Journalism in the North East was dealt a blow last week as Sky unexpectedly shut down their ‘Sky Tyne and Wear’ operation.
Launched in February 2012, Sky Tyne and Wear was a pilot video-based regional news service dedicated to covering news and sport across Newcastle and Sunderland. On its launch it was seen as a bold and optimistic move by Sky to break into regional news, and reinvent the existing model (after all, if anybody can make local news profitable, it’s got to be Sky, right?).
Writing about the project in a book published this year Simon Buck and James Marley of Sky said: “We believe we have broken the mould, creating something original and compelling which will provide a benchmark for ‘local’ journalism in the future.”
And Sky’s plan was to use the North East operation as a pilot before rolling out similar online services in other regions, but after it was revealed back in August that the operation was yet to turn a profit, the future seemed less bright.
It was still a shock though when, last Monday (December 9) at around lunchtime, the Sky Tyne and Wear site and app were shut down for good, with no prior warning. When I say ‘no prior warning’, I really mean it; there was content being created, published and promoted right up until the switch-off.
But following the service’s closure the app and website have been completely closed off (even if you are trying to access archived stories), and the only display is an explanation statement from Sky.
From the point of view of an aspiring journalist in the North East the project’s closure is a real disappointment: not only did Sky Tyne and Wear offer excellent opportunities for work experience and the potential for future employment, but their young and ambitious team gave aspiring journalists hope of making it in the industry.
But arguably it’s a much bigger blow for the region and its people, many of whom expressed their dismay at the shut-down. Sky Tyne and Wear offered an exciting multimedia alternative to the traditional local news outlets, and their team were often to be spotted out and about in the area brandishing their cameras, refreshing to see in the modern media landscape, in which many journalists find themselves locked behind a desk and a phone.
So proud to have been part of @skytyneandwear from its very beginning. So many amazing memories & life changing experiences to take with me
— India Adams (@Indiadams) December 9, 2013
Sky Tyne and Wear delivered some iconic coverage in their 21-month run, most notably their reporting of the post-derby day riots in Newcastle in April. For those unfamiliar with ‘derby-day’, it is when Newcastle United and Sunderland football clubs meet, and the atmosphere in both cities transforms into either Christmas day or the Hunger Games depending on the outcome – in this particular case a man punched a horse.
However the project’s inability to really connect with their audience on a regular basis may have proved their downfall, although so soon after its closure it is too early to say for sure. But whatever flaws Sky’s brave experiment had, its demise is a blow to not only the North East but also to those in the journalism industry as a whole, who will again have to search for a sustainable regional model.
I’ll leave it to the guys over at Sky Tyne and Wear to deliver their sign off (in true North Eastern fashion), and I’m sure they’ll be missed.
We were canny mint mind
— Sky Tyne and Wear (@skytyneandwear) December 9, 2013