Watching the traffic numbers on our website helps us figure out what readers find most interesting at the moment, but doesn’t necessarily tell us which stories were the biggest news in our community this year.
Consider this list of the stories we wrote in 2011 that garnered the most local eyeballs at thenewstribune.com:
1. Spanaway tragedy: A family destroyed (the story of a local soldier and his wife found shot to death in their car along I-5 in an apparent homicide-suicide; their son was later found dead in their home).
2. Customers surprised by Tacoma Lowe’s closure.
3. Cecil’s story: Man who cost Tacoma taxpayers millions for care, emergency services.
All of those stories made our front page, but these were the stories that prompted The News Tribune’s top newsstand sales in 2011:
1. Death of Osama bin Laden.
2. Japan earthquake and tsunami.
3. The day Rep. Gabby Giffords opened her eyes after being shot in Tucson.
The most covered story of the year nationally, although it dribbled out month after painful month, was the economy, according to the Pew Research Center. A Pew study released last week showed the economy took up 20 percent of the space in newspapers, on news websites and on the air on radio and TV news. Uprisings in the Middle East consumed 12 percent of the news space and the 2012 presidential campaign 9 percent, followed by bin Laden, the Japanese quake and the Giffords shooting.
Pew also studied the year’s biggest stories on Twitter, the newest and most fleeting way to disseminate news. That list looks much different.
Pew found the Twitterverse most likely to be Tweeting about technology. The top three Twitter topics for 2011 were Facebook, Google and Twitter, itself. News about the Apple company came in fourth, followed by news about singer Justin Bieber.
Pew tried to determine whether mainstream news outlets covered the stories people cared most about. Generally, the survey found they had. If anything, the public sometimes continued to be interested in a topic after the press moved on. That was the case with coverage of the tsunami.
One place where the public’s and the press’ interests diverged was on the year’s biggest weather events – the East Coast blizzards and the tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. Although they received loads of coverage, the public wanted more.
That experience jibes with ours. While the weather oftentimes isn’t the headiest story circling our newsroom, it’s the one most talked about and affects the most people. For the past year, we’ve tried to write more weather stories and play them more prominently.
We’ve made a list of what we consider to be the South Sound’s top news stories for 2011 and posted them on our website. They include the Tacoma teachers strike, state liquor privatization, the recent crash of two Army helicopters, and of course, the local effects of the recession. Go to thenewstribune.com/topstoriessurvey/ to cast your vote. We’ll run the results next week.
SURPRISING LACK OF REACTION
We’re surprised we didn’t get more complaints about a photograph we ran Thursday of two female sailors kissing. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta won the shipboard lottery to be the first sailor to get off the USS Oak Hill in Virginia and kiss a loved one. The ship had been at sea for 80 days. Gaeta chose to kiss her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, something she couldn’t have done without risking her job before the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
At other newspapers, especially those that ran the picture on the front page, readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. We had no calls or emails that I know of. The nine comments at thenewstribune.com were supportive or nonplussed, including this one from hooks21: “Why is this news? I give my wife a kiss every day.” Another 181 readers added Facebook “likes.”
We didn’t run the photo to make a political statement, as some papers were accused of doing. We simply found it newsworthy and interesting. It seems our readers did, too.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434 firstname.lastname@example.org