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Ask readers for help, and they’ll help you right back

The two most popular stories on Startribune.com in June? Whistleblower stories that came from reader tips.
By David Brauer

In a Sunday piece on the Strib’s investigative reporters, editor Nancy Barnes noted that a Whistleblower story on a man boarded up inside his own home received more than 200,000 page views last month.

That’s a figure most of us would envy, but here’s what’s more interesting: Whistleblower stories were the two most viewed on startribune.com in June.

The saga of a woman in a mobility scooter barred from a White Castle drive-thru lane also received more than 200,000 views, says Terry Sauer, the Strib’s assistant managing editor for digital.

To be sure, neither piece will win the Strib a Pulitzer and both lack society-changing impact of kick-ass investigations, even by Whistleblower’s own standards. On some level, they’re classic newspaper “talkers” — stories that are interesting if not always significant — and the kind of people-centric features TV has long done (without much fanfare from media critics).

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Still, as hit-getters go, these addictive slices of the human condition deserve a place in a journalistic cornucopia, and it’s nice the Strib reaps page views from higher-quality stuff than skin-baring celebrity-obsessing hit-whoring elsewhere on the web.

A few months ago, I praised Whistleblower for putting out the welcome mat for reader tips and stories in way the Strib previously hadn’t. This shows that if you ask readers for help, they’ll help you right back.