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Ex-daily staffers launch ‘good news’ paper on old patch

Three former regional daily staffers have teamed up to launch a new weekly newspaper on their former patch.

Hartlepool Life has been created by former Hartlepool Mail news editor Steve Hartley, picture editor Dirk Van Der Werff and newspaper sales manager Paul Healey, along with two local businessmen, after conceiving the idea at a monthly get-together of ex-Mail employees.

The free weekly, which comes out every Wednesday, pledges to focus on good news about people, businesses and schools in the Hartlepool area.

The paper is set to move into new town centre offices shortly, but are currently at a temporary base – with the first edition being put together on a laptop in the back room of a pub.

Hartlepool Life 3

Dirk told HTFP: “Our print run is 25,000 and the reception by both advertisers and our readers has been overwhelming, thank goodness.

“Our unique selling point is that we only carry good and positive news about the people of the town, and the businesses and schools in the town. The old saying is that good news doesn’t sell newspapers – well we’re free so it doesn’t count.”

Dirk, who spent 25 years with the Mail before setting up his own wedding photography business after being made redundant 15 years ago, added: “Facebook and online forums do anger and darkness and negativity so much better nowadays, so we’re a newspaper without any of those things – and our readers love it.

“It’s a refreshing change for both the staff and our readers. Our newspaper is only posted online the day before the next issue so we can refer people to it. Putting news online has killed so many newspapers, including the one we all loved so dearly, so we’re not making the same mistake.”

Hartlepool Life currently runs to 32 pages, 15 pages of which are editorial, with an additional three pages of sport.

Once the team move into a permanent headquarters, a reception will be opened so readers can submit birth, death and marriage notices.

Steve, who serves as the paper’s editorial director, worked at the Mail for 18 years as news editor and assistant editor before being made redundant. He later went on to work for the Scarborough Evening News.

The editorial duo are joined as directors of Hartlepool Life by Paul Healey, former newspaper sales manager at Johnston Press North East, print and design business owner Ian Griffiths, and Hartlepool businessman Leo Gillen, whose family newsagent business used to sell 25pc of the town’s newspapers.

20 comments

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  • April 10, 2017 at 9:27 am
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    Good luck to this new venture. Let’s hope it grows to fill the gap left behind by the Hartlepool Mail. Good news is great but there are a lot of woes in the town which also need covering. Let’s hope the news-starved people of Hartlepool get behind you. All the best.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 10:18 am
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    Not quite sure Tim Jones is aware of the irony of his negative post on an idea with so many positives. Many weekly newspapers have emphasised the positive, the local, and succeeded.
    Steve Hartley was always a class act, with a knowledge of journalism, writing and people.
    And the big thing here is that we are seeing the big newspaper groups lose readers in their droves because they are ignoring their circulation demographics chasing down huge profit margins, axing staff and reducing circulation areas.
    If small papers like this start plugging those gaps, even in a small way in terms of profit, then there is hope for newspapers and journalism after all.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 10:21 am
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    Good luck to them, but I’ve never understood the thinking behind a “good news only” approach to publishing.

    I appreciate that good news is often overlooked or under-reported but what are they supposed to do if there’s a massive car crash or a murder on their patch – bury it on page 17 behind the WI reports?

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  • April 10, 2017 at 10:24 am
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    Reminds me of the Reader Project which took a year back in the 1990s. Readers wanted less court and crime and more nice news. When we obliged, circulation declined even faster.

    Good luck to the team, sounds like they have some serious backing.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 11:47 am
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    Good news not such a problem for small local papers.
    Instead of wallowing in bad news just report it briefly. After all most readers do not know those killed , attacked, etc so don’t need 1,000 words and tributes grabbed from Twitter Facebook etc.
    Good, free independent papers often get a better balance than paid-fors because they don’t want too much misery in a free paper but still mention the hard stuff.
    Good luck with this venture.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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    Very best of luck to Steve and Dirk.
    It’s good to see journalists with a passion, who find themselves unwanted by their industry, deciding to do it themselves – if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em!
    The first paper looks decent enough as a starting point and could easily gain support and traction.
    People getting their knickers in a twist because of the ‘only good news’ angle, should appreciate that this venture won’t be able to support staff with the expertise to cover courts, councils, inquests etc.
    Not right now, anyway.
    But if the paper grows, I suspect it won’t be long before they’re encouraged to at least provide updates on the major events of the day…..and so it begins.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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    Saddened Journo (ironic name?) You identify a huge problem in this industry very well; why does action always have to be a positive, don’t knock it, thing?

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  • April 10, 2017 at 1:16 pm
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    Anyone want to join up with me and launch a newspaper dedicated to miserable old so and sos like me?

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  • April 10, 2017 at 2:03 pm
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    I long ago lost count of those admirable souls who dedicated themselves to the “good news only” movement. RIP.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm
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    All credit to him and all good wishes but the good news publication is old hat and isn’t something people are keen on or interested in paying to read.

    Bring one out with court cases,local hot issues and general bits and pieces about the people, the towns, the communities and the councils and you’re onto a winner, basically do the opposite to what the ailing established papers are doing and bingo! Jobs a good un

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  • April 10, 2017 at 3:31 pm
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    How about producing a paper version of all local social media posts from folk in the community? What they had for dinner, words of wisdom, groups of people falling over outside a nightclub, the latest eye brow tattoos and duck pout of the eeek, get readers to send in photos and trawl posts to get on the scene photos of car shunts or chip pan fires, it certainly works for the papers in my beck of the jungle

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  • April 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm
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    Oh dear! Doesn’t anyone recall the “first” newspaper with only good news. It was called New Daily and was some years ago. It went bust in about three weeks, as I recall from Fleet Street days. No readers were interested, even though everybody these days says they want some good news – for a change.

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  • April 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm
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    THANK YOU to all the positive comments, ya-boo-sucks to all the (usual) negative comments.
    We will be bust in a few weeks time or flying, and you know what? We won’t be bust !
    The great thing is that there is a huge pool of talent out there, abandoned by Johnston Press and many other corporate newspaper vampires. Good people set adrift to work in factories and as teachers and anything else that pays the bills to be honest.
    We want to employ those passionate people and we already are. Journalists who are hungry for any form of local journalism.
    Good news isn’t bad, it’s what people need in the tenth year of austerity and darkness and ‘terror’ and uncertainty. It’s also refreshing to both staff and for readers. We’re not the Sunday Times, we’re a FREE quality community newspaper putting 25,000 copies on the streets every Wednesday!
    We will leave ‘bad news’ and ‘real news’ to those keyboard warriors who wouldn’t dare to do what our team have already done. Our advertisers LOVE the feel good factor, and our readers do too.

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  • April 11, 2017 at 6:49 am
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    Argus
    If “….the venture won’t be able to support staff with the expertise to cover courts, councils, inquests etc….”

    The venture will likely as not fall flat on its face if relying purely on the old good news angle, sorry but it’s been tried crashed and burned many times before, all this will do is incur costs,build hopes then lose money pdq,
    Without a clearly defined audience , a market waiting for this and a raft of ready and willing advertisers , sustainable ones not family and friends and those wishing them well for the first editions, the publication will simply wither, although as there’s a commercial person involved you would assune a realistic and thorough business plan has been put in place with clearly defined successs and profit points

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  • April 11, 2017 at 9:30 am
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    ” Putting news online has killed so many newspapers, including the one we all loved so dearly, so we’re not making the same mistake.”
    No dirk , putting the news online is how people read news these days and reach an advertising audience.
    With huge costs associated with printed publications and low ad revenues in order to continue and to control costs many have gone the online route

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  • April 11, 2017 at 9:56 am
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    Is there really a ready market for local good news?
    Really?
    Lets hope the team here have done their homework as its one thing producing something as a sideline/ hobby from a laptop in a pub, quite another to run a sustainable and profitable business in today harsh, fast highly competitive media world we live in.
    The task and costs alone in producing 25,000 copies of a free paper will be immense, lets widhball concerned well and hope they’ve done their sums to make this project one with longevity and not just another name on the roll call of closed papers.

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  • April 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm
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    It is simply a question of getting the balance right. A lot of paid fors fill up with misery.

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  • April 12, 2017 at 8:24 am
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    ‘ Good news’ only papers are often just a kick out at an ex employees paper going along the ‘they only publish bad news as thats what sells papers’ line.
    To think people stop buying papers because it’s all doom and gloom is misguided, buying habits and routes to news have changed beyond all recognition and a local paper is no longer considered an essential purchase, free or paid for it has to have established a gap in the market or a real need, lack of good news however is not a reason to stop buying or reading a paper, in my view many ex readers stop buying because the once credible newspaper is now full of easy to access puff, generic and dire ‘content’ and promotional or commercial PR pieces with no real news so not worth bothering with.

    Sorry chaps, news is news whether it’s good bad or indifferent,expecting local people to only be interested in the rosy coloured spectacles view of their area is a dangerous assumption especially if this view is the basis on which to launch a business ,yes by all means include the positive localised news pieces and the happy smiling faces celebrating success but to avoid the real issues in the community really isn’t the answer, happy to be proved wrong though if the papers still going strong and is profitable in a years time

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  • April 12, 2017 at 10:23 am
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    And there you have it, summed up succinctly by @Employee x

    A laudable idea and always good to hear of a new business or publication launching but I really feel a reality check is needed before any more hard earned investment money is lost.
    If not then I genuinely wish everyone concerned with HL every suvcesss for its future

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