It is always interesting to compare the annual "top stories" list with those that were the most popular online because they never quite match up.
What draws in readers often is not the most important news, and that is doubly true online because of the global audience that might latch onto what we newsroom types call "Hey, Martha" stories.
While the list below is of the top stories on tricityherald.com for total traffic, two other "stories" actually bested all of them.
In August, we published a searchable database of Washington employees. The database was created by The (Tacoma) News Tribune, a fellow McClatchy newspaper that shared it with us. The database received nearly 61,000 page views, with more than half coming in August. And our page that shows school closures because of snow and ice brought in more than 22,000 page views.
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Overall, the Herald's website received more than 36 million page views in 2011, the most since we launched the site in 1996.
The following are the top stories online.
1. Kennewick High grad still among living. This story received 12,506 page views. It appeared in August, two days after a story about the Kennewick High School Class of 1971's 50th reunion. Cheri Schumann, one of the women listed by organizers as having been murdered, actually was alive and well and living north of Seattle. She called us to let the community know she was doing just fine. The odd nature of the story caused it to go national, and a Seattle TV station interviewed Schumann later in the week. About half the traffic to this story came from the news aggregation website fark.com.
2. Kennewick construction company auctions itself off. This story by reporter John Trumbo appeared in early December and told the story of how Ashley Bertsch Group went on the auction block because the owner said the tax burden of staying in business was too great. This drew links from fark.com as well as political site instapundit.com. It also played well on Facebook.
3. 'Black Swan' dives into darkness. Gary Wolcott, the Herald's longtime movie critic, drew the wrath of film fans when he didn't give Black Swan his highest regard (though he didn't exactly pan it, either). The review actually appeared in December 2010, when it received 7,900 page views. The traffic continued in January, giving the story another boost of 9,500 page views, thanks primarily to a link from rottentomatoes.com.
4. Hanford worker goes for wild ride in portable toilet. Hanford reporter Annette Cary had to be chuckling when she wrote this story for the Oct. 20 paper about an unnamed Hanford forklift operator who moved a portable toilet while it was still in use. Hotair.com, a news aggregation site, linked to us, bringing in nearly 4,000 of the 9,200 page views the story received.
5. Lusk accused of leaving county without permission, will stay in jail. We get halfway through this list before we find a story that also makes the "serious" top 10 list. It was one of many stories about Linda Lusk, Prosser's ex-mayor who admitted to a tryst with a high school student. This particular story was published in November and appeared on our website for only a day but still drew 8,500 page views, thanks to a link from Google News. All of our coverage about the story brought in nearly 45,000 page views in 2011.
6. Kennewick police uncover alleged prostitution ring. Reporter Kristin M. Kraemer's story about a 19-year-old woman accused of forcing underage girls into prostitution drew nearly 8,100 page views and 40 comments. Interestingly, most of the traffic came from people finding it on our website, rather than through news aggregators.
7. FSN Northwest transitions to ROOT Sports. Eric Degerman, online managing editor for the Herald, is a former sportswriter who writes the Rub of the Green blog on our SportsTriCities.com site. This blog post was written Jan. 3 and didn't have the benefit of appearing in the printed paper, yet it still drew more than 8,000 page views, thanks to its appearance on the Google News home page.
8. Accused Kennewick firefighter attempts suicide. The sad story of Ryan Gladstone, a Kennewick firefighter accused of sexually assaulting a young girl, appeared in the paper and online in January. This story, about his attempted suicide, drew 7,800 page views. When he died a few days later, another story received 6,500 more views.
9. 1,600 layoffs in the works at Hanford. Finally, the top story in our community in 2011 makes news online. This was, of course, just one of dozens of stories about Hanford layoffs, but it brought in 7,200 page views. Interestingly, nearly 1,500 page views came from a link on the Department of Energy's extranet website.
10. Man dies in 'horrific' I-82 crash near Kennewick. Reporter Paula Horton drew the assignment for this story about a fatal crash south of Kennewick in June. The story received 6,700 page views after it was linked on the MSN and Yahoo News home pages. A gallery of photos taken by staff photographer Paul T. Erickson received more than 77,000 page views and was the highest-trafficked gallery of the year.