By SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tumultuous. Horrific. Encouraging. Challenging. Many adjectives can be used to describe the big headlines of 2012. When the stories are happening, we’re wrapped up in the details — fully engaged in order to bring you up-to-the-minute details of the lead story of the day.
But when one reports on big events 365 days of the year, stories can become fuzzy by mid-December. A homicide here, a kidnapping there. Murder, mayhem, death, destruction. Economic development ups and downs.
Wow. Was 2012 really filled with that many big headlines?
Yes, it was.
Selecting the top 10 local news stories of the year is always a challenge. And, usually, the meeting to debate the lineup is one of the most heated of the year.
Reporters and editors can have vastly different ideas on what “the” big story was.
Crime and punishment. Growth versus stagnation. Homicides or cheery, upbeat features. What stories drew the attention of most readers?
In years past we’ve relied on judgment to make the call. Decades of experience in the newspaper business has led us to a degree of knowledge of what readers want to read, and will read.
But with the popularity of our online website, we can now know, with certainty, what our customers are reading.
I’m addicted to our online tracking tool. It doesn’t tell who, specifically, is logged on to our website. But it does provide me with vast quantities of raw data in real time.
• How many people are logged on to our website.
• What stories they are reading
• How they got to the website (search engine, link, etc.)
• What search words they used to land on our site
• If they connected to our site via social networking such as Facebook or Twitter
• How much of any given story they are reading (it’s called scroll depth)
• And much, much more
I pull up these analytics first thing each morning and peruse the numbers while enjoying my early a.m. cup of coffee. After a quick shower and drive to the office, I’m studying the numbers once again. Throughout each hour of the day, I watch which stories are trending, and which ones are not.
After a long day at the office one might think I would go home and relax. I do ... but I also frequently check in with the real-time website data. I like to know what is being read at 9 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight?
These website numbers are not used to determine the top 10 stories of the year. However they are given due consideration, along with a host of other factors.
When debating the merits of each story we examine a plethora of factors, such as impact on the largest number of readers, influence on the community now and in the future, affect on our culture and society, readership value, headline value and more.
Headline value is a tough term to describe to those who are not in the newspaper business. We are not a tabloid, and thus we do not base our A-1 lineup or website content on sensational news.
Yet some stories — valid, real, community reports — have an inherent quality that draws the reader in. They engage from the moment they are posted.
When these stories occur, we don’t play them up or down. But we do term them as stories that have the “wow” factor.
This year’s top 10 story meeting was much less heated than usual. Perhaps because there were so many important, interesting stories nominated for the list. There was a bit of debate between the No. 1 and No. 2 stories, but the top contender won out for a variety of reasons. It was interesting to note how many journalists in the room dubbed it a “once-in-a-career story.”
The No. 2 story on our list detailed a dramatic event that impacted many in our readership area. It underscored how Mother Nature’s wrath can wreak havoc on thousands of people in a mere few hours.
The No. 3 through No. 5 slots were also big headlines that had impact on local communities, as were the final five slots that rounded out the top 10.
Perhaps most notable in this year’s debate were the big headlines that didn’t even make the top 20 lineup, but could have been in the top 10 in years past.
For those interested in our picks as top 10 local stories of the year, check out Monday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph.
Today, readers can check out a new feature — our favorite photos of 2012.
Last week, the newsroom staff examined archive editions and informally voted on favorite photographs that appeared in the Daily Telegraph from January through December. Unlike the top 10 list, the images were not necessarily based on news value. Instead they represent moments in time in our community — moments that were captured by “photogs” and shared with you, our readers.
Like any good photo, they all evoke emotion.
Most of the photographs were taken by Chief Photographer Eric DiNovo and staff photographer Jon Bolt. However, images snapped by Telegraph correspondent Marcus Constantino and Senior Editor Bill Archer also made the cut.
The photos appear in today’s edition on pages B-2 and B-3. We hope you enjoy the visual trip down memory lane.
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at BDTPerry.