Hard news still sells: sales of the daily newspaper were up every day of “flood week” on a year-on-year basis
Coverage of the Boscastle flood has led to a sales bonanza for the Western Morning News and proved that hard news still sells newspapers
Sales of a WMN special edition on Tuesday 17 August – the day after the flood – were up by 15,647 copies, a year-on-year rise of 37.51 per cent.
Editor Barrie Williams gave over the front page to a dramatic picture of a helicopter hovering over the rooftops in Boscastle winching a resident to safety as the flood surged around the village.
The next day’s WMN, with nine pages of coverage on the flood and a front page declaring “It’s A Miracle” – reporting that no lives had been lost – saw sales jump by 9,435, a rise of 21.99 per cent.
Coverage of Prince Charles’ visit to Boscastle saw sales up 3,513 on the Thursday, a rise of 8 per cent, and majored on his praise for the helicopter crews. The paper also reported that the helicopter bases were under threat of closure.
Friday’s paper highlighted the “Heroes of Boscastle”. Again sales were up an extra 2,299 copies – an increase of 5.12 per cent. Saturday sales were also up 3.99 per cent, representing an extra 2,427 copies.
Williams said: “I’ve been around a long time but I have never seen a news story with such an impact. We’ve seen nothing like these sales figures since the death of Diana.
“We had some wonderful coverage and some absolutely amazing pictures.
This is real journalism, with good stories and powerful images, selling newspapers.
“It is honest journalism, no bells and mirrors, just straight, inspiring reporting and pictures.”
He believes the Boscastle story grabbed readers’ attention because the flood happened so swiftly. “It was so unexpected and took everybody by surprise. People were shocked by the sheer force of the water and wanted to read all about it.”
Williams also believes that holidaymakers in Cornwall snapped up copies of the paper to take home with them to show their family and friends.
The WMNis also up 1.46 per cent in the latest ABC figures for the six months to the end of June, the only regional daily in England to show a year-on-year rise.
By Jon Slattery