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Former daily editor plots new launch on ex-employer’s patch

Brian Aitken PicA former daily editor is returning to regional journalism with the launch of a new title on his old patch.

Brian Aitken, who edited Newcastle daily The Journal between 2003 and 2014, has announced his plan to set up an online-only venture in his old North-East England stampng ground.

Called The QT, Brian has pledged it will be an “independent campaigning voice for the region” which will be entirely funded by reader subscriptions – with “no pop-ups or clickbait.”

He has developed The QT along with Sam Wonfor, a former colleague from The Journal who will serve as deputy editor, while freelance contributors to the project will include former Northern Echo editor Peter Barron.

The online media platform is slated for a planned launch later in the year.

As well as editing The Journal for 11 years, Brian also worked at the Lincolnshire Echo, Aberdeen Evening Express, Glasgow’s Daily Record and as editorial development manager for Trinity Mirror.

He told HTFP: “There was a Society of Editors conference a few years ago where one of the keynote speakers said: ‘We have been selling the wrong thing for so long. We have been selling our advertising space and not our journalism.’ That quote has remained with me.

“Conventional media wisdom says that people won’t pay for news online. But times are changing, and we believe people will pay for expert journalism, for quality storytellers, telling quality stories that they can’t get anywhere else.

“With seven angel investors already on board, we are making great progress in securing the SEIS funding we need for launch.

“Three of those investors have experience of starting their own businesses and making a successful exit, including our chair, Fiona Cruickshank, who is an experienced non-exec.

“We’ve had tremendous support and enthusiasm from across the North East media landscape, including senior print, broadcast and digital journalists who have informed the development of our exciting editorial plans – people such as former Northern Echo Editor Peter Barron who will be a freelance contributor to The QT.

“We will be recruiting the editorial team nearer to launch but already have a large pool of freelancers, columnists and contributors lined up who share our vision and passion for providing the North East with a seriously good place to be informed, entertained and fired up.”

Brian, pictured, posted on LinkedIn that the title will be “politically neutral but North-East biased, while there “will be no pop-ups or clickbait, just quality stories told by a team of quality storytellers”.

He has now appealed to supporters to fill out an online survey about the venture “to better inform me and The QT team ahead of launch”, which can be found here.

He added: “This is the second market research survey we have carried out. The first was a more general survey towards attitude to the media, reading habits and what it would take to convince someone to pay for a news product. That told us that the North-East was large enough to have a viable paid-for online news platform.

“Now that plans for The QT are far more advanced, we have used a grant from Creative UK to carry out a more detailed survey on the planned product and our core markets for launch.”

After leaving the Journal’s then-owner Trinity Mirror in 2014, Brian went on to work as head of corporate affairs at Newcastle United Football Club, a role he left in 2020

He has also owned Brian Aitken Associates, his own consultancy business, since 2015.