Social media, interest in crime fueled Whatcom’s top online stories in 2014

The top local stories on Bellinghamherald.com in 2014, as measured by page views, mirrored some of the stories staff chose among their top 10 of the year. But the influence of social media and the online public’s thirst for crime stories clearly pushed many stories to the top.

The overall online No. 1 was fueled mostly by readers outside Whatcom County, after a national social media campaign claimed a Bellingham couple’s children were taken away because they had a home birth and were breastfeeding. Those were not the factors, as the court case revealed in our story headlined Court: Return Rengo children to parents, with conditions.

Three of the top 10 involved the horrific downtown Bellingham crash on Memorial Day that killed one pedestrian and injured three others. The initial story came in at No. 3 on the list, reporter Caleb Hutton’s in-depth investigation into the case took the No. 5 spot and coverage of the arrested driver’s court appearance came in at No. 8.

A wild crime where a man slit a woman’s throat, phoned in fake mass shootings to 911 and then killed himself when confronted by police captured two spots on the list. The original story on him attacking the woman and killing himself after a police chase near Ferndale came in at No. 2 while the follow-up story detailing what happened was the year’s No. 6 story.

Readers were outraged by a man who, upset over a barking dog, went up to a neighbor’s fence on Undine Street and shot a Corgi to death inside their yard. That story was spread across dog-lovers’ websites and blogs, pushing it to the No. 5 position.

The only positive story on the list told the story of a Deming boy who rejected financial help from two millionaire investors after his appearance on TV’s “Shark Tank.” Henry Miller’s refusal to give up local control of his Henry’s Humdingers honey products came in at No. 7.

A babysitter who investigators say made up a story about a home-invasion robbery to cover up a burglary she helped coordinate hit No. 9 on the list. The 17-year-old’s fake story about taking the small children she was watching and fleeing from the robbers on Northwest Drive caused a massive police response. In the end she and the the two “robbers” were arrested.

The death of a Squalicum High School student who lost control of her car on an icy Barkley Boulevard made the final spot on the list. Fellow students held an impromptu memorial for Hannah Dashiell, 17, and a fundraising effort for a bench honoring her reached its goal almost as soon as it began.