DAZE WORK: Crime and punishment catch readers’ interest
Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching how other people read the newspaper.
Do they grab it, shake it out and stare at the front page?
Do they immediately search for the obituaries, not really to see if they’ve made the deadline but to check on acquaintances and neighbors.
Or, in the big city, do they flip the tabloid edition (think Chicago Sun Times or New York Post) over and read it from back to front, starting with the sports?
Whenever I’d see someone pick up the Banner Graphic, I’d watch and try to determine what story caught their eye. It was difficult but often you could follow their lead by paying attention to when the article was continued on another page.
Nowadays, with our website -- bannergraphic.com -- we can recover statistics as to what our subscribers are reading. Tracking the top stories of the year is something we routinely do, although this year procrastination has reared its ugly head (let’s go ahead and blame Covid).
Check out the website. Where do you click? One story has a fancy photo with it. Another carries an intriguing headline. And there’s a familiar guy in another photo who’s a frequent newsmaker. He’s up to something ...
So where do you click? If you’re like most of our readers from Fillmore and Cloverdale, Roachdale and Reelsville, Bainbridge and Russellville and Heritage Lake and Greencastle, you gravitate to crime and punishment stories. Thefts and accidents more than politics and education.
Here are the top 20 stories of 2021, according to statistics from our website:
1. Two dead after head-on collision. Gary Bailey, 72, Cloverdale, and Billie Hatton, 21, Spencer, died in the collision. The story garnered 8,368 page views, almost 3,000 more than the No. 2 story. That was probably due to multiple versions of the story after the initial report and follow-up when the victims’ names were released.
2. Park Board proceeding toward normal pool season. Readers dove in to see what the status of the renovated city pool was going to be for 2021 following an idled 2020 summer due to Covid.
3. Pedestrian dies after being hit by car on SR 240. Initially unidentified, the victim was later identified as Kristy L. Sparks.
4. Video appears to put Gonzalez at scene of Attkisson’s death. Although this story was only from the first day of the trial of John Gonzalez -- who was later found guilty of murdering Lisa Attkisson in her Berry Street home -- it was surprisingly the only story from that case/trial to crack the top 20.
5. Former Greencastle man charged in Whitis shooting. That man was Russell Harvey II, 23, Gary, who later pled guilty in a plea agreement in the Haley Whitis killing.
6. Heavin, Newby resign from South Putnam School Board. Anthony Heavin and Craig Newby resigned due to philosophical differences at the end of the April board meeting, Banner Graphic Staff Writer Brand Selvia dutifully reported.
7. Old Charlie’s site to house return of Domino’s Pizza. The Putnam County Comprehensive Services-owned building on Bloomington Street was sold to Domino’s, which is now conducting business there in its second Greencastle go-around.
8. GCSC to again require students, staff to mask up. The Aug. 16 story by Editor Jared Jernagan was the first of many school-related mask stories the last quarter of the year.
9. Bainbridge woman dies in Hendricks County crash. Jennifer (McFadden) Backus was fatally injured when she pulled out of State Road 75 into the path of a semi on U.S. 36.
10. Cloverdale couple charged with theft from youth baseball league. Former president and treasurer of the Cloverdale Community League, Stephen Caulkins, 41, and Amber Caulkins, 37, were charged with taking $2,100 in youth league funds.
11. Tomaw charged with stealing PCYDC funds. Bob Tomaw, 43, Greencastle, was charged with taking more than $3,000 in Putnam County Youth Development Commission funds.
12. Greencastle couple seriously injured in Monday crash. James Grivas, 59, and wife Susan, 58, were seriously hurt when their vehicle was struck by a box truck on State Road 240 near County Road 725 East.
13. South Putnam grad dead in Clay County shooting. The victim was Ronald B. Williams, 35, Reelsville, while the alleged assailant, Teddy Gibson, 44, Indianapolis, was charged with murder and attempted arson. He is facing a Feb. 28 jury trial in Clay County.
14. Roachdale Elementary closed through Nov. 15. A high number of Covid cases and the need to quarantine were the deciding factors.
15. Greencastle woman identified as victim of Saturday fatal. This was the follow-up to story No. 3, announcing that the victim was Kristy L. Sparks.
16. Police investigating stabbing at Walmart. Not much info ever released. Nobody apparently ever apprehended as story spawned multiple frustrated comments from subscribers.
17. Police seeking suspect in Bainbridge bank robbery. Another frustrating story where it appears that the flow of information in the Tri-County Bank and Trust robbery has been slowed to a trickle by FBI involvement in the bank robbery case.
18. Driver killed in single-vehicle crash. Albin Pond Road accident. The victim was Anita Cundiff, 48, struck a utility pole before coming to rest at an embankment behind the guardrail.
19. Woman shot in melee outside Cloverdale bar. The victim was Sierra Miller, 36, Poland, who was shot outside the Red Roof Liquor Bar and Grill. The alleged shooter was never charged.
20. Suspect in machete attack in custody. You don’t see “machete” much in our headlines but that was the weapon of choice for Stephen Taplin, 39, Colorado, during an altercation at Fillmore. Taplin was later found not guilty of all charges.
Well, that’s the way things went in 2021 from mayhem to melee to machete. Just a typical year.
All we can add is this: Keep on reading, dear friends …