Media across the world are tasked with, among other duties, holding up a mirror to the communities they cover.
And in this digital age of big data, the media can see what stories people read.
Online readers of the Wilmington News Journal favored breaking news and heart-touching stories more than all others, according to an analysis of the News Journal’s Google Analytics data.
The top story read online in 2015 was that of a truck running into and demolishing roughly half of a closed weigh station north of Wilmington. Other breaking news stories rounded out the lion’s share of the most-read list, mostly traffic collisions and crime.
Breaking news cinched victory on social media, where stories of bomb threats and school buses in accidents were seen by more than 37,000 people each on Facebook. Meanwhile, stories of healing, victory, progress and city parks news rounded out more of our most shared, most liked and most commented on stories.
Our most read stories include when Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt warned the village about three overdoses that occurred in one night and on one block of the village. And when Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand announced the arrests of two people accused of confining two children to closets.
Some would say that the high numbers of people reading breaking crime and traffic news suggests “nosiness” while others might argue that it reveals a community concerned about public safety.
While the truth is complex and that both of those motives, and others, are at play, we can suggest another motive to add to the mix – our readers, you, care about your neighbors.
We base that on the data behind heart-string pulling articles on our site. Though fewer in number, they have just as many, and sometimes more, reads than breaking news stories.
When Wilmington Mayor Randy Riley shared, for National Suicide Prevention Month, personal details about his son’s suicide several years ago with readers of the News Journal, he probably didn’t know it would become the year’s second most-read article.
The same may be said about Shelby LaPine’s tearful meeting with her son Luke LaPine’s heart recipient. That article was a very close third, and readers took to social media to share encouraging comments. In fact, it was the most commented, shared and liked News Journal story of the year on Facebook.
Both of those articles received more than 12,400 page views. By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2014 that less than 12,400 people, including children, live in Wilmington.
So, while thousands of people read breaking news about public safety, more people on average read Mayor Riley’s call to families to listen, believe and help their loved ones than live in the city he governs.
That’s encouraging. Idealists though we may be, Wilmington and Clinton County residents seem to care deeply about their neighbors. It may be because of the small town atmosphere, where everybody knows everybody.
But we like to think the community has lived through so much together, and we believe Bill Repp, who received Luke LaPine’s heart, put it best when he said, “We’re family now.”