The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 12, 2014

Spear column: Reporters, readers had different views of top stories

Free Press newsroom and readers had different views of 2013 top stories

Maybe Free Press readers are more optimistic than Free Press newsroom employees. Or maybe we just see the importance of the news in slightly different ways.

The experiment to test this thesis came with the publication of our top 10 stories of the year and a poll to readers on the topic. Each year, The Free Press staff of reporters, editors and photographers put together a list of top 10 stories of the year in terms of newsworthiness and impact on the communities we serve.

The staff of about 20 people come up with a list of about 20 stories. We then take a vote on which stories should be included in the top 10. We vote on a ranked basis so the story with the highest number of high rankings is the top story. We then countdown and review the stories in the newspaper between Christmas and New Year’s.

You can usually count on a murder story making it as the No. 1 story or very close. If there are no murders — an increasingly rare event — the top story usually involves change at a major institution, a surprising election or a big shift in the economic landscape.

This year we surveyed Free Press readers or “members,” as we now embrace them, and asked them to rank their top stories from the list of 20 or so stories the newsroom came up with as nominations.

The results surprised me, though I suspected readers would see the top stories a little bit different than jaded journalists.

The newsroom top pick was a murder. Levi Minissale killed Yesenia Gonzalez— a woman he knew — by cutting her throat during a confrontation at her home. The murder occurred around 10 a.m. on a warm June day and Minissale was arrested shortly after the incident at the Holiday station on North Riverfront Drive.

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