Branscombe shipwreck prompts sales galore for local papers

The Express & Echo in Exeter is launching a website devoted to the Branscombe beach container shipwreck that attracted thousands in search of booty.

Trainee reporter Sarah Elliott, who joined the Echo from Northcliffe Electronic Publishing, has been given the task of setting up the site www.thisisexeter/branscombe.co.uk.

Editor Mark Astley said: ‘We are going to put up all the videos, stories and pictures we’ve done on a dedicated website, and will also be working with the local authorities, the parish council and East Devon District Council to discuss the sort of information they would like us to put on there. ‘We will do daily updates on the salvage operation, because although the media circus will end soon, this ship is going to be here for at least a year.’The Echo filed numerous video reports of the beached container ship Napoli on its website using a new wide screen digital video camera as well as providing extensive coverage in the paper, including an eight-page special pull-out.

Astley said sales had been up 6 per cent and the website received the same number of hits on Monday as it normally would in four days.

Western Morning News deputy editor Philip Bowern said Branscombe is the region’s biggest story since Boscastle’s flooding disaster in August 2004, when the village was all but destroyed.

The paper has sold out every day across the south coast from the tip of Cornwall to the Dorset border since last Friday when it began covering the story.

Bowern said: ‘It’s one of those papers people will keep and say ‘I was there, I saw it’. ‘We had a sales boost of around 4 per cent on a sale of around 45,000 and we’ve been carrying around four pages on the story every day since the storms began. ‘We had a reporter down there overnight and it was like a scene from Mad Max with people lighting fires on the beach and scavenging around for whatever they could find. ‘The villagers are getting really fed up and for us the story has become the invasion that no one wants any more, as well as the pollution and threat to the tourist industry this might cause.

‘We had a similar story around five years ago when the container ship the Cita went down in the Scilly Isles and everyone was suddenly wearing Nike trainers. Then there was the Kodima which was carrying wood and most of the people living on the coastline had their own sheds.’Editor of the weekly Sidmouth Herald Emma Silverthorne, said it is becoming more difficult for her paper to cover the story as beachcombers began realising they should conceal their identities from local police.

When the story broke people believed the millions of pounds worth of goods washed up on Branscombe beach was a free-for-all and descended in droves to salvage what they could.

Police have since insisted any items should legally be declared. Silverthorne said: ‘Now the message from the police is coming down more strongly over the legalities, people are suddenly retreating from the limelight and not wanting to have their picture and name in the paper, understandably. ‘We’ve got general pictures of people sifting through bits and bobs but we are the local paper and they are worried about local police getting easy catches by spotting their number plate in a photograph. ‘It’s not been easy. We have just had the world’s media land in Sidmouth it seems; it’s been crazy.’The Herald is bringing out a special 10-page edition on Friday and will be increasing its 8,000 circulation by around 1,000 to cater for all who have descended on the coastline locally and from around the country.

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