HOW A NEWSROOM SOLVED THE MYSTERY OF AN OLD STORY THAT RESURFACED

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contents - ▶ BY JEAN HODGES CONTRIBUTER As se­nior di­rec­tor of con­tent, Jean de­vel­ops strat­egy and works with newsroom lead­ers on dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, from newsroom struc­ture to us­ing an­a­lyt­ics to in­form news de­ci­sions. As jour­nal­ists face myr­iad chal­lenges, the

Some­times an old story you posted on­line pops up and your web­site traf­fic ex­plodes, which is wel­come, but you’re left with a lit­tle mystery. Why is this story do­ing so well now? Ac­tu­ally, why is it do­ing even bet­ter than it did orig­i­nally?

The Re­pos­i­tory in Can­ton, Ohio, had such a mystery re­cently. A story about a man sen­tenced for killing a po­lice dog, Jethro, was out­pac­ing ev­ery other story on its site. The story was al­most a year old.

Can­ton’s on­line news ed­i­tor Dwight Kier reached out to see if we could help solve the mystery. I used to read a lot of Nancy Drew mys­ter­ies when I was a kid, so I was ex­cited to be on the case. Let’s call it “The Se­cret of the Old Story.”

In this case, you might won­der if there was a le­gal de­vel­op­ment: Was he el­i­gi­ble for pa­role? The man was sen­tenced to 45 years, so that wasn’t pos­si­ble.

Clue No. 1: An­a­lyt­ics showed where traf­fic came from

Kier knew traf­fic from the post was com­ing from so­cial me­dia. In fact, about 85 per­cent of the traf­fic was com­ing from Face­book, ac­cord­ing to Parse.ly, an an­a­lyt­ics tool. Face­book doesn’t tell Parse.ly which posts might be driv­ing the traf­fic, but Twit­ter does (thank you, Twit­ter).

Clue No. 2: Twit­ter pin­pointed a com­par­i­son

A quick look at the tweets showed that peo­ple were com­par­ing the sen­tenc­ing of the man who killed Jethro to the ac­quit­tal of the po­lice of­fi­cer who shot and killed Phi­lando Castile. A jury found the Min­nesota po­lice of­fi­cer, Jeron­imo Yanez, not guilty June 16, and a dash­cam video was made pub­lic June 20. Traf­fic started to spike on The Re­pos­i­tory’s web­site June 21.

Clue No. 3: Face­book con­firmed it

A Face­book search also found peo­ple mak­ing that com­par­i­son and link­ing to Can­ton’s orig­i­nal story. In fact, the re­porter who wrote last year’s story, Ali­son Matas, wrote a fol­low-up story that con­firmed what we found and what Can­ton’s Jes­sica Hol­brook also dis­cov­ered: Peo­ple were com­par­ing the fact that the Min­nesota of­fi­cer was ac­quit­ted in the killing of a black man, while a black man got 45 years for killing a po­lice dog Jethro.

Here’s one ex­am­ple:

As the re­porter re­veals in her story, peo­ple got the facts wrong. The man who killed Jethro was sen­tenced for sev­eral of­fenses that added up to 45 years. He also pleaded guilty, while the of­fi­cer in the Castile case was ac­quit­ted.

Can­ton did a lot of things right:

1. They solved the mystery of why an old story was do­ing so well us­ing an­a­lyt­ics that were then con­firmed by the re­porter, who was re­ceiv­ing emails and calls from read­ers.

2. They pub­lished a new story that ex­plained that peo­ple were look­ing at the head­line, “Man who shot po­lice dog Jethro gets 45 years in prison,” and think­ing the sen­tence was just for shoot­ing the dog and not for the other of­fenses.

3. They linked from the old story to the new one and the other way around to guide read­ers to the truth.

The key to solv­ing “The Se­cret of the Old Story” was an­a­lyt­ics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.