The next generation: How you're creating better journalism in Scotland right now

CommonSpace has been providing training for up-and-coming writers and journalists since launch - all thanks to your support

WHEN CommonSpace launched in 2015, we were taken by surprise by the immediate interest from budding journalists and writers who wanted a chance to break into the industry, but who had grown disillusioned with mainstream channels.

From the very early days, we've been offering places to those people to work with us in a variety of ways and offer as much training and on-the-job experience as possible.

We quickly began building a reputation for our training opportunities, and it culminated this year when a group of student journalists from the University of the West of Scotland's third year journalism course chose to come to CommonSpace to complete the work experience requirement of their qualification.

Here, a few of them explain to you, our readers and funders, how your support has enabled them to gain vital experience as they prepare to head out into the industry.

At CommonSpace we believe that journalism is an essential public service, and it should seek to inform and educate. We don't back any political parties and we have no corporate backing, nor do we accept advertising on the site as a source of revenue.

We are funded by the Common Weal, but we are completely editorially independent, and that’s what makes us so appealing to the numerous writers we've had through our doors seeking a better kind of journalism.

Moving forward, we're now in talks with the NUJ about apprenticeship programmes we may be able to offer in the future, and we're exploring ways to make our training opportunities more formal.

All of this has happened because of your donations to our parent body, Common Weal. You can now contribute by standing order, direct debit or through Paypal, and you can either make a monthly commitment - even just £5 per month makes a big difference - or give us a one-off donation. Build the Scotland that you want to live in: click here to support CommonSpace today.

Neil Dallimore @NWDallimore

My goal when setting out to find work experience for a university module, initially, was to get it all over with as quickly as possible; it was going to be a time consuming, money guzzling endeavour for a module I couldn’t (at the time) see the value in. A job to get out of the way or not, I didn’t intend to put in hours for a news outlet I didn’t respect and unfortunately those are in short supply in Scotland. 

So I took the long shots first and along with a fib from The Herald about not taking anyone but post-grads (a friend went there not long after) and some responses about offices being too full, I was shocked that CommonSpace replied to offer me time. I’d been following them since the referendum and the possibility I could be a part of a team that was committed to honest reporting was exciting.

I’d heard stories about students going to big papers and being left in a corner or used as coffee makers. It was exhilarating and very scary to show-up and be treated like an actual journalist in my first week and our editor Angela kept that up. 

Within a few weeks, I had no worries about filling a portfolio (a requirement of the module totalling 3,000 words) and long gone was the idea that work experience would be a waste of time; when my first piece went up online, as daft as it sounds, I floated about Glasgow city centre on a cloud!

I think it is very unlikely that many students could hope to show up at a respected news provider, be offered all the hours they require to fill their module needs and to be treated like an established journalist. How often does that really happen? 

I’ve said this many times to many people now, but my time at CommonSpace has been the most beneficial part of my last trimester in third year. I didn’t churn out words for nothing, didn’t fill hours for its own sake. I was educated, on sourcing stories, on interviewing, on nuance that hadn’t come up at university, on working with other journalists, on research. 

I was also made to feel valuable and as the end approached, I felt that sweet emptiness that only comes from having done something brilliant with your time, that you don’t want to end. 

To top it off, I got to meet honest, lovely people in the form of Angela Haggerty, Michael Gray, David Jamieson, Jen Stout, Ben Wray, Eamon Cameron and many others. And it was an affirmation that the money being donated by readers is contributing to a small, brilliant news room where the writers aren’t taking anything for granted; they make every minute count, work their ass off and walk home with integrity intact everyday. 

CommonSpace was the most valuable, educational and fun time I’ve spent this year and it’s going to take a lot to top it.

Read some of Neil's work:

Glasgow Central "not for sale" says Transport Scotland as protesters demonstrate

Who is behind the Scottish Government's fracking research?

Strathclyde University students head to Texas competition after winning loneliness app prize

Kirsty Morrison @morrisonkirsty_

My work placement at CommonSpace has proved invaluable to me as a student journalist. I learned more about important journalism practices such as recognising a good news or features story, developing my style of writing and timekeeping, among other things. 

With sections on news, opinion, magazine, policy, patter and broadcast, CommonSpace produces content in a wide range of areas. Furthermore, these different scopes enabled me to branch out of my comfort zone and learn and develop my writing on different topics.

Getting a range of good interviews featuring interviewees from varied backgrounds were among the things that encouraged me to produce work of good structure, quality and standard, along with taking into account various ethical guidelines and the style guide. 

Facing different challenges like competition and time constraints and achieving different goals and rewards, like getting articles published and the rapport in the office, have all encouraged my professional and personal growth.

Moreover, working at the company has broadened my understanding of the journalism industry as a whole and what it is like in a newsroom. The editor Angela Haggerty and journalists Michael Gray, David Jamieson and Jen Stout helped me understand more about what the industry involves. 

It has been a period of self-development in my skills and also one of self-evaluation: keeping a work diary has made me more reflective and has shown me how I have grown as a student journalist and as a person. 

Subsequently, this made me more self-confident and more intuitive with myself and the different scenarios I was in.

While at CommonSpace I attended the Rise manifesto launch as part of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election. This was a learning curve in that I understood more about politics and journalism. It was interesting to see, first-hand, the format and structure of a manifesto launch.

Overall, work experience has given me a deeper perception of the challenges sometimes faced in the industry such as competition or time constraints but, on the other hand, the rewards, like working hard on a story and achieving set goals. 

The experience is one that will help me to develop my journalism skills as a student journalist now, and in the future.

Read some of Kirsty's work:

Power vs separation: How the language of polls can influence results and public opinion

In with the new: The Scottish fashion industry's fight to ditch the old stereotypes

Martin Cunningham @martinc955

The work experience aspect of my university degree was always something I was quite nervous about. I’m not entirely sure why, whether it be down to my own anxieties with unfamiliar situations or the fear of not actually being able to find any. It was always at the back of my mind and as the year progressed I found myself panicking over the fear I’d left it too long to find anywhere.

Having emailed several different publications like my local paper and a few of the nationals with no luck or even no reply, I’d officially hit Defcon 1 with the whole situation. Luckily for me I was pointed in the direction of CommonSpace by someone else in my class who had started there the previous week.

I started there within a week of sending an email but initially I was pretty apprehensive about working as part of a team in a functioning newsroom. I’d previously worked in that kind of scenario during my coursework, having done 'news weeks' but nothing official. So it was quite nerve-wracking.

However my nerves were soon put at ease as I was welcomed into the team and tasked with finding, pitching and writing my own news stories. During my time there I covered a variety of topics, from the alleged abuse of asylum seekers to the Scottish tourism industry or even the Radical Film Festival.

I feel that the skills I have gained throughout my time at university were put to good use at CommonSpace but I was also able to develop them and let them grow. The team there were always helpful in giving direction for a piece or story idea and overall I really couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding work placement to help my skills improve.

Read some of Martin's work:

Calls for investigation into mistreatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow

Scotland's most popular and obscure tourist attractions

Preview: Radical new film festival comes to Glasgow

Michael Gallacher

My time at CommonSpace gave me a greater perspective of the industry and a glimpse of what's required to make it.

This was my first real opportunity for work experience and I wasn't sure what to expect. Would I get a chance to put what I've learned at university to use? Am I capable of meeting a high standard? And most importantly, am I certain I want to be a journalist?

CommonSpace put my fears to rest and consolidated my hopes that I did want to be part of the industry. I wasn't stuck doing aggregation, I got to cover my own stories, interview my own sources and get out of the office to press meetings and manifesto launches. I contributed  a number of stories to both the news and magazine sections of CommonSpace.

Due to the small, more independent nature of CommonSpace I had more opportunity for one-on-one constructive criticism and a chance to see how the newsroom works at every stage of production. I got the chance to brush up on my interview techniques, my writing ability, my time keeping and further my journalistic senses.

I had no idea  what kind of journalist I wanted to be before I started CommonSpace and I'm still not certain but it gave me an opportunity to find a more confident voice and focus on specific subjects like politics and culture. This helped me narrow down what path I want to take and what skills I want to develop.

I joined CommonSpace just weeks before the Scottish election, a particularly exciting time for journalism. In the lead up I wrote a number of stories covering the election and I genuinely felt like a part of the Scottish press, informing the voters in our country.

It feels like an underdog but CommonSpace, from what I saw, covers the important issues in Scotland and makes a difference. For such a small organisation it covers a wide range of social issues and manages to compete in the wider world of journalism. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of that. 

I had the opportunity to make a difference, through my writing, and I learned firsthand what university has struggled to teach me about the industry with the help of CommonSpace.

Read some of Michael's work:

Pigs, Periscope and cheesy pasta: The funniest moments of the election so far #sp16

How the Scottish party leaders are spending the last days of #SP16 campaigning

"Absolute betrayal": Future of Clyde ship workers unclear as MoD unable to rule out job cuts

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Pictures courtesy of Neil Dallimore, Kirsty Morrison, Martin Cunningham and Michael Gallacher