Top story of the year will always be debatable

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of columns looking back at regional news in 2014.

The most important news story of 2014 may not have been the most memorable. If your family had a baby or lost a loved one, the story that mattered most to you probably wasn’t on the front page of any newspaper. Also, the story that seems important today may seem irrelevant in a few years. A story that only warranted a few paragraphs in 2014 may become the most important news of the decade, depending on what happens next.

But while no two individuals may agree on the “top story of the year,” there is evidence reflecting the stories that online newspaper readers found most intriguing.

Here are some of the most-viewed stories from our newspaper websites in 2014:

David Stevens

David Stevens

• Six of the 12 most-viewed reports from 2014 were about the November homicide of Ariel Ulibarri in a Clovis city park. The story published the day Ulibarri’s body was found received more than 45,000 online page views — one of only 14 articles that received more than 10,000 page views during the year.

• The most-read single report was not a story at all, but a series of photos showing tumbleweeds stacked as high as roof tops from the January invasion that followed a night of 60-mph winds. Some people reported being trapped in their homes, unable to make their way through the stacks of weeds.

Clovis city workers spent a week gathering tumbleweeds and crushing them with heavy machinery.

The pictures, all submitted by readers/victims, received more than 65,000 page views.

• Among the 25 most-read stories, only three would not be classified as criminal, deadly or violent — the tumbleweeds, a report on the planned opening of a strip club in Curry County and a story about an agreement to sell Plateau Wireless assets to AT&T in June.

The initial report on the “adult entertainment” club, also in June, received more than 8,000 page views. The Plateau report was viewed about 7,900 times.

• While readers, at least online readers, clearly are interested in tragic events, they also like to read about weather. Two stories about the July 1 flooding in Clovis made the top 50 most-viewed list, as did a report on a farmer who lost his roof in a June wind storm. The weather information on the Clovis News Journal home page was accessed more than 5,000 times in 2014.

• Online readers also showed an interest in nostalgia, with reports on the closing of Furr’s cafeteria and Stansell’s grocery store ranking among the top 50 most-viewed.

• The most-viewed letter to the editor was written by retired educator Keith Ingram. Critical of the state’s education policymakers, it was headlined, “Schools in a desperate situation” and received more than 4,200 page views.

• The most-viewed opinion column was written by retired pro football player Hank Baskett III, who remembered his friend from Clovis, Brooke Hankins, who died in March. The article was viewed by 9,600 readers.

• The most-viewed editorial was published a week after Ulibarri’s death: “Park homicide more haunting than most,” received 7,800 page views.

• Portales online readers had similar tastes as online readers in Clovis this year. The initial report on a Nov. 1 homicide in Portales received more than 9,000 page views, by far the most-viewed story of the year at pntonline.com.

A profile of Eastern New Mexico University bull rider Irvyng Urquijo, who was killed in a practice session, was seen by 4,300 readers.

Portales readers also appreciate yesteryear. This week’s report on the closing of the area’s last remaining full-service gas station was viewed by more than 950 readers in just three days. That makes it the 47th most-viewed story of the year in Portales already.

The top news story of the year in Clovis, as determined by editors, was the tumbleweed invasion; the No. 1 story in Portales, editors decided, was the end of construction along U.S. 70. We think those stories had the most impact on our communities.

But the top story of the year will always be debatable, depending on perspective and interest.

David Stevens is editor for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 1-800-819-9925. His e-mail address is:
dstevens@cnjonline.com