Web site lets readers decide what's news

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

What makes something news?

You might be surprised.

The media are often criticized for sensationalizing people's trouble and pain -- and unfortunately, suffering, conflicts and shortcomings do get readers' and viewers' attention.

But people are interested in achievement, harmony and success as well.

Many people, especially temporarily displaced Southwest Nebraskans serving in the military and attending college, take advantage of the limited content we make available on our Web site, http://mccookgazette.com.

The Internet provides instant feedback on stories that editors and publishers have long dreamed of -- who is reading what and when.

Looking at a list of October's top stories on our Web site, we find that our ideas of what makes news are largely confirmed. Tragedy, conflict and failure, unfortunately, continue to draw readers.

But encouraging stories are represented as well.

A story about a driver being struck and killed while changing a tire had the most "pageviews" for the month of October, with someone logging in to read the story 3,117 times.

Another tragedy, three people being killed in a wreck near Edison, was viewed 1,808 times.

A story about a man who still suffered from injuries he received after being beaten with a baseball bat, was third, being viewed 1,726 times.

Parents speaking out on a new reading program in the McCook Public Schools was the fourth most-read online article from the McCook Daily Gazette, with 1,390 pageviews.

Right behind that was a story about the crash of a helicopter being produced in McCook, with 1,312 views of the link from the headline "Crash traced to broken weld; new part planned," for fifth place. The initial story about the crash drew 1,001 readers for ninth place ranking among October stories.

A whimsical "story," provided a break in sixth place, a link to Don Schaaf's Web cam, mounted on the Keystone Hotel, with a live view of Norris Avenue, for 1,189 pageviews.

Web site visitors clicked a link to an uplifting story about an adoptive family 1,162 times for seventh place, and eighth went to "Candidate apologizes for use of photo" with 1,149 pageviews.

The announcement that some $35 million was being made available for a McCook ethanol plant rounded out the top 10 with 983 viewers.

Of course, everything printed in the paper version of the Gazette isn't available online, but neither are the live AP videos, available on our Web site, available in the printed version.

That's some technology we're still working on.

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