The 4.7 metre saltwater crocodile was captured last Wednesday at The Strand beach in an operation that took five rangers, one boat, police and obliging onlookers, and ended close to midnight.
On Thursday, the Townsville Bulletin carried a striking photo of the croc on its front page followed by a special “croctacular” edition published on Friday.
The special edition allowed the Northern Queensland newspaper to canvas developments surrounding the croc’s capture and future. It was supported by two other breaking stories relating to region’s basketball team, the Townsville Crocodiles.
“They were in their own way serious stories,” Townsville Bulletin editor Ben English said.
“But you can do it in a cheeky way that really can enliven your coverage and deepen your engagement with your audience so it sort of pops off the newsstand, if you like. And that’s where print can really come into its own.”
The croc’s capture was as much a digital story as it was a print story. A video of the croc being captured, taken by Townsville Bulletin chief-of-staff Vanessa Marsh, has attracted more than 108,000 views in a week.
Mr English said the whole city was abuzz with the unusual arrival of the croc, estimated to be at least 50 years old.
“What endeared him to Townsville, once people were out of harms way, is that he’d lost an eye and he’s quite beaten up,” Mr English said.
The paper is currently running an online poll to name the croc, with Nelson, Popeye, Bruiser and Cleveland the current frontrunners.
The Townsville Bulletin’s coverage attracted the attention of the king of croc stories, the NT News.
Editors from the two newspapers, both past and present, took to Twitter to exchange tongue-in-cheek gibes about the size and editorial placement of the crocodile.
— Peter Brown (@SydneyEditor) February 4, 2016
— ben english (@bennyglish) February 4, 2016
NT News editor Rachel Hancock said the verbal sparring on Twitter was hilarious, but she did send Mr English a personal message congratulating him on the Townsville Bulletin’s great front page.
“We’re always up for challenges to our ‘croc mantle’,” she said.
“We all get on pretty well. We try to outdo each other where we can, but I think that’s a pretty decent effort for the Townsville Bulletin.”
Ms Hancock’s advice for producing great croc stories is to ensure you have excellent pictures, encourage your audience to get involved by sending in their photos and most importantly, “stay away from the crocs”.
“Don’t try and get too close. No story is worth dying for,” she says.
“There are plenty of crocs in our waterways, particularly in the Territory. There are almost as many crocs as there are people.”
For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.