By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor Cowboy State Daily
It’s that time in the calendar when news organizations look back at the biggest stories of the year and provide some commentary.
That’s what Cowboy State Daily’s Bill Sniffin and Jim Angell are doing and there are no people better than doing that.
This column is a bit different. This is just about numbers. The stories that generated the most traffic because — most likely — of social media.
Something caught someone’s attention and the sharing took-off.
These stories aren’t the most important but they generated the most readership. It’s likely because of coronavirus-fatigue. People were looking for stories that didn’t remind them of the coronavirus.
That’s not to say people weren’t reading coronavirus-related stories. They were. By category, there was nothing bigger than stories about the pandemic and we did over 900 of them.
The top ten stories, however, it appears gave people a break from the bad news.
Let’s dig in….
This was the story about the Yellowstone grizzly that downed a bull elk and took a couple weeks to eat it. In the meantime, photographers and videographers by the hundreds — it seemed — gathered to document the bear’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A wolf sauntered by (if wolves can saunter) and decided he might have a snack. Fatty the Bear, as we called him, was not in a mood to share and let the wolf know.
As we wrote in the September 30 story, we could empathize:
We’ve all been there. It’s late on Friday. You have a few thousand beers. You order a large Meat-Lover’s special and hork down a couple of slices David Hasselhoff-style before you pass out upside down caught in the steps of a spiral staircase.
It’s a story as old as time.
You wake up the next day craving more of your pizza only to find it gone.
You learn from that experience to guard your food. [FULL STORY]
If the story was about Grizzly 399 and her cubs, chances are it performed very well on Cowboy State Daily.
We loved writing about the five-some. This family of bears gave us welcome escape during the pandemic.
Even though we wished — often — that tourists would just leave them alone, we also realized that when someone took a photo or video of the bears, we could write about it.
This story was simple. It was just about the four cubs who had fun playing with some traffic cones.
To make it better, a tourist decide to narrate the fun on his iPhone while sitting in his RV.
As we wrote: “From the video, it sound like Chris Pipes could be a former TV anchor. He described what he saw like someone might do the play-by-play of the Rose Parade.” [FULL STORY]
No chance of a Pulitzer on this. But who cares? It’s a fun story.
Having been a Mötley Crüe fan since 1983 and knowing about Nikki Sixx’s successful battle with addiction, this was a story — when we heard about it — that we wanted to jump on.
It’s a human interest story.
It’s fun how we heard about it as well. One of our readers texted us and said she was walking down her street in Teton Village and passed Sixx, his wife, and their daughter. And they were all very friendly.
She was reluctant for us to report about it as she thought it could be TMZ-like, which we understood.
By the same token, however, the couple took to Instagram to announce their departure from Los Angeles to Teton County so we thought they weren’t being shy about it — so why not write it up?
There were great photos of the rocker along with his baby daughter in their airplane and in subsequent Instagram posts, he was really quite complimentary of Wyoming.
Although the story generated a number of “who cares?” comments and “he should stay in California” mean-spirited remarks on our Facebook page, there were also plenty of people who were welcoming as well.
For the record, we do recognize Teton County as part of Wyoming although a vocal number of commenters believe Teton County should be kicked out of the state.
Another bear story. People love bear stories. Except this gentleman. He hates bears.
Shannun Rammel was attacked by a grizzly earlier this year. People could say he brought it on himself as he snuck up on the grizzly in an abandoned shed (never a good strategy).
Regardless, you gotta admire his ability to be calm under pressure.
After getting attacked, he asked his wife to film him on her phone so he could tell the story of the attack in case he expired.
“You can see my bones and my tendons,” he said. “He ripped into me pretty good there.”
As we wrote:
His wife told the TV station that when she saw her husband “getting thrown like a rag doll,” she came up with the idea of running over the bear in their truck.
“So when I punched the truck, he stopped and looked at me, dead straight in my eyes,” Jammie Rammel said. “He got off Shannun and turned around and got out of there,” she said. [FULL STORY]
The weirdness of 2020 continued with two freak summer snowstorms. One that happened in late August and a huge one that occurred right after Labor Day weekend.
This story just previewed the first one and Ellen Fike presented it in full context:
As the 10 biblical plagues continue to curse Wyoming and the rest of the world, a portion of the state will see another favorite friend: snow.
This storm didn’t generate a lot of snow but the next one sure did. [FULL STORY]
This was a shocking story because of what could have happened.
The video is insane. You see a grizzly running down the same path where three hikers and a baby (AND A BABY!) are hiking.
Hikers from a close ridge are filming the action and letting them know to make some noise.
Instead of making noise, the hikers (on the same trail with the grizzly and THE BABY) start to run.
The other hikers yell at them “Don’t run. Don’t run!!!”
Then the hikers start laughing (the ones who are safe filming the whole thing). Thankfully it ended okay. As we wrote:
To be fair, the bear didn’t show any interest in pursuing those hikers and it was a really nervous situation so it’s not as though he was cheering on the grizzly like he was watching a gladiator fight in Ancient Rome.
“Thank goodness that it all went well afterwards,” he said. “Other than that it was a beautiful day for a hike down to Hidden Lake.” [FULL STORY]
Guess what? Another grizzly story.
This one is another close call. A grizzly is running full speed (as far as we can tell) after a couple mountain goats down a mountain trail and comes to a fork in the road.
The bear has a decision to make. Keep running after the mountain goats (who can run quite fast) or take the other trail where he would run into humans (who are really slow).
Thankfully the bear chose to stay on the same path. But it was close.
The video was a bit wobbly but we understood.
We don’t blame the hiker for the wobbly video.
After all, if we were just feet away from a grizzly barreling down the mountainside in full pursuit of two mountain goats, our video might be wobbly too.
No word if the mountain goat survived. The hiker, for some reason, chose not to run after the grizzly to get the footage. [FULL STORY]
Only one direct coronavirus story scored in the top 10. Out of more than 900 coronavirus stories we did that may seem a bit surprising.
It doesn’t to us. As we already mentioned, by category, traffic to coronavirus-related stories dwarfed everything else.
But there was also coronavirus overload. People looked to the fun bear stories or the wacky weather stories to escape.
And this one is kind of a hybrid coronavirus and wacky human interest story.
A poll from alcohol.org polled 3,000 American workers and found out that 25% of Wyomingites who worked from home due to the coronavirus were drinking on the job.
In the Rocky Mountain West, we were number one! As we wrote:
Does 25% seem high to you? Of our neighboring states only one has a lower percentage of boozers (and it’s not Utah).
Only 22% of South Dakotans are taking advantage of not having a boss around.
Hawaiians flat-out don’t care. A full two-thirds of them are opening up the hatch while working on TPS reports.
The lowest state? Arkansas with only 8% admitting to honking the hooch. [FULL STORY]
This wasn’t the biggest Bison versus Human story of the year (that’s coming up) but this was still one heck of a story.
It’s still amazing to us that no one is hurt. The video, again, is insane and shows a couple idiotic tourists who believe bison are tame, cute puppies who just want to be petted.
They don’t. And this bison was not happy. But because the woman played-dead, the bison left her alone.
We don’t know if that was a good strategy or not. The best strategy is not getting out of your car.
And then there was the moron who “tried” to help. As we wrote:
Reports are that the woman was not injured.
No word on the condition of the man, appropriately dressed in green shorts and sandals, who tried to pick up a tree branch (and failed) in an effort to look like he could actually do something against a 2,000 pound bison. [FULL STORY]
You knew this had to be number one. The story that sparked a National Park Service gingerbread cookie in its honor.
The story of a female biker who left her motorcycle to go pet a bison in Custer State Park.
She didn’t lose her life but she lost her pants.
As we wrote:
One of the bison’s horns got caught in the woman’s belt and “swung her around violently.”
“She was apparently saved when her pants came off and she fell to the ground unconscious,” an eyewitness said. “[A]t that point, the attacking animal ran off along with the rest of the herd.”
Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechalev told the outlet that the woman escaped serious injury in the incident. [FULL STORY]
Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.