Journalists cancelled weekend plans to cover a fire which gutted England’s oldest hotel – with their newspaper’s website receiving more than one million page views as a result.
Members of the Exeter Express & Echo editorial team turned out seven pages of copy for yesterday’s edition, which was run with a front page wraparound showing the blaze’s devastation.
One of the Express & Echo’s journalists who is currently holidaying in Holland even worked from their hotel room to help cover the fire, which caused damage to several historic buildings, including the Royal Clarence Hotel.
Early reporter Jamie Hawkins arrived at the scene, at Cathedral Green, Exeter, at 7am on Friday morning.
Editor Patrick Phelvin said: “By 10am it appeared the whole incident was being brought to a close, but then the fire reared its head again, setting light to the oldest hotel in England and a historic gem which is much loved in Exeter.
“We had updates online throughout the day with pictures and live video, and then a number of breakout pieces on the history of the buildings involved, reaction from those with a connection to them, the heartwarming stories about bakers taking pasties to the emergency services and harder news pieces, such as the furore surrounding our Police and Crime Commissioner who was snapped taking a selfie at the scene.
“Over the weekend we turned this content into seven pages of news for the Monday edition of the paper, and increased our print run.”
The wraparound, which shows the scene from the Devon & Cornwall police helicopter, was the idea of production editor Bridget Batchelor.
Patrick added it conveyed the “drama and devastation” wrought by the fire.
He continued: “For me the most impressive aspect of the coverage was the way our editorial staff reacted to the situation, trashing their weekend plans to make for some exceptional coverage – one was even helping from a hotel room in Holland, where he was on holiday.
“We were rewarded with over a million page views across the three days and a huge boost to our reputation. Hopefully a sales spike will follow.”