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One of the 10 biggest local news stories of the year was published just a few days ago.
That’s as measured by online page views, or the number of times a story is viewed by readers at therepublic.com.
The stories that rank highest among local online viewers almost always fall into the tragedy category, but this one is an exception. Unless, that is, you consider holding trick-or-treat hours on a rainy, windy Halloween night to be a tragedy.
It appears that thousands of you did.
With many of you watching the weather and worrying about your children or grandchildren either braving the elements on a rainy Halloween night or missing the opportunity altogether to collect Halloween candy, this story suddenly got big.
Our phones started ringing off the hook, with people asking if we could persuade the city to postpone trick-or-treating in Columbus until Friday, when the weather was expected to be better, as many other central Indiana communities already had.
Some of you emailed your requests.
Initial word from City Hall was that trick-or-treating hours Thursday would go forward on schedule, rain-or-shine. But that didn’t sit well with many of you. I’m guessing you also called the mayor’s office.
Pressed for answers by our trick-or-treat reporter (not a regular news beat, but an important assignment that day), city officials told us Wednesday morning that Mayor Kristen Brown would take the matter under advisement and have an answer by 3 p.m. that day.
She didn’t need quite that long.
At 2:34 p.m. Wednesday, we posted breaking news that Brown had rescheduled the trick-or-treat hours to Friday after hearing “overwhelming public sentiment for the change.”
We had been told that city leaders wanted to get the very latest forecast so they would be making the important trick-or-treat decision with the most accurate information available.
Which was: “The National Weather Service forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of heavy rain on Thursday with wind gusts over 30 mph and a chance of severe storms.”
With trick-or-treating moved, we could move on to other matters.
But not before dozens of you weighed in using the commenting feature on our website. Here are some excerpts of the trick-or-treat-gate comments.
“Thank goodness we thought on our own about this. I thought we might have to do a $100,000 study.”
“So does this mean the Halloween candy at stores will be on clearance Friday or Saturday??? Oh the unintended consequences.”
“Is Halloween a holiday? Do you get off work and get paid? Think not!!!!!!!!!”
“So we’re changing holidays based on weather now? Can we move Christmas to June? And let’s move Independence Day celebrations to October ... much cooler.”
“According to usa.gov, it is listed as a holiday that is not observed by businesses or the government.”
“Another example of ever-more government intervention into religion where it doesn’t belong.”
“I think we should rename Halloween ‘Introduction to Diabetes Day.’”
“Do you have to take the fun out of everything?”
Any thought to moving this in direct conflict with the East football game?”
“When I was a kid we went trick or treating no matter what the weather was. Of course, I also rode my bike five miles to school. I guess we were tougher back then.”
The Republic and its online companion, therepublic.com, strive to provide a forum for the sharing of ideas on topics that matter to our readers. This one clearly struck a nerve, but it’s not an isolated interest.
The popularity of online news and commenting in the Columbus market is reflected in our audience statistics. Local page views through the first 10 months of this year at therepublic.com have topped the 5 million mark, an increase of 35 percent year-over-year.
We treat you to the news, and local consumers of information are eating it up. But not just on Halloween, or whatever day it’s celebrated, but every one that ends in “day.”
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