Newry Times – a new hyperlocal online paper run by three unemployed graduates – the future of journalism?

newry times logoThe Newry Times, a community-based local online newspaper was launched last week by three unemployed graduates, funded through their job seekers allowance.

We’re hoping our story proves to other graduates throughout Ireland that there is things out there you can do while you’re unemployed, things that are really rewarding and exciting.

With a newspaper look to the website, which is mobile friendly, the team have made a strong start this week with over 10,000 pageviews and a range of stories with local angles covering:

I asked Paul Malone (editor) who was behind the Newry Times and what had inspired them to start up an online newspaper?

Newry Times was created by myself (Paul Malone), Emma Taylor and Declan McAteer. Our inspiration for starting it came from a number of different factors. Firstly, I have worked for several years in local newspapers and recently lost my job in one because the newspaper could no longer afford to pay me. So I found myself on the Dole.

I knew Newry was crying out for a free, online newspaper with no subscription fees or any hidden charges and Emma had a chance meeting with a Derry-based journalist who told her about his own news site. [We] all graduated with good degrees and we all have talent in different things so we decided to make a website and try to engage the local community again.

Also, online news is clearly the way forward, sales of print newspapers are dwindling at an alarming rate so it was the obvious step for us to take. We also created Newry’s first ever smart phone mobile app, so we’ve pretty much got our fingers on the pulse of technology right now.

Newry Times front page - Sunday 4 December

What kind of coverage would the paper provide for Newry and Mourne area?

We will be updating the website daily. As soon as a news story breaks we aim to have it covered and online with the hour. Of course, some weeks are “bad news weeks” and it can be hard to get content but we’re engaging the local community in other ways too with a steady stream of interesting content. (Check out Newry’s Lost Generation for an example).

With only three core staff, how would they gather material? Will being online make it easier to get community involvement in the Newry Times and its stories?

Our material comes from a number of sources. Through my time working with other local newspapers I have built up a big base of friendly contacts (with police, politicians, government officials) – as well as those, we get a steady stream of press releases from different bodies in the area.

Additionally, a huge amount of content has been sent in by our readers, there’s so many people out there who are fantastic writers and have a love of a certain subject and feel great contributing their articles about it to Newry Times and the wider community.

Of course, we also do some good old fashioned journalism, where the three of us source the latest news. We already have a number of contributors on board covering the local sport, local Newry City FC team, local pool and darts league and Gaelic news. I’ve even had a man emailing me from Bangkok asking to submit an article about how he left Newry several years ago and set up a football club over there. It’s fantastic. We’re all about engaging the local community, so it is they who will decide how popular our website becomes.

The local media is generally suffering great financial pressure. While the Newry Times doesn’t have print costs, unless they have deep pockets and run it as a hobby, will they have to rely on advertising or a paywall to the paper financially viable?

Unfortunately, print media is a dying art as I found out when I lost my job.

People we’ve spoken to now live in an age where everything is available to them right now, when they want it. People simply don’t have the patience now to wait until the weekly publication goes on to the shop shelves to find out the latest news. Why would they want to do that, especially with the popularity of Facebook, Twitter etc where news is available right now, and in many cases, from the scene of the news.

Weekly editions just have no appeal to anyone from my generation either, they’re outdated and don’t actually report on what people want to hear. They basically regurgitate press releases with a small, very small dash, of journalism thrown in on the first few pages for good measure.

We certainly don’t have deep pockets, we’re on Dole Benefits at the moment so have entirely funded this with our job seekers allowance.

We have thought long and hard about advertising but right now we have given our advertising space on Newry Times to appeals from local charities, coming up to Christmas they need all the help they can get in these tough economic times. We are thinking that eventually we might like to attract several advertisers on board, but we wont do anything just yet, we’re a community based website so we don’t want this to turn into a pop-up dominated website with just a bit of news.

We have looked into other options for funding and we’re hoping if these come to fruition we’ll never have to approach advertisers. We have been offered money from friends and family to get us off the ground but right now it simply isn’t needed.

We’ve got Declan who is an absolute IT whiz kid who is dealing with the website and maintaining it, we have Emma who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes too helping with content and promotion and then myself covering a lot of the stories.

We’re hoping our story proves to other graduates throughout Ireland that there is things out there you can do while you’re unemployed, things that are really rewarding and exciting.

Along with Donegal Daily (which is now 1 year old), the Newry Times is a promising development in the hyperlocal scene. Local news outfits are unlikely to pick up the kind of Atlantic Philanthropies funding that The Detail benefits from, but could still add much needed local seasoning to the menu served up by bigger news outlets and could gather a sizeable following in their local communities through tools like Facebook.

With continued effort and enthusiasm, hyperlocal sites could play a considerable part in the future of journalism.

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