People sometimes wonder why newspapers seem to “only report the bad stuff.”
Well, I’m here to say that (a) that’s not true and (b) we report the bad stuff because it’s what people read. The more readers we have, the easier it is to sell the product to advertisers. The more advertising we have, the easier it is to report the next story, good or bad.
I know, I know. You don’t read the bad news. And the person standing behind you, reading this over your shoulder — well, he doesn’t either. Neither of you read about the 2-year-old boy, Matthew Wyatt Lohman, who was killed by a passing motorcycle Saturday night while crossing the road with his family, on his way to enjoy Christmas dinner at his church.
But somebody did. More than one somebody. Since the story was first posted to www.yourdailyjournal.com Sunday evening — yes, we work weekends — the article, through late Tuesday morning, had generated 15,936 page views. That is direct visits to the website.
The circumstances of young Wyatt’s death are, I believe, only a part of the reason why people read stories like this. It’s also his age. No one can imagine losing a child that young; everyone takes a moment to pull closer, or hug a little tighter, those you hold dear in your life. It’s a story most of us can connect to simply out of the incredible grief we share with the Lohman family.
In recent weeks, that’s not the only “bad news” story that has gained traction. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office busted a meth lab in Ellerbe, although one could argue that’s a bit of good news-bad news. Regardless, when we put that online, visits skyrocketed and in very short order the story had attracted 8,477 page views.
To put those two figures in perspective, the normal high end for a story over the past few months is about 1,500 views; if we hit 1,000, then it’s clear that it’s an issue that’s important to Richmond County readers.
On Thanksgiving Day, meanwhile, I traveled to Dobbins Heights to report on the Watkins-Kendall families that help put together a neighborhood meal to feed nearly 300 people. It takes a lot of heart, and more than a little sweat equity, to pull the venture off. It’s a “good news” story any way you look at it, but since then that article has attracted a mere 181 page views on The Daily Journal’s website.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, staff writer Amanda Moss attended and reported on the presentations given by Richmond Early College High School (REACH) students. Some pretty amazing young men and women are doing some things that we all should be paying attention to — and showing the younger folks that the “cool kids” are, in fact, working hard.
Natalie Watts completed her project on Alzheimer’s disease. It’s likely an issue that affects many people, directly or indirectly, here in Richmond County. We love supporting local students and, honestly, enjoy going to these types of events. But guess what? That article generated a measly 35 — that’s right, fewer than three dozen — page views.
Honestly, covering events like this is not why I went into, or stay in, the news business. But if we don’t cover events like this, your local newspaper might not be around to report the news, good or bad.