By far the most-viewed image on the Free Press Facebook page last year was of a forest green wagon – a Subaru? with an out-of-state plate? – stuck up to the running boards, drifted slightly sideways, listing slightly driver’s-side, toward the Salmon River, wheels bound in muck that had been fertile ground before Fiddle Creek and others south of White Bird blew out over U.S. Highway 95 in a flash flood Aug. 9.
This photo, snapped by Bill Marek of White Bird and published by the Free Press at 8:07 a.m. Aug. 10, captured blue twilight and the bright yellows, orange, green and blues of six plastic kayaks tied to the vehicle’s roof rack. Flashlight or headlights from Marek’s vantage – the only other illumination in the scene – caught the crest of mud alongside deep ruts. The brown berms held still water, which in the deeper spots cast a pure reflection of blue sky, cloudy above the ridgeline, and mercifully clear toward the coming daylight.
Through the Free Press Facebook page, this photo went out to nearly 600,000 unique people – what Facebook refers to as “reach.” It appeared on those people’s screens nearly 1.1 million times – what Facebook calls “impressions” and was “engaged” – liked, commented or shared – more than 150,000 times.
The mudslide photo was by far more engaging on Facebook than even the second-biggest story of 2019 on the Free Press Facebook page. In the midst of the Sept. 3 high-speed chase for which Jackie Shayde Sedillo is scheduled to face trial next month – Free Press reporting on Facebook reached more than 31,000 people and was engaged by more than 10,000 people. The pursuit ranged from south of the Adams County line up Highway 95 through Grangeville and eventually into Cottonwood Creek Canyon, where Sedillo was apprehended.
These surges of readership were driven by extraordinary interest from the enormous number of people who drive Highway 95.
Other high-interest Free Press Facebook page postings during 2019 had geography in common: Snake River country was home to both the Coopers Ferry dig for ancient history and to the search for Shawnta Larae Pankey, who had been missing since April 2018 and whose remains were found in May. In August, the Coopers Ferry archaeologists published findings of evidence of people who lived in this area 16,000 years ago.
Stories such as the above are exceptionally important, but about four-fifths of Free Press Facebook traffic was made of the bread-and-butter coverage the newspaper has provided readers since 1886: of government and public workers, such as on Mountain View School District’s decisions to retain teacher Mike Johnson and hire superintendent Woody Woodford; of business and business owners, such as on the Joel Gomez family’s decision to keep The Trails open in Grangeville; and on local people’s achievements, such as Darin Hunter’s knife-making and James Lawyer’s horse-raising, James Cornia’s diesel-mechanicing and Jordyn Higgins’ basketball-playing.
The easiest, surest way to never miss a story is to take the paper or go directly to the idahocountyfreepress.com website and give it a read each Wednesday.
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