2010: The people’s barometer
Stories that journalists believe are important may sometimes not feature very highly on people’s own list of priorities. Kurt Sansone takes a look at what most sparked readers’ interest last year going by results on timesofmalta.com.
Pope Benedict XVI’s visit may have been a highlight of 2010 but it was not his homily on the Granaries that most enthralled online readers. Rather, it was the caustic art of a graffiti artist who sprayed a “panda” on the Pope’s billboard.
An unknown graffiti artist stencilled two images of the internationally acclaimed symbol for paedophilia – the pedobear – on two billboards with the Pope’s image in Marsa.
The Panda print story went online on April 10, a week before the start of the Pope’s visit when the Church’s campaign to entice people to join in the celebrations was at its climax. The story, which consisted of a photo of the defaced billboard and a mere 53-word article, shot to the top of the Most Read list on timesofmalta.com and attracted the most views of all stories throughout the year.
Even if labelled a vandal act, the artist’s actions captured the mood of critics as the Pope’s visit came in the middle of a worldwide scandal that saw the Church hounded by serious accusations of priestly sexual abuse.
No other story managed to capture the imagination of online readers in such a strong way but the flash floods on October 25 came a very close second.
In fact, five of the top 10 most read stories were related to the storm that caused heavy flooding and disrupted daily life during the island’s equivalent of a natural calamity. The floods also provided some comic relief when coffins from an undertaker’s flooded store in Qormi were seen floating all the way down to Marsa.
This undoubtedly added interest to the story and a 52-word article, which was accompanied by a photo submitted by timesofmalta.com reader Richard Hili and a YouTube video of a coffin floating down the valley, was the most e-mailed story for the year.
Human tragedies also featured in the top lists for 2010. Making it to the Most Read list were a story about the cancellation of the Mosta feast after a fireworks tragedy claimed the life of an enthusiast and the police confirmation that the bomb that exploded at the Transport Malta offices in December was lowered from the pine grove at the back of the building.
On a less serious note, the online version of a letter that appeared in The Times by reader George Attard Manchè from Gudja, who poetically described the rough and tumble of a human rush for cheap carpentry tools at one of the Lidl supermarkets, was the sixth most e-mailed article in 2010.
Divorce did not feature in either the Most Read or Most E-mailed sections but it was definitely the subject that elicited most online debate, with no less than four divorce-related articles making it to the Most Commented top 10 list.
As expected, the most contentious aspect of the divorce debate that inspired people to post their comments online was the religious dimension. The article Voting For Divorce Is A Sin, which reproduced the comments of the Church’s pro-vicar Mgr Anton Gouder on August 19, was the most commented article. It elicited a range of opinions from those who wholeheartedly championed Mgr Gouder’s stance to those who cried foul, describing it as a fundamentalist approach.
A follow-up article, quoting former Labour minister Joe Brincat saying that the threat of spiritual harm was illegal, entered fourth place as the most commented article in 2010.
Readers’ tributes to Guido de Marco, Thea Garret’s failed Eurovision attempt and the news that the World Cup football match between England and Germany was not going to be shown on TVM also made it to the Most Commented list.
Ten most read
1. Panda print – April 10
2. CPD says situation on the roads returning to normality – October 25
3. Mosta outdoor feast expected to be cancelled after fireworks tragedy – August 13
4. Coffins float on floodwaters in Qormi – October 25
5. Police confirm Transport Malta bomb was lowered from Pinetum – December 2
6. Man shot in Valletta – Appeal for blood – November 23
7. Massive traffic jams following excavator accident in Marsa – April 23
8. Undertaker claims damages of €350,000 as coffins float away – October 25
9. Cars carried by floodwater in Qormi – October 25
10. Cars float in Balzan – October 25
Ten most e-mailed
1. Coffins float on floodwaters in Qormi – October 25
2. Thunderbolt strikes Mistra – September 10
3. Young man’s sudden death under investigation – January 15
4. Angry Malta protests over new Frontex rules – February 1
5. Council seeks removal of Luqa “vulgar” monument before Pope’s visit – April12
6. Queue that turned a Lidl too rough – September 27
7. The wayward bus... – October 5
8. Girl fights blindness after rare contact lens infection – November 21
9. CPD says situation on the roads returning to normality – October 25
10. Cars float in Balzan – October 25
Ten most commented
1. Voting for divorce is a sin – pro-vicar – August 19
2. Readers pay tribute to Guido de Marco – August13
3. Power fully restored – cars, lamps provide lighting for processions – April 2
4. Divorce: Threatening of spiritual harm illegal – former MP – August 21
5. Pullicino Orlando presents divorce Bill – PN group to meet tomorrow – July 6
6. Malta fails to qualify for Eurovision final – Thea: “I did my best” – May 25
7. Church: Cohabiting couples cannot receive Communion – May 22
8. Massive traffic jams following excavator accident in Marsa – April 23
9. England-Germany match will not be shown on TVM, Rai – June 27
10. Pullicino Orlando’s parish stresses anti-divorce stand – July 19