Online magazine The Lead is to launch four local weekly newsletters in Blackpool, Bolton, Teesside and Stoke-on-Trent as the London-based, issue-led publisher looks to expand across the North.
The campaigning title is also growing its full-time staff from three to five and said it aims to substantially grow its pool of freelances.
The Lead launched in Autumn last year describing itself as a “micro-mag” focused on “pressing social topics facing the UK.”
It was founded and funded by Mike Harris, a former head of advocacy at Index on Censorship and owner of advocacy-oriented communications firm 89up. Harris invested a ‘six-figure sum’ in 2023 and has recommitted to 2024 with another six figures.
The Lead has so far been nationally focused, writing from a London headquarters on topics including racism, climate and austerity.
Today it said it will establish a Northern hub staffed by Ed Walker, a former editor and audience and content director at leading regional publisher Reach, and former Lancs Live and Curiously editor Luke Beardsworth. Walker takes on the title Lead editor (North) and Beardsworth will be senior editor (North).
Announcing The Lead North’s launch, Walker said: “Local journalism is vitally important for communities and it is evident from the scale of local digital audiences that local outlets currently enjoy the appetite for discovering what’s happening locally is very much alive.
“However, it’s not just about telling stories. We believe there’s an opportunity for communities locally to be enabled and connected by journalism and that as journalists and editors it’s also our responsibility to empower people.
“That’s why we’ll be taking The Lead to Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent, Teesside and Bolton in the coming months and bringing our brand of local journalism to towns and cities often overlooked outside of London and the major metropolises of the North of England.”
Walker added that The Lead is looking for pitches and introductions from freelance writers in Bolton, Blackpool, Teesside and Stoke-on-Trent – particularly in light of widespread cuts that have recently hit local news publishers.