Website traffic reveals unfortunate truth about news

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Most media outlets would like to run more positive news, really, they would. Especially during the holidays, this newspaper and most other media outlets look for feel-good stories to make the season brighter.

Unfortunately, it's the darker side of the news that gets all the attention.

Former lead news anchor Dan Rather used "safety" as a measure of news value. As best as we can remember, from his book, "The Camera Never Blinks," it went something like this: Am I safe? Is my family safe? Is my community safe? Is my country safe?

With 2011 wrapping up, reporter Lorri Sughroue has been reviewing the top stories from each month this year.

Checking statistics on our website, there's no question that the tragic story of a McCook girl who was murdered nearly a year ago drew the most readers. Stathis Sebastian Mobley Kirkpatrick, who was 18 when he was arrested, is undergoing psychiatric treatment until deemed competent to stand trial in the death of Kailee Nichole Clapp, 14.

Stories about her murder, funeral and the defendant's court appearances drew more than 150,000 page views on the Gazette website.

The second highest readership involved millions of dollars of damage, but fortunately no one was seriously injured. Two stories on the August hailstorm that roared through the Heritage Hills Golf Course, Highway 83 and western parts of McCook drew more than 24,000 page views on mccookgazette.com.

And, stories about the Amtrak derailment later that month drew more than 16,000 page views.

Another top-30 story, drawing more than 10,000 pageviews in October, involved stories a shot fired when emergency crews arrived at a McCook man's house, leading to a standoff that was resolved peacefully after a SWAT team arrived.

The only "positive" story among the top 30 on the website was one of Walt Sehnert's columns, "Rulon Gardner's nine lives," which drew more than, 4,500 pageviews.

Like any negative idea, one could find a positive point about the trend, in that readers want to find out about the "bad" news out of concern for their friends and neighbors.

Dan Rather, unfortunately, was forced out of his job after falling for faked documents about President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard.

Judging from the Gazette website's traffic, however, his ideas about news consumers' preferences were right on.

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