Gain the skills and experience you need to increase your freelance work and apply for more senior journalism roles with this practical six-month part-time course led by newspaper and magazine editor Tabitha Stapely. You don’t have to be a journalism graduate but should have transferable skills.
Start date: Monday 9th January 2023
Application deadline: Sunday 5th November 2022
How to apply: Fill in the application form
Improve your CV
Assigned a patch and spend time running your own multi-platform local magazine as Deputy Editor, learn about content strategy and SEO, and develop an enviable real-world portfolio of work and data-driven performance achievements for your C.V.
Get that freelancing gig
Learn how to find original stories, pitch, deepen your long-form writing and interviewing skills, and develop your professional Twitter presence.
Low risk and flexible
→ No Fees for In-House
→ Low Fees for Out-house
→ Small group
→ Balance with work
→ Hybrid online/irl
→ Strong alumni network
All course participants are trained and mentored by Tabitha Stapely, who has 30 years of experience in the media industry.
Following her degree in English Literature and Language at Leeds University, Stapely trained as a journalist in 1995 at the London College of Printing. Her first work experience placement was at the Independent and she then interned at GQ at Condé Nast for one year. Her first job was Editorial Assistant at Cosmopolitan’s Zest magazine and she then went on to be the Style Editor for the Saturday Telegraph Magazine. In 2010 she joined Hachette Filipacchi shortly before it was bought by Hearst and here she helped develop the digital strategy for Red, Elle, Handbag and Harpers magazines. She was Digital Director at Elle and Deputy Editor of Redonline.com when she left to develop a new model of community journalism.
In 2016, Stapely was accepted at Cambridge Social Ventures, a social enterprise incubator at Cambridge Judge Business School. Here she formulated her idea for community-centred local journalism that strengthens the local community, working to unite not divide.
As well as being an alumna of Cambridge Social Ventures, Stapely is an RSA Fellow (see her published work here). In 2019 she was listed as one of the top 50 East London Innovators and in 2020 was recognised as a Natwest WISE100 Women of Inspiration in 2020 for her work in social enterprise.
About the course
Social Streets’ Community Journalism course is a part-time 18-week course, made up of two modules, followed by an optional Extended Project. It’s designed for people who already have some writing experience and want to deepen their writing and interviewing skills, learn specific community journalism skills, and also to learn about editorship.
At the end of the course, you will have an extensive portfolio of work, connections with like-minded writers, and a thorough knowledge of community journalism, an emerging form of local journalism that will inform the media of the future.
Module 1: Foundation Course in Community Journalism
Module 1 runs for the first 9 weeks. Students attend a weekly two-hour workshop on Monday mornings at 10am.
- Understanding the editorial voice and narrative of a publication
- How to create your own feature image
- Reviews, opinions and open letters
- The importance of images
- Interviewing: questions and techniques
- Travel writing
- Standfirsts, excerpts, ledes and nut graphs – for online
Module 2: Further Course in Community Journalism
Module 2 runs for the second 9 weeks of the scheme. Students attend a weekly two-hour workshop on Monday mornings at 10am.
- How to build networks and find stories
- How to use each social media platform
- Setting your content verticals and developing your strategy
- Industry news and building your brand
- Onpage and off-page SEO
- Cultural heritage writing
Module 3: Extended Project
Once graduated, students must submit a 6,000 word dissertation, presented as six articles of 1,000 words, about a specialist topic.
I came to journalism later in my career and the traineeship has given me the skills, experience and portfolio to develop my practice without an NCTJ qualification. It has been a unique opportunity to meaningfully and practically apply what we learn week-by-week in our respective publications. Tabitha is a brilliant and thorough teacher with a lot of experience in digital media. But she also affords the students the space and responsibility to grow the magazine in the ways that we want. She is also a generous editor and gives a lot of time and valuable feedback on our pitching and writing. By the end of the course, I was securing freelance commissions – one with a national newspaper – which the traineeship gave me the confidence and portfolio to do. I feel immensely lucky to have been on this course and would unreservedly recommend it to anyone.
I wanted to write features that capture a person’s spirit, and this scheme helped me develop interview techniques to get people talking about their home and identity which I will take with me for the rest of my career. After finishing my NCTJ I still had big gaps in my knowledge when it came to SEO, content strategy and social media, aspects of journalism, which are often requirements for jobs; this scheme gave me a much more in-depth understanding of online journalism. Doing on-the-ground reporting from my patch was really helpful in learning how to interview and photograph people in person. I also loved meeting other community-minded journalists who live in my area through the alumni group and getting to ask Tabitha for advice about all aspects of the industry. I wish I had known about this scheme before as it would have been perfect to do alongside my NCTJ!
Completing the digital editor course after my NCTJ training was the best decision I made as a budding journalist. While I learned about the essential modules as part of my NCTJ course, I still had gaps in my knowledge about how to run a website through WordPress, optimise stories with SEO, and create a content strategy for a publication. I loved writing for Whitechapel LDN because it allowed me to get on the ground and meet the people who made the area special. Beyond the group sessions, I really valued the individual meetings we had with Tabitha as this gave me a chance to receive comprehensive feedback on my writing. Having had little experience with long-form features, I learned about how to write a strong and engaging article. This course was pivotal in strengthening my confidence as a journalist, and I thoroughly recommend it to every early-stage journalist.
This scheme really helped me build my experience and skill within feature writing. I have learnt more about interviewing, particularly how to structure an interview to get out of it what you want, as well as long-form writing. My features usually don’t have a structure until I’ve finished and edited it multiple times. This scheme gave me more know-how about how to write the feature so I can stick to my word count. I loved building relationships with the people in Poplar – that’s the difference between local and community journalism, being able to work on the ground to amplify the voice of those who aren’t normally represented in media. I also loved working alongside the two other editors, it was fun to be a part of a bigger team. – Ruby Flanagan is now a reporter at The Express.
I love meeting people from all walks of life and as a journalist I am passionate about the opportunity to tell their stories. I hoped the scheme would help me with this, both in learning how to build up relationships with sources and how to interview and write their stories. One of the most important things I hadn’t really considered before was the importance of SEO. As a journalist, you want your work to be in front of as wide an audience as possible, and SEO is a key tool to do this. Journalism is increasingly digital and the importance of SEO is going to be something every journalist recognises. I learnt all sorts of SEO tips and tricks from the scheme. It was also a real privilege to be accepted and embedded in the Bethnal Green community thanks to the reputation of Social Streets in the area. – Niamh Carroll is now a reporter at Marketing Week.
I am passionate about journalism that makes a difference and Tabitha encourages people to follow their interests so I was able to focus on uncovering the radical past and present in Whitechapel. One of the most useful skills I’ve learned on the scheme is finding stories. It’s taught me how best to make useful contacts that will lead to stories, how to find stories out-and-about on the patch, and how to use social media as a source. My favourite aspect of the scheme was being in charge of an entire publication. It was very fun to act as an editor, working on social media and considering what to write based on factors like our content verticals and SEO, to try and boost our audience as much as possible. – Albert Toth has been accepted at City University for an MA in Newspaper Journalism.
Cost of the course
In-house students – free for Module 1 & 2
As an in-house students, you will attend our weekly two-hour group training session.
In-house students are also required to complete a weekly assignment that will be published on one of our platforms, and will have a one-on-one tutoring session to receive detailed feedback and notes on their assignment.
In-house students must be able to commit two days a week, comprising the weekly two-hour workshop on Monday mornings, the 40-minute tutorial session on Wednesday afternoons, and a day and a half to research and write their weekly assignment.
Each student will be working on one of Social Streets’ four titles in Tower Hamlets (Roman Road LDN, Bethnal Green LDN, Whitechapel LDN and Poplar LDN). The students will be appointed Deputy Editor (Trainee) of the publication for the duration of the Course.
Attendance is in person.
Up to four places are offered to In-House contributing students. You must live in or close to Tower Hamlets to be eligible.
Out-house students – £540 for Module 1 & 2
As an out-house student, you will attend a weekly two-hour workshop on Monday mornings.
You do not have to complete a weekly assignment and therefore do not receive a one-to-one tutorial.
Attendance for out-house students is online.
Our Out-House course has been designed for those who do not live in Tower Hamlets or who are already running, or about to set up, their own local publication. Students can apply from anywhere in the UK as the module is run remotely.