A look back at our first full year of providing hyperlocal news to West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and although there have been some tough stories that I’ve reported during the past 12 months, overall I am so happy as managing editor for We-Ha.com.
Exactly a year ago we officially launched this site. Although we started posting content on We-Ha.com in July, we had a large “Beta sticker” across the top as we worked out the kinks in the new platform and figured out how to make this work. On Sept. 2, 2014, the day after Labor Day, we removed the Beta tag and put ourselves out there as officially in business.
And we feel like we have found the right formula and are succeeding, and we hope that you, our readers, agree!
There have been just about 600,000 page views in the past year, and we reach about 25,000 unique visitors each month. We have 1,748 Facebook friends and more than 1,500 subscribers to our Monday-Wednesday-Friday newsletter. We’re getting press releases and tips about events and news from a wide variety of sources throughout the community.
Of course there’s always room for improvement, so please let us know in the comments section if you have any suggestions. You can also email me directly at [email protected].
Don’t hesitate to send me a press release about your event, no matter how small, and we’ll do our best to post it. We would especially like to hear from adult sports leagues (send us your stats!) and other organizations that may otherwise not get any publicity. If you’re working hard, you deserve to see your name in print!
As editor, I have personally had some fantastic and fascinating experiences over the past year. Some of the notable ones include riding in a Ferrari, riding with the West Hartford Police Department on both distracted driving and DUI enforcement campaigns, driving a go-cart while wearing “impairment” goggles, modeling in a fashion show, seeing a bear up close and personal, watching the rescue of a baby red-tailed hawk, and having a tour [while in good health] of the inside of a Lifestar helicopter.
Over the past year I have also photographed all of my “favorite” events in town, including the Morley backpack and red wagon brigades, numerous proms and graduations, the Park Road and Memorial Day parades. I’ve reported on many sporting events from the sidelines, and attended countless ribbon-cuttings and fundraisers.
I took a look back at all of the stories that have been published over the past year (1,559 of them!) to see what has really resonated with our readers. Listed below are those that generated the most page views. I’ve included links to each one, in case you want to read them again.
You will notice a definite theme for many of the top stories: food and drink. West Hartford residents love their restaurants. Animal stories and other business stories have also been very popular, as have some of the school and police stories.
Many of the Business Buzz columns also were among the top stories, but are not listed below.
- Silver Alert issued for missing West Hartford teen. Thanks to our caring readers, this story received hundreds of shares and came in as our top story of the year. Luckily the missing teen was found, unharmed.
- Prospect Café reopening in West Hartford. There was lots of excitement when we broke this story on March 25. We brought you updates in August and will let you know when the grand opening is scheduled.
- South Main Pizza closes its doors. This one was sad news about my neighborhood pizza place.
- Rail station to be built in West Hartford. This story was posted when design plans were released in January. Let’s hope it happens. We will keep you posted!
- West Hartford will celebrate this weekend. A guide to all that was planned for the 2015 Celebrate West Hartford.
- Conard/Hall football documentary. Sports producer Matthew Vinick created a documentary about West Hartford’s inter-related “first families” of football. The documentary aired before a large crowd in December.
- Peek inside the 2015 Junior League Show House. A sneak peek is always a popular story, especially when it’s a peek inside one of the town’s stately Tudor mansions.
- Peek inside World of Beer. Sneak peek, food, and beer combined makes a story guaranteed to resonate with West Hartford residents.
- West Hartford Historic District Commission hopes to save historic 1918 bungalow. Most West Hartford residents highly value the diversity of architecture in this town, and hate to see it disappear. Look for some updates to this story coming very soon.
- Posh Tomato opens in Blue Back Square. Food.
- Suspect sought in bank robbery. There were actually three of these stories that ran within a week’s time. All three of the robberies have been solved.
- West Hartford resident develops innovative personal safety device. David Benoit, co-founder of Wearsafe Labs, has developed a platform (Wearsafe Tag and app) to enhance personal safety.
- Herb’s Sports Shop to close West Hartford store. We broke this sad news about a West Hartford Center business just last week.
- Board of Education votes to Warrior and Chieftain names to remain. There were actually quite a few stories related to the topic of the Hall High School and Conard High School logos and names. Added all together, the topic would come in much higher on this list, but on its own the story about the Board of Education’s decision was read by several thousand people.
- Dog park may soon become reality. The West Hartford Dog Park Coalition and its supporters rejoiced over this news back in October. However, the dog park was ultimately rejected for the Buena Vista site in May.
- Frank robinson has died. Many mourned the passing of Hall High School’s legendary football coach, who was also one of the main subjects of the documentary that aired in December.
- Teacher of Year finalists named. Jen Lanese, Jennifer Hall, and Christine Newman were all finalists for West Hartford’s 2015 Teacher of the Year. Lanese, an English teacher at Hall, was the winner.
- Lux Bond robbery suspects sought. This story, on Oct. 8, was the first breaking news posted on We-Ha.com. We have tried to be very judicious in our use of the breaking news alert, and only send out a newsletter when we feel it’s warranted.
- Damon’s Tavern closes. Another food/drink story. Even though Damon’s was not technically in West Hartford it was across the street and frequented by many residents. The closing in July was something about which we thought, correctly, that residents would be interested in knowing.
- Driver injured after crashing into home. This happened in mid-August (the day after I got back from vacation) and was one of those fluky incidents. The homeowner was in the room of her home that the car crashed into, but thankfully was unhurt. The driver sustained what appeared at the time to be minor injuries.
- West Hartford businessman donates wheelchair van. This one is definitely a heartwarming story. Thanks to a generous donation by West Hartford resident and businessman Rob Bouvier, owner of Bouvier Insurance, a handicapped man in Enfield is able to once again leave his house. Bouvier saw a story about 24-year-old Adam Avery’s plight that was reported by WFSB’s Jill Konopka, and it resonated with him. Within days, the Avery family had a van and Adam’s life was transformed.
- Police investigate decomposed body. This one happened on a Sunday just over a week ago. I will never un-smell what I smelled that evening. West Hartford Police are still investigating and we will provide updates when additional details are available.
- Resident receives UConn football scholarship. After four years as a walk-on at UConn, Conard graduate Jeremy Claflin was awarded a scholarship for his fifth year of eligibility. He’s now a graduate student in accounting. Claflin, his family, friends, and many others were thrilled to learn this news. We’ll be looking for him out on the field when the season begins this Thursday.
- Bear removed from West Hartford yard. This was my up-close-and-personal bear encounter, although it was nothing like what the woman in Sessions Woods experienced earlier this week. I will admit that I was excited to be close to the bear when it was trying to hide in a tree, and it was fascinating to observe the capture process and to have the tranquilized bear close enough to touch.
- West Hartford “blizzard central.” When a blizzard appeared certain to hit West Hartford on Jan. 26, I wrote the first installment of this story and continued to update it as information was gathered from Public Works, schools, town officials, the governor, and others. I am hoping to avoid this type of story this winter but if we have a major weather event, I will certainly be covering it. I promise, however, not to send out breaking news alerts about a few snowflakes falling in January.
- Truck flips over ramp. This fatal incident occurred just last week when a snooper truck flipped over and crushed a bridge inspector who was working on the exit ramp from Park Road to I-84 eastbound. The incident is still under investigation by OSHA and other agencies.
- Stories about “Baby Delamar“. We brought you multiple videos and stories about the red-tailed hawk dubbed “Baby Delamar” that was hatched in a lone pine tree left on the construction site of the Delamar West Hartford Hotel. We reported on the hawk’s hatching and watched as it grew and was nearly ready to fledge when it became ill. I watched the West Hartford Fire Department and a wildlife biologist from DEEP rescue the young hawk from the pine tree. It was whisked off to Tufts Wildlife Clinic but sadly died 10 days later.
Those are just some of the top stories of the past year. Did you have any favorites that we didn’t mention?
Thanks for being loyal readers of We-Ha.com. I’m really looking forward to our next year! Please let me know if you have any feedback at [email protected].
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Thank you, Ronni, and Happy Anniversary!
Our collective “hats off” to you!!
Great First Year!! Love the quality of the content and the current nature of all the articles.