A team of ex-Hull Daily Mail journalists fought to launch their own news website during lockdown despite falling through the cracks of the Government’s Covid-19 financial support schemes.
Co-editors Rick Lyon and Simon Bristow and journalist Kevin Shoesmith had already launched a monthly news magazine called The Hull Story in November.
But they were forced to start all over again after lockdown meant their stockists closed and ad revenue dried up just six months later.
Print publication was suspended and the team focused instead on launching an ad-funded website by the same name, which went live at the start of July.
Bristow told Press Gazette it was “basically like starting again” after self-financing the magazine which he said was “going great” until the pandemic hit the UK.
“It’s been really tough and we’ve fallen between the funding gaps,” he added. “It’s all been about survival. We’ve got this far and now we’ve actually got a product again.”
The Government’s self-employed income support scheme paid grants to eligible journalists.
But various groups were excluded, including those who became newly self-employed in the past year, those with annual profits of more than £50,000 and those for whom the majority, however slim, of their income comes from elsewhere.
Bristow left his role as court reporter at the Reach-owned Hull Daily Mail in December when he took voluntary redundancy. Lyon spent 13 years at the paper, including as news editor, until his departure in 2014 to go into PR, while Shoesmith left his role of chief reporter in 2018 to become a teacher.
Asked why they thought there was a demand for another news website in Hull, Bristow said there is a “thirst for something a bit different” that mixes breaking news, op-eds and long-reads with arts and culture coverage to continue Hull’s legacy as 2017’s UK City of Culture.
“We’ve done a little bit of research into it and we noticed suddenly a lot of traditional regional press have gone or are really struggling and there has been quite a lot of start-ups and smaller independent publishers… not many of them are run by journalists though, so that’s one of our main selling points.
“We’ve all got 20 odd years each experience so it’s a reaction to that as well… We can be an independent voice, we can have an opinion and not sit on the fence. We can be a campaigning publication.”
A week after launch, Bristow published the inside story of the UK’s first two known Covid-19 cases after speaking to the medical team involved.
Lyon praised his colleague’s “brilliant exclusive” and said it had “helped us make a strong start with the website”.