL ALWAYS HAVE VITAL ROLE TO PLAY IN ANY COMMUNITY

As many of you will know, I’ve been part of The News family, first as a reporter and then as a freelance columnist, since 2010.

And although today marks the last time I’ll be writing for the paper, it will continue to have the same space in my heart it’s had since I was a kid and its contents were discussed around the family dinner table.

Local papers will always have a vital role to play in any community, as their journalists need to hold our elected officials and our courts to account, ensuring the right decisions are being made in our name.

Social media cannot do that, so newspapers need to be protected, not have their existence threatened by Leveson or the flourish of accountants’ pens.