Tag Archives: police blotter

Better Off Flipping Burgers

If and when I really lose it, please let the press know I would like to be referred to as “Lady Fingers.”

I can see the headlines now:

Lady Fingers strikes again

FORT WALTON BEACH – Another one of the Daily News’ commenters has been found with every finger cut off and discarded in their trash can.

Lady Fingers is believed to have had a psychotic break after multiple comments were issued in Police Blotters she wrote for the paper’s website. She is considered dangerous to anyone that has written a snotty comment.

It happened again.

I wrote a story about a man who was arrested for having a little blue pill in his pocket without a prescription. I didn’t read the comments, but apparently they weren’t positive.

One person, I was told, even commented that perhaps I should go into the business of fast food and hamburger flipping rather than journalism.

Our graphic design guy and the rest of the newsroom felt so bad that they thought they would try and put a positive spin on it and made me a McDonald’s badge rather than the press pass I requested.

Thanks guys!


Wacky Signs, Catchy Headlines and Sensational News

When I was in J-school I was told that what was up-and-coming were newspaper websites (formerly Web sites, but AP loves change).

So, I focused my energy on learning web. That’s how I got started on this blog … it was for an online media class.

When I was applying for jobs right out of college the first place that offered me a job had absolutely no online presence and that ultimately made my decision not to go with the paper.

At the weekly newspaper, the website was just beginning to go up. The publisher’s goal was to make the paper weekly but online be a daily. It didn’t exactly work, but I learned how to update the site, do videos and make photo galleries.

Then contrast it to the daily I’m working at now. The paper averages 5 million page views a month.

A couple months ago when the oil spill was fresh and disasters were happening all over, we hit over 8 million – in one month. That’s huge for a paper with less than 100,000 in circulation and for a paper who’s previous editor said we would never get over 5 million.

Lately, however, we’ve been dragging.

So here is what I’ve learned through experience and from those around me on what works and what doesn’t.

Driving web page views:

In breaking news: Put up a photo gallery of a.) wacky signs, b.) girls on motorcycles or c.) Weird bumper stickers.

In top story: Put up a quirky story with a good front photo and a photo gallery. Videos don’t hurt, either.

Local: Death, destruction, child molesters in jail and throw in a couple of feel-good or business stories so the site isn’t too bleak.

Police blotters: Headlines are the key to this. Make it short, simple and witty. Adding a mug shot and putting (MUG) in the headline also helps

How to slow the website:

We learned just this morning, if you have a photo gallery with too many photos not of individuals people won’t click on the photo and you’ll lose page views. Also, adding too many photos to one gallery overwhelms the reader and they lose interest. Not something you want.

Put up nothing but crimes. People like crimes, trust me – I know. But if it’s the entire site they grow tired of it and start looking for other things.

People also find such words as “tourist development,” “legislation” and any name that appears on the site too often boring. Mixing up the headlines helps with that problem.

We don’t like to sensationalize, but making the story sound more exciting than it is really does increase page views. Having a photo does the same thing and that is true for print papers as well.

Since starting here, my instincts towards the web have gotten much better. I know which celebrities people will find interesting, which stories will be clickable and how to set the website up for the optimal amount of readership.

I hope these tips help someone else who, like me not too long ago, knows little about the world-wide web except that they need to know something.

Good luck all you J-school kids, in the end it’s totally worth it!

Little Gold Nuggets

Sometimes you know what you’re reading is better than just plain good.

Today, I was bored out of my mind. I was working on three stories and waiting for a call for each of them.

I had exhausted all of my “kill time activities,” which include going through arrest reports and highlighting the juicy tidbits so others writing can decide if they like it or not quickly.

I am bored often.

So while going through the arrest reports I stumbled upon some truly amazing arrest reports.

One had a man trying to steal a live lobster. He literally went to Red Lobster, distracted the hostess and grabbed the lobster out the of the tank. When the hostess came  back she saw the man trying to stuff it in a bag he brought with him.

Right behind that report sat another piece of gold. A misuse of 911 where I man claimed to need help for a “broken heart,” amazing.

Some things I just don’t think you can make up and those two reports were among them. They write themselves and guarantee at minimum thousands of page views.

So, thank you Lord for little gifts that come in the form of hilarious arrest reports. I needed it.

Comments, What Are They Good For?

When I worked at the weekly paper last year we posted our stories online but we were not emphasizing web all that too heavily. At the Daily News web is all we push.

If a story doesn’t seem “clickable” it often times falls to the wayside, which is not a good thing but it’s how we operate. So understand that coming into this job of writing blotters and breaking news I never thought about the readers on the other side… well I never thought of the lack of pure kindness they would display.

Starting out, I would get so excited to see comments on any of my stories and instantly click to see what they had to say. All to quickly I learned that was a mistake.

Our commenters are positively vicious. It started out with snide remarks about the blotters, then it got personal.

They went from making rude comments about the story to actually writing my name and then adding their rude, demoralizing comment.

We’re encouraged to read the comments to see if we’ve made and error, if someone has a tip or perhaps knows anyone we are writing about so that we can continue to get the most coverage possible, but it’s not something I enjoy.

I now dread opening up any of my stories because the commenters seem to be particularly hateful towards my stories. It’s not like I’m a sensitive person.

I work in a field where I get smacked around, trashed and kicked out of places all the time. It comes with the territory and that’s fine. That’s understandable. That’s even tolerable.

What I really cannot stand are the people tucked safely away from the world behind their computer making brazen statements about things they don’t know. It’s so easy to stand behind a mask and say whatever you want – it’s another matter owning what you say.

I’ve learned though, as I always do, through trial and error.

I no longer read each and every comment, or take offense to the one’s that tend to be less than nice to yours truly. Like life, I just take it with a grain of salt.

I mean, how angry can I be about being called mean names when I’m writing a story about a 29-year-old guy that died that same morning. Perspective here is key.

So commenters, I’ve got nothing to say to you – and that’s the way it will stay.

You’re little mind games have no affect on me. None whatsoever! (This is a tad bit of a lie, but you get the victorious gist of it.)