Exactly one year ago, on Nov. 11, 2021, we decided to create the Kyiv Independent.
“We” were a group of some 30 journalists fired from the Kyiv Post, then Ukraine’s main English-language newspaper. The owner fired the whole newsroom for defending its editorial independence and remaining stubbornly critical of people in power – for what is also known as being good journalists.
It was an unusual start, to say the least.
That day one year ago, we weren’t the Kyiv Independent yet. The name would come days, if not weeks later, after a comically painful selection process. We went through some 200 choices. “The Kyiv Independent” won, but barely. In hindsight, it was the only right option. These past eight months have given the name special meaning.
Things moved quickly. Days after the announcement, we partnered up with Jnomics, a media consultancy that took care of the business side of operations. One week after being fired, our first newsletter came out. Days later, our first podcast. Soon, our new website went live. The year of 2022 started, and we were ready to conquer the world.
And then, Russia invaded Ukraine.
When the full-scale war started, we were a newborn, three-month-old media outlet. We weren’t ready for it, but on Feb. 24 we all woke up as war reporters.
We had to report on the war while going through all the struggles of it together with the rest of Ukraine. We learned to live with air raid alerts and work from bomb shelters. Reporting on the destruction of our hometowns and bombardments of cities where our families live has been heartbreaking. What has helped us through it is a great sense of purpose, our mission: We are here to keep the world informed about Ukraine, and to do it with a local perspective.
This whole year, we have been giving this job everything we have. And the world took notice.
Our audience has grown more than we could have hoped for. The number of our monthly supporters reached 8,000 people and we are hoping to hit 10,000 by the end of the year. (Here’s how to help us). Our Twitter account has 2.2 million followers. We have been blessed with the opportunity to bring a local dimension to international reporting about Ukraine – to really make Ukrainians heard.
We also became a story ourselves. Media around the world has run stories about our team of brave young journalists reporting on a war in their country.
It all came to be because one year ago, we made the difficult but right decision. Instead of making peace with a rich publisher whom we didn’t trust, we decided to start from nothing and build our own media outlet – where there would be no place for compromises about our principles, no sacrifices of editorial independence.
The lesson from this year has been this: Hard choices pay off. Doing the right thing pays off.
There is much more humbling proof than that of our story – the story of Ukraine. Our first year as a media outlet became the same year our country had to fight for its survival. Ukrainians chose to fight the overwhelmingly stronger invader in a bid to stay free – and are now winning, at a great cost.
One year ago, some told us that we were naive and child-like to start off like we did, with no money or rich backers. When one Ukrainian oligarch offered to fund the whole project, some encouraged us to take the offer. We refused.
Instead, we chose to believe in our readers. We chose to believe that we will be able to win their trust and support – including financially, to make us sustainable. One year later, the largest part of our funding comes from our readers.
It is because of you, the person reading this, that we can keep doing our job of bringing stories from Ukraine to the world – and being the voice of Ukraine at a time when it’s most needed.
Thank you for being with us this year. We work for you, and always will.