It was a banner year for LJWorld.com, which saw its highest traffic ever. Nearly 5.7 million people visited the site, accounting for more than 20 million visits and about 66 million page views.
As of Dec. 29, we published more than 19,400 stories, more than 17,600 photos, more than 5,000 blog posts and nearly 1,500 videos. (Last year, the site published more than 5,000 videos. Many of those were from 6News, our former news partner that was purchased by Knology last year.)
It wasn’t just our reporters and photographers who were prolific in 2011. You were, too. More than 53,000 of you signed up to use
LJWorld.com, leaving more than 430,000 comments.
The community on LJWorld.com is vocal, opinionated and passionate. We see that in debates about everything from national politics to how trash is handled in Lawrence; in the nearly 800 photos submitted by readers, many for the whimsical Dear Lawrence project spearheaded by photographer Nick Krug; in the hundreds of blog posts and comments left on WellCommons.com, a health news site and local resource led by reporter Karrey Britt; and in our engaged Twitter and Facebook communities.
The most popular stories on LJWorld.com are consistently those about Jayhawk sports; traffic accidents; crime; and local business and politics.
But in 2011, the offbeat and tragic were the stories that drew the largest audience.
Here’s the list of the 10 most-clicked stories of 2011:
The 10th-most-popular story on LJWorld.com this year was also one of the saddest. A car driven by 24-year-old Ryan Pittman crossed from the eastbound to westbound lanes of Kansas Highway 10, striking a minivan occupied by a family. Pittman was killed, as was 5-year-old Cainan Shutt of Eudora. Cainan’s 23-month-old sister, Courtlynn, was hospitalized with a broken neck. Investigators concluded that marijuana, anxiety medication and methadone in Pittman’s system contributed to the accident, which spurred the Kansas Department of Transportation to move forward with a plan to install median barriers. The story was viewed 18,070 times.
The McLouth community was shaken when 16-year-old Justin Johnston, in Costa Rica for a class trip, was shot and killed by a hotel guard who mistook the student for a trespasser. Hundreds of people crammed into McLouth United Methodist Church to pay their respects to Justin, who was known for his wit and high spirits. The story received 19,376 views.
When the state moved to recover more than $46,000 in back taxes owed by the owner of Jefferson’s Restaurant on Massachusetts Street, it was prepared to seize the restaurant’s most visible assets: the colorful dollar bills posted on its walls. When it became apparent that owner Jason Franklin wouldn’t be able to pay the debt, the state organized an auction to sell Jefferson’s assets. The restaurant reopened in late February under new ownership. This story got 21,412 hits.
The initial story on the fatal K-10 accident that killed two people, including a 5-year-old Eudora boy, drew 184 comments, expressing shock, sadness and anger at the dangers posed by the highway. The jarring images of the damaged vehicles, as well as the death of young Cainan Shutt and the injuries suffered by his 23-month-old sister, Courtlynn, made this tragedy even more poignant. The story was viewed 25,401 times.
Much like Bill Murray’s character in the film “Groundhog Day,” Kathy Shuck relives the same thing over and over. The story of the Lawrence resident whose fence near a sharp bend on U.S. Highway 59 has been crashed into more than 30 times, was the sixth-most-popular story on LJWorld.com in 2011. It wasn’t just local readers who were drawn to this story; the website Fark.com, which specializes in weird stories, sent significant traffic our way. While her fence has not been hit since the story ran, Shuck worries what will happen when the road gets icy. Plus, the fence is adorned in holiday lights; someone asked her if it was a bull’s-eye. The story of Shuck’s Sisyphean situation drew 30,230 clicks.
Peter Pratt found an unusual surprise in a Lawrence garage he inherited through a court case: a classic 1966 Shelby that hadn’t been driven in 26 years. One classic car dealer called it a “Holy Grail,” and it was later auctioned in Texas for $81,950. Perhaps boosted by interest in television shows like “Auction Hunters” and traffic sent our way from the automobile blog Jalopnik, this story had 33,312 views.
The issue of illegal immigration has drawn lots of talk in Kansas this year, especially with Secretary of State Kris Kobach making headlines for his role in penning controversial legislation in Arizona and Alabama, and a voter ID law here that could make it more difficult for people to vote. Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, stepped into the fray in March, likening illegal immigrants to “feral hogs” and saying the illegal immigrants could be controlled if hunters in helicopters shot at them. The comments were made in a discussion about state spending for controlling the feral swine population. Peck apologized, but not before the story made national headlines. The Journal-World story drew 36,621 views.
The beauty — and some would say curse — of the Internet is that everything lives forever. That includes news stories, and our three most-clicked stories of 2011 are all from years past. No. 3 was the Journal-World’s first look at K2, a synthetic narcotic that has similar effects to marijuana. Area law enforcement and school officials were already on the lookout for K2 when we reported the story, and Gov. Mark Parkinson banned it in March 2010; 42,640 curious readers clicked on this story.
2) In Cold Blood, April 3, 2005
Another older item sits in our runner-up position. In 2005, the Journal-World, with contributions from journalism students at the University of Nebraska, ran an in-depth and fascinating series about Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood,” which examined the 1959 murder of a Kansas family. The 2005 coverage includes the original stories about the murder of the Clutter family, and the series looked at the mythology of the Capote story. A photo gallery, including old file photos, images of the Clutter house as it stands today and classic photos of the socialite-author Capote, drew 61,089 clicks.
1) MTV, Rolling Stone list top 100 pop songs since 1963, Nov. 19, 2000
And the No. 1 story in 2011, (drumroll, please) … another blast from the past, a story from 2000, listing the top 100 pop songs since 1963 as determined by MTV and Rolling Stone. The top song, by the way, was “Yesterday” by the Beatles. It’s another nod to the memory of the Internet, and the story is the eighth result when you Google “Rolling Stone top pop songs.” More than 77,000 people viewed the story. The Web never ceases to surprise.
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There’s a lot to look forward to in 2012.
Soon, someone will leave the 2 millionth comment. We will inch toward publishing the 1 millionth story on LJWorld.com. We will continue to innovate online, using the vast array of tools at our disposal. These tools will help us better analyze data to scrutinize how public officials are using tax dollars, how public figures and organizations work for (or against) residents and how Lawrence is preparing to move forward in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Our readers, in print and online, play a very important role in the evolution of the Journal-World, which was first published under this name in 1911. We thank you for picking up the paper and logging onto the site. We look forward to covering life in our city, the journeys and triumphs of our neighbors and the pride of our teams in new ways. We hope you’ll continue to support the journalism that the Journal-World has provided for a century.