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Wahl to Wall: Strange behavior in cyberworld

Wahl is editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain.

Published on January 10, 2018 10:05AM


This week, a cyberspace mystery.

Regularly, our online team sends out metrics for our website and social media pages. In comparison with the newspapers in our ownership group, the Chieftain does well in many categories.

One of the highlights each month is determining which story on the website was read most. It’s always interesting to see what people are clicking.

Several months ago, the top story was a piece we had published about shooting death in Troy –– in 2006. That’s unusual to have a story that old suddenly become the “most read.”

Some of you may remember the case. Two couples camping at Grizz Flat near Troy on Nov. 27. Gun play ensued and a Yakima, Wash., man was eventually charged with killing a Weston man. The story as told to the Chieftain by then-sheriff Fred Steen was quite fascinating, the stuff movies are made from.

Benjamin Paul Harrell was eventually exonorated by a Wallowa County Grand Jury and the case quietly went away. Until back in October 2017.

Suddenly, hundreds of people began seeking out the story, clicking and reading.

For the next three months, the story from the Chieftain electronic archives was the most read and commented upon. It was somewhat eerie.

We’ve never really figured out why the sudden interest. In some sleuthing of my own, I discovered that the Chieftain story was the only coverage of the incident in newspapers published in a three-state area, so that solved some of the mystery.

But why now? It’s a 10-year anniversary of the incident and we couldn’t confirm anything else in the current news cycle regarding the two parties.

If I’ve piqued your interest, visit our website and search “Troy shooting.” If you find clues as to why the sudden popularity of the story, please share them with me.

A TRAGIC report on the death of Marc Duncan of Joseph finally knocked the Troy story out of the top spot for December.

Marc’s family shared an extremely intimate obituary with the Chieftain. Hopefully, the content will cause people to stop and think about what they say about folks who aren’t like them.

I’d like to believe our attitudes regarding gay individuals has changed over the past decade. I’d like to believe that were Marc a high school student today, his life might have been less stressful.

I’d like to believe bullying for any reason whatever doesn’t exist in our schools.

I’d really like to believe that.

LOTS OF sporting events in the county this past weekend. Joseph hosted a wrestling tournament. Cross-county rivals Joseph and Wallowa squared off in basketball Saturday night.

The Wallowa gym was as full as I have ever seen it. Both teams played well, but the Eagles triumphed in both the girls and boys games.

If you have the chance to attend a Wallowa basketball game this year, your olfactory sense will be scintilated by the smell of popcorn as you enter the gym. Do not leave without having some. It is great stuff and a bargain, to boot.

More coverage in our sports section this week.

DO NOT miss the current art exhibit at Joseph Center, “Puppy Love.” It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face on even the grayest winter day.

The exhibit runs through Feb. 14. Josephy’s gallery is open Monday through Saturday noon to 4 p.m.

Kudos to everyone who had a part in this project.



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