The horsemeat scandal has proved a hit with readers after local newspapers reported a spike in online traffic.
Traffic to the websites of the Halifax Courier and Cambrian News doubled after it emerged that meat processing plants in Wales and West Yorkshire were being investigated as part of a UK-wide probe into how horsemeat ended up in products labelled as beef.
The Courier was the first to get hold of the owner of the plant in Todmorden, Peter Boddy, who told the paper he had done nothing wrong and said all the meat leaving his slaughterhouse was passed as fit for human consumption.
After the story appeared on national television news programmes at 8pm, the Courier website recorded around 5,000 page views, double its normal level at that time as people turned to the website for information. Traffic to the Todmorden News site also increased significantly.
Editor of the two papers, John Kenealey, said: “When a story like this breaks, people do turn to the local newspaper website for more information because we are a highly trusted source.
“We have a responsibility to report the story in a fair and accurate way, without jumping to any conclusions, and to reflect the views and concerns of the wider community.”
A meat processing plant in Llandre, Wales, has also been implicated in the Food Standards Agency investigation – and after reporters discovered officers had visiting the company, a story was put online and promoted through Twitter.
Within a couple of hours, the website had attracted 1,625 page views – almost double the average of 883 for that time.
Cambrian News managing editor Beverly Thomas said the story was of particular interest to their readers as they lived in a major farming community.
“Our reporters and photographer went out to get an interview with the meat firm’s director, and speak to neighbours and other affected people and organisations.
“The emerging details are causing huge concern locally because we are in a farming heartland and there are fears that any suggestions of mislabelling or cross-contamination could damage the reputation of the county of Ceredigion and its producers.”
She said the team was continuing to hunt for exclusive angles and features focusing on the story.
The owner of Farmbox Meats, the meat processing plant being investigated in Llandre, has also insisted that he adhered to proper procedures, with no cross-contamination.
It is alleged horse carcasses were supplied to Farmbox Meats Ltd from Todmorden. The FSA has suspended operations at both plants while investigations continue.
Meanwhile the Liverpool Echo secured a national exclusive, revealing the Yorkshire slaughterhouse had a contract to remove horse carcasses from the racetrack at Aintree following last year’s Grand National in which two horses died.
The Liverpool Echo story can be read here.