Spreading the news

December 29, 2012 - Updated: 1:24 p.m.

Social media give traditional media outlets like The Spokesman-Review new insights into what readers are interested in, what they’re talking to others about. We can and do track which stories or other content are shared and liked on Facebook and Twitter.

The information isn’t precise. We know that many of our readers don’t use social media, for example, and our staff shares just a small percentage of our daily content on those platforms.

But it’s still interesting, and often illuminating, to see what readers like. Sometimes they pick up our biggest stories, the journalism we’re most proud of, like Becky Kramer and Kathy Plonka’s look at the boomtown economy of North Dakota. Breaking news stories typically get a lot of attention on social media as well, such as the shooting of two Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies last June.

Because it was an election year, many of the most popular stories on social media concerned political matters – so many that we’ve broken those out into a separate list.

But sometimes, readers like and share items we wouldn’t have expected, such as a letter to the editor praising local law enforcement for the kindness of notifying a homeowner that his garage door was open. Or a wire-service story about a hero dog.

We can learn lessons from that information.

Here are the stories and blog posts that readers responded to in 2012, measured by the total number of likes and shares on Facebook and compiled by Ryan Pitts, senior editor for digital media.

Stories and features

1 The New American Dream: North Dakota oil boom provides hope, prosperity – 1,209 – April 29. Reporter Becky Kramer and photographer Kathy Plonka traveled to Williston, N.D., to report on the tens of thousands of people flocking to jobs in the oil fields there.
2 A fading art form – 1,169 – April 15. Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner and Plonka reported on the dying art of cursive writing.
3 Caring officer helps citizen – 1,036 – April 28. A letter to the editor from Jim Sjothun, of Spokane Valley, applauded local law enforcement, saying the writer had many positive experiences with officers.
4 Spokane soldier killed in deceiving attack in Afghanistan – 931 – June 20. Reporter Chelsea Bannach’s story on the death of Spc. Jarrod Lallier, a Mead High School graduate.
5 School shooting reported in Newtown, Conn. – 809 – Dec. 14

The first reports of the shooting in which 26 people, most of them children, died.

6 German shepherd wins national hero dog award – 730 – May 7. An Associated Press story about a former shelter dog that was honored by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
7 Police race to the scene of officer shooting – 694 – June 19. Staff reporting on an incident in which two Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies were shot by a suspected heroin trafficker who had escaped from a rehab center. The man led law enforcement on a high-speed chase before killing himself.
8 License to wed – 676 – Dec. 7. Reporter Jennifer Pignolet’s story on the first same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses in Spokane County, with photos by Dan Pelle.
9 Church appointee aided CIA on terror – 672 – Oct. 18. Reporter Jim Camden’s story on a Spokane psychologist who developed controversial interrogation methods being named a bishop of a local Mormon congregation.
10 Lake trout gives fisherman the finger – 621 – Sept. 25. Reporter Scott Maben’s story on a man whose fingers were severed in a wakeboarding accident on Priest Lake, and the Rathdrum resident who weeks later reeled in a fish that had swallowed one of those fingers.

Political stories and opinion

1 Idaho’s forced ultrasound bill dies – 7,183 – March 27. The Idaho House of Representatives declined to allow a hearing on a bill that would have required any Idaho woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound. The bill had been approved earlier by the state Senate.
2 Idaho’s forced ultrasound bill likely dead

– 3,465 – March 21.

3 Guest opinion: We’re Catholic and we’re for marriage equality – 1,483 – July 14. A guest op-ed piece in support of Referendum 74, Washington’s marriage equality bill, written by Greg Jones and Anne Buckley Jones.
4 Vestal: Thank God the godly know God’s stand on gays – 1,444 – April 18. Columnist Shawn Vestal wrote about testimony before the Spokane City Council opposing Referendum 74.
5 Editorial: Affirm R-74 because state has no role in personal choice – 1,390 – Sept. 16. The Spokesman-Review editorial board urged voters to approve R-74, calling it a “courageous and compassionate law.”
6 Editorial: Washington a beacon for marriage equality – 1,387 – Nov. 9. The editorial board applauded voters for approving R-74.
7 Vestal: Plenty of Spokane’s faithful supporting Referendum 74 – 1,091 – Oct. 6. The columnist interviewed religious leaders who supported R-74.
8 Vestal: Witt has next civil rights victory scheduled – 807 – Dec. 5. Vestal interviewed Margaret Witt, the retired Air Force major who sued the Air Force and the Department of Justice over the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, on her impending marriage.
9 Idaho’s $182 million laptop contract just rental – Oct. 30. Reporter Betsy Z. Russell obtained a copy of a $182 million state contract to provide laptops to high school students and discovered that the state wouldn’t own the computers and would be responsible for damage or theft of the machines.
10 John Webster: The old party isn’t so grand anymore – 709 – Nov. 03. Webster, The Spokesman-Review’s editorial operations director, wrote an Opinion piece about why he became disillusioned with the Republican Party.

Big-picture galleries

1 Marriage licenses for same-sex couples – 446 – Dec. 7. Couples line up in Spokane to obtain marriage licenses. Photography by Dan Pelle.
2 Then and Now photo illustrations – 297 – ongoing. Historic and present-day images paired by Jesse Tinsley.
3 Monster Dash 2012 – 212 – Oct. 28. Runners and walkers participate in the annual Halloween 5k celebration at Spokane’s Manito Park. Photography by Dan Pelle.
4 Spokane deputies shot – 212 – June 19. Staff photography from incident in which two Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies were shot by a suspected heroin trafficker. The man led law enforcement on a high-speed chase before killing himself.

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