Printing afternoon editions for the Phil Walsh murder was a statement newspapers needed to make, according to Victorian managing director Peter Blunden.
When Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh was murdered last Friday, the story was broken online, but special afternoon print editions were also distributed by the Herald Sun and The Advertiser.
The Herald Sun printed 10,000 copies and sold out. Inside was a reprint of Mark Robinson’s interview with Phil Walsh, where he opened up about his relationship with his son for the first time, and tributes from the football world.
Mr Blunden believes this special edition was essential.
“It was important for us to make a statement that this story was big enough and important enough to get a newspaper out on the streets to accompany the minute-by-minute digital coverage,” he said.
Melvin Mansell, editorial director at The Advertiser in Adelaide, also believes that newspapers are the best way to make a statement.
“There is a strong demand for printed news; this demand is greatly elevated by a big news event. Consumers still know a newspaper is the ultimate, complete package edited for their convenience,” he said.
The Advertiser printed 10,000 copies, with a moving obituary from Michelangelo Rucci, and stories informing readers of the latest news on the tragedy.
“We marketed the
edition heavily, and in some places, customers were queueing, waiting for the papers to arrive,” he said.
On the digital side, readers were kept informed with constant updates on the two news websites, and frequent updates on social media.
The Herald Sun’s digital content included stories about Phil Walsh, Mark Robinson’s interview, and tributes from big names in the football world and fans.
While their website is usually a subscription-only website, where readers pay to read articles, the Herald Sun chose to open these stories up to everyone.
“In this case, with all this content, it was a story that should be read by all, so it was a story that we had available to all of our readers,” said head of digital news Nathaniel Bane.
For their coverage of the story, the Herald Sun worked closely with the team at The Advertiser.
“We let the Adelaide team look after the coverage of the incident itself because they’re closer to the ground there; they had the police contacts,” he said.
“And then we looked after the features, the backgrounds, the reaction, and all the things we could out of Melbourne, and we combined it all with their coverage, and ran our own story.”
While both websites had many digital and social tools at their disposal, they focused less on these this time.
“It was a story that had to be told in a very measured and calm, responsible way, so we didn’t try anything unique,” Mr Bane said.
However, he ensured that all content they produced engaged readers online because many people were reading about this on Facebook and Twitter.
The Advertiser had live coverage of the tragedy on its website, with an article that was constantly updated with new information. The stories were well received, and their web traffic doubled.
Digital platforms provide many benefits for breaking a story, however, Mr Blunden believes there is a place for newspapers.
“We’re still very confident in the future of newspapers, and there’s still a strong demand for them. And even though the landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, we are strongly committed to print,” he said.
“And this story was absolutely big enough and important enough to people to warrant a special afternoon edition.”
The previous afternoon edition that the Herald Sun put out was on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over the Ukraine, where many Australians lost their lives.
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