News site puts 'future in own hands' for jobless grads

Three graduates who have struggled to find work in the recession-hit media have launched a popular breaking news website in Newry, Northern Ireland.

The Newry Times claims to have attracted over 300,000 page views since launching in December 2011.

Paul Malone is in charge of editorial, Declan McAteer provides web design expertise as well as editorial and Emma Taylor is the website's sales and advertising executive.

McAteer said: 'We were friends from university and Emma had a chance meeting with a man in Derry who was disillusioned, who was working with the local newspaper and had set up his own local newspaper called the Donegal Daily.

'Paul worked for a local newspaper and had also become disillusioned. And we all brought something unique to the table and came together and just went for it.'

He added: 'Newry doesn't have a news outlet that updates all day every day, they only have weekly newspapers so we've had all the biggest stories in our local area since December. When there's been a big story, such as the woman who was convicted of murder earlier in the week, that story alone had 15,000 views."

The site has what it says is Newry's first smartphone app and stories from www.newrytimes.com have already featured in over 350,000 Facebook newsfeeds, according to McAteer.

'The idea behind the app was that Newry has no mobile specific app, so this is the first one for Newry and we update about ten times a day so if you're waiting for a bus or sitting and having a coffee, you can have today's news on the area in your hand."

As well as featuring sport, entertainment, politics, business, lifestyle and community news, there is a specialist section on 'Newry's Lost Generation". This features interviews with young people leaving Newry in search of a job and has featured in a BBC documentary on youth unemployment. They are also hoping to expand into video content in the future.

The team has also received a lot of support from the local community.

'People in the area quite friendly and like to see young people doing something for themselves and not just sitting on the dole,'said McAteer.

'The police have been extremely supportive and told us, because we're an online network, they would take more pictures when they're out on crime scenes, and they have been sending us a lot of pictures.

'Last week we had a picture special on a drugs seizure with pictures that they took just for us."

McAteer added: 'On a personal level, I learned there's no point sitting around, waiting for a job, we took a chance with Newry Times and so far it's paid off. If you want to start your own business and you don't have the expertise there's always people around to help you.

'Particularly if you're a young graduate, on the dole, there are other people who can form partnerships with you. Put your future in your own hands rather than waiting."

The only overheads so far have only been £30 spent on creating the website and £20 each on business cards.

The site carries paid-for advertising, but not enough yet to pay its founders a wage. However, they are hopeful that it may do so in the future.

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