LGBT news website Gay Star News has closed suddenly, resulting in the loss of about 20 jobs, with one rival declaring it a “great shame”.
Staff were called into a team meeting yesterday afternoon and told the company was closing with immediate effect because it had become insolvent, Press Gazette understands.
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They were also told that they would not be paid for the past month as a result, with staff pointed towards Government schemes that may allow them to recoup some of their money.
Jamie Wareham, the site’s head of broadcast, tweeted today: “I am really proud to have worked for Gay Star News for the last two years until it ends today. As it has become clear we have ceased trading.
“I am particularly proud that all of our journalism was part of a drive to empower the LGBTI world with stories, support, and content. A mission I intend to take forward.
“I know it is embedded into my talented colleagues too.”
Speaking to Press Gazette, Wareham said the closure was “obviously really difficult for everyone”. He added: “We all really believed in what we were doing.
“It was really gutting because it was more than just journalism. It was empowering and storytelling and trying to create a change, so it was difficult to lose that.”
London-based Gay Star News launched in January 2012 with the aim of being “the world’s only 24-7 LGBT news service”.
Twenty-one staff members are currently listed on the website’s contact page, including 15 in editorial. Of those, most are based in London with a small number in the US and Asia.
No new stories were published following the meeting. The Gay Star News Twitter page only yesterday morning teased a new video series due every Monday in August.
Wareham said sorry to those who had filmed content for the website or made plans to do so, tweeting: “I can only apologise we may not be able to realise some of that content now.”
A staff member told Press Gazette that staff had largely been kept in the dark about the company’s financial issues.
They were told several weeks ago there were “difficult times ahead” but “had been told that before”, they added.
Mark Johnson, a freelance who wrote for Gay Star News, told Press Gazette he is owed £400 for work done in June and that he is “really hoping I can be paid eventually, but not looking hopeful”.
Johnson said he had offered to try and keep the site going by offering to contribute stories for a deferred fee until it could get back into solvency.
Health editor Shannon Power tweeted that “due to circumstances beyond my control it looks like I won’t be able to cover my rent this month or have any money at all”.
News editor Joe Morgan also confirmed the news on Twitter, saying it meant he was losing his job after six or seven years at the website.
Morgan added: “To say I’m devastated is an understatement. If you’re looking for a news/LGBT/human rights journalist or editor, please let me know. Also, hire my wonderful former colleagues. They’re all great and undeserving of this.”
Weekly columnist Lewis Oakley tweeted: “I’m still in shock over Gay Star News sudden closure. They believed in my voice and gave me a weekly column and I can’t thank them enough.”
Messages of support were shared from other LGBT news organisations, including Attitude magazine owner Darren Styles who said: “That is a great shame, LGBTQ media is a small enough place as it is.”
Pink News chief executive Benjamin Cohen said: “Sorry to read this- good luck to staff for the future.”
Both Styles and Cohen welcomed former Gay Star News staff getting in touch, although only Attitude has imminent vacancies on its website.
Gay Star News co-founders Tris Reid-Smith and Scott Nunn have not responded to Press Gazette’s requests for comment.
They were described in a report by Johnson for creative sector news website Prolific London as “too devastated to speak”.
Reid-Smith also reportedly told staff that despite recent tough times, “we really thought we would make it through”.