Every once in awhile, one of us here at The Sheridan Press receives a phone call or an email that includes comments lamenting the state of news today. The feedback typically includes a wish that the news media — The Sheridan Press included — would cover more “good” news.
We try to include a broad range of topics in our publications. We talk about local schools, state legislators, budgets, politics and crime. But, we also highlight local students’ achievements, the accomplishments of area businesses and, in general, many “feel good” stories involving local residents.
We can’t get to them all. Sometimes we have to prioritize what we cover. Sometimes we don’t report on an event or issue the way we’d like.
But we do track what our readers enjoy. We’ve conducted surveys — like the one completed earlier this year on our behalf by Aaron Atkins as part of his master’s thesis. We also track website pageviews and Facebook likes and shares. Twitter, too, comes in to play.
Here’s what we find: Yes, the “feel good” stories are often shared by friends of those included in the articles. But those aren’t the stories dominating traffic on our website and social media pages.
The 10 most-read articles read so far in 2016 are:
1. Man killed in home intrusion
2. Victim of weekend attack receives outpouring of support
3. Standoff ends peacefully
4. Police plan to wait out suspect
5. Name of victim in early morning fire released
6. Avalanche victim identified
7. Bond set as details emerge from weekend attack
8. Judge sets $150,000 cash bond for man accused of murder
9. Longtime county attorney may face criminal charges
10. Business owners express concerns as standoff enters third day
While some of the articles listed above included a positive ending, none are what I would consider “feel good” articles. They aren’t about kids building robots; individuals conquering the wilderness; or a big advancement for the Sheridan community.
So, where is the disconnect?
I’m not sure; though it is easy to guess. The data counters what we hear. Granted, those numbers don’t include what readers of our print edition most enjoy so the final tally of most-read news articles could shift if we could track that as easily as the digital readers. We do track our daily sales from the racks in the community, though, and many of those same headlines appeared in the top selling editions.
A week or so ago, I received a call about two boys building a fort in a friend’s backyard. They pieced it together with pallets and whatever other materials they could find. The boys, the caller told us, should be commended for getting outside, building something and getting out from in front of the various screens that often dominate their lives.
Our community is full of fun, uplifting stories like that. It also has its share of hardship. So, we’ll keep publishing a variety of news for our community. Give it all a read.