(Timing + Buzz) x Tags = Blog Hits

It’s a formula that will demand blog hits every time. A recent event in my home town proves it works.

Quick Background: On the evening of July 28, a young man was arrested in Jonesboro, AR, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a patrol car. Moments later, he somehow managed to commit suicide.

The arresting officers were white. The man placed under arrest was black. And for several weeks to follow a divide between races went public. National news agencies from all the major networks covered the story, only adding to the local community buzz.

Ten days ago, Rev. Jesse Jacksoncame to Jonesboro to lead a prayer vigil and a

chavis carter and jesse jackson

Chavis Carter

peaceful march questioning the details (or lack thereof) of Chavis Carter’s death.

***

From a blogger’s perspective, a story like this has the perfect ingredients for a recipe that will set your blog afire.

When Jackson arrived, I spent no more than a grand total of 30 minutes snapping photos and doing a quick interview. But it was important to be there in a physical sense to observe and get a “feel” for the environment.

I came home, tired from a long day, and really didn’t feel like writing the full story, so I published an immediate tease with a photo of Jackson. The short post gave readers notice the story would appear on the blog first thing next morning. The tease story, a photo and one paragraph, generated hundred of blog hits over night while I slept soundly in bed.

Early the next morning, I wrote the full story with a headline designed to get search engine attention, tagged the photos and story with key words, and the blog lit up like a match.

Some readers even criticized the post for “stirring up a mess.” I’m okay with stirring up a mess when it’s based on facts and newsworthy events. The fact is, controversy generates attention.

Since the time of the original post more than 30 different phrases have been plugged into various search engines leading them straight to my blog.

In all, the original post’s had more than 1,500 hits, and a day hasn’t gone by when a search engine didn’t lead a reader to the story.

It’s an opportunity that presents itself more often than you may think.

Here’s another example:

Were there more hours in the day, I’d write an additional post today about Hurricane Isaac, a story that’s dominated the news for days. The hurricane, now a tropical

hurricane isaac

Arkansans will receive much needed rain from now Tropical Depression Isaac. Just a different angle to the story.

storm, soon to be a tropical depression, is headed straight up the gut of my home state. While it’s created havoc at the point of landfall, Isaac will bring much-needed rain to hundreds of thousands of acres devastated by drought conditions over the last four months.

Isaac is actually a positive weather event in my neck of the woods, and it would be a great angle for an original blog post. There’s just not enough hours in the day. But you understand the strategic potential.

When you’re presented with an opportunity that has the elements of timing and buzz, you can choose to make a small investment of time, think “tag-strategic,” and readers will come.

-30

Should You Stir the Pot Just to Get Blog Hits?

(Blogger‘s Note: This post was inspired from several comments on a recent post at this site, particularly a comment from fellow WordPress blogger Rich Brown. Due credit also goes to an inspirational post from Copyblogger.)

***

stirring the pot stevenwwatkins

Should you stir the pot, just to get blog hits?

The short answer to this question is no.

The longer answer requires a few more keyboard strokes.

THE BACKGROUND

Two days ago, I wrote an objective, news-type post about a visit Jesse Jackson made to my hometown in Jonesboro, AR. Jackson was here to lead a prayer vigil and peaceful march to bring attention to the circumstances of the death of Chavis Carter, who on July 28, committed suicide by gunshot wound in the back of a police car.

Questions regarding how such circumstances could transpire have permeated the local community and added fuel to a growing racial divide.

I wrote this post about Jackson’s visit, and the post itself became nearly as controversial as the original circumstances that prompted it.

The post generated a number of comments, one of which challenged my right to “spread the mess” of the timely and newsworthy topic. And so I responded to the reader’s comment here.

Via social media, I’d been publicly accused of “spreading a mess,” and encouraged to “hush up.”

EVEN JUSTIN WILSON “STIRS UP” DIRTY RICE

I’ve written a number of posts that some might consider Christian genre. I’ve talked about forgiveness, compassion, etc., etc., but…

There are at least four things I will not tolerate:

1. Don’t mess with my wife.

2. Don’t harm a hair on my children’s head.

3. Don’t even think about limiting anyone’s freedom of expression.

4. Don’t hide behind your racial prejudice.

***

MY OPINION

Journalists have been “stirring the pot” since the time Galileo declared the world wasn’t flat.

We live in a great country that happens to be in a horrible mess. Never before have we been so divided along the lines of race, religion, life and opportunity. So much of it is, I believe, because we just don’t talk about it and reach across the lines of our discomfort.

So, back to the message. Is it okay to stir the pot just to get attention? No, not for that reason.

It’s okay to stir the pot when you passionately believe in a cause and wish to exercise your God-given right (moreover, your obligation) to take a stand, fulfill your purpose, and make a difference.

A wise man once told me that life’s not wrapped up in a pretty little package. We should be most concerned, he said, when we rest in the comfort and belief that we have things all figured out.

If you passionately believe in a cause, and genuinely want to make a difference, you’re not stirring any pots. You’re pursuing your destiny.

I HOPE THIS IS YOUR TAKEAWAY

The rights we all share to agree to disagree are a magnificent thing. We should never allow our uncomfortable disagreements to bring us to the point where we stop talking altogether.

If you’re standing and writing for the things in which you passionately believe, you’re not stirring any pots.

And we all benefit from the pursuit your higher calling.

-30-

Related articles:

A Response to the Reader Who Made Me the Angriest I’ve Ever Been

freedom of expression

“I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” ~ Capt. Woodrow F. Call in Lonesome Dove

Most who read my work, know that while I’m opinionated, I’m about the easiest going guy in the world.

I’m also a professional. I’ve been paid to write my entire life, have 170 collegiate hours, two degrees and have published articles in two professional journals on the topic of communications law and ethics. And as a professional I have a VERY thick skin.

My work is out there for public consumption. I put it out there every day, and with that, comes any reader’s right to make fair comment and criticism. I welcome your critique, in fact. Make a claim I’ve failed to be objective. Say I’m in error some way. I’m okay with that. I’m here to defend my work, and if you prove me wrong, I’ll acknowledge it and do the right thing.

But there’s one thing you don’t do to me, or to any other person in this profession if I’m around.

You don’t question my RIGHT to freely express an opinion or publish an objective article. You want to fight? Just question that right, and we can stand toe to toe until the last man stands.

At 4:30 a.m. today (August 23, 2012), I made an objective post resulting from an interview I did with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson was in my hometown yesterday leading a peaceful demonstration about the circumstances in which a young man committed suicide in the back of a patrol car. You may view that post here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-C6

Jesse Jackson is a lightning rod, especially here in the South. People love him, or hate him, and it’s all totally beside the point. When it comes to free speech, Jackson has a right to do what he damn well pleases, and so do I.

Following my typical pattern for a worthy story, I reposted during lunch for the benefit of those who might have missed it in the early morning.

And moments later, a reader publicly posts on Facebook: “…no need to keep stirring this mess up,  Steve.”

He sucker punched me.

I turned red, and actually felt my body twitching. My blood boiled. Them’s fightin’ words.

It’s the one thing you don’t say to me. This mess, dear reader, is one of the critical issues of our time, and it’s now in my backyard, and in yours. Bury your head in the ground. It won’t solve the problem. It won’t go away.

It would have been so much better if you had just questioned the legitimacy of the story. We could have enjoyed a civil debate, as men should, and likely, would have come to terms to simply agree to disagree. But rather, you questioned my very right to freely express. We live in America, do we not?

FYI, critical reader, the messy post to which you refer, was read by more than 200 people on five continents, and was Google-searched internationally more than 30 times. I can make a case it had some redeeming value.

But the mess isn’t the issue here, sir. Forget the “messy” content that makes you so uneasy. (Though I guess you’re right in some regard: It would have been so much better if Woodward and Bernstein had avoided that whole Watergate thing altogether. It was SOOO messy.)

Step back, critical reader, take a breath, and remember that thing we call the First Amendment. I believe it has something to say about a thing we call freedom of expression.

And so I’ll express what I damn well please.

If it makes you uncomfortable, I’m glad. Black people and white people are at odds in this town for no good reason. I hope it makes us all squirm.

-30-

Jesse Jackson: Jonesboro Man’s Death Shrouded in Mystery

Chavis Carter death

Rev. Jesse Jackson prepares to lead a peaceful march on the Jonesboro Police Department. At Jackson’s left is the mother of Chavis Carter. – Aug. 22, 2012.

Story and Photos by Steve Watkins

JONESBORO, ARRev. Jesse Jackson led a prayer vigil and peaceful march to the Jonesboro Police Department on Wednesday, calling on authorities to make account for a missing segment of video that would explain how a man died in the back of a police car.

jesse jackson and chavis carter

Chavis Carter

It’s a case “shrouded in mystery,” Jackson said, with “many unanswered questions to be pursued.”

Jackson attended a series of meetings in Jonesboro and Memphis on Wednesday following the death of Chavis Carter, arrested by authorities on the night of July 28. Carter was handcuffed, placed in the backseat of a patrol car, and minutes later was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Police have released video of the event, absent a three-minute segment that includes

chavis carter memorial

A simple memorial placed at the scene of Chavis Carter’s death.

the moment of Carter’s death. An autopsy performed by the Arkansas State Crime Lab ruled the death a suicide, but Jackson and others question the ASCL’s ruling and the lack of details released in the case.

“The authorities are giving what amounts to a Houdini explanation for how a handcuffed man, left-handed, could shoot himself in the right side of his head,” Jackson said. “This smells like a cover-up and the stench is growing.”

Jackson said Carter’s family asked him to contact the U.S. Justice Department calling for an independent investigation of the case. Earlier in the day, he met with Carter’s mother at The Cochran Firm in Memphis.

The crime lab report showed Carter’s blood contained trace amounts of methamphetamine, marijuana and anti-anxiety medications at the time of his arrest.

Two arresting officers searched Carter twice, who was wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt before placing him under arrest. Jackson and others now question how police missed Carter’s alleged possession of a handgun.

The Carter case has prompted a number of accusations against the Jonesboro Police

jonesboro chief of police mike yates

Jonesboro, Arkansas Chief of Police Mike Yates

Department with allegations of racial profiling and claims that officers target minorities in low-income neighborhoods.

chavis carter and jesse jackson

Rev. Jesse Jackson organizes a peaceful march calling for the release of more details in the death of Chavis Carter in Jonesboro, AR on July 28.

Some have called for the resignation of police chief Mike Yates, further claiming he left his previous position in Americus, Georgia under questionable terms. Claimants have produced no such evidence against Yates.

One JPD officer speaking on condition of anonymity said further details will be released soon, making it clear Carter’s death was indeed a suicide. He said arresting officers in their search, did, in fact, miss a .380 caliber handgun in Carter’s possession.

“It’s a horrible, horrible thing any time when something like this happens,” he said. “But accidents do happen. I searched a man twice in one case and missed an eight-inch knife on him. It’s just a miracle he didn’t use the gun to fire on the officers.”

The officer said he believed Jackson’s visit complicated the divide between African-Americans and the JPD.

“He’s supposed to be an educated man, and everyone would be a lot better off if he waited to get the facts before passing judgment in a case like this. It’ll be clear soon how all this came about.”

-30-

An Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

Chavis Carter death Jonesboro, AR

Rev. Jesse Jackson in Jonesboro, AR just after a prayer vigil, and preparing to lead a downtown March as questions surround the death of Chavis Carter in the back of a local police car. Officials have ruled the death a suicide, but questions remain.

Tomorrow on this site:

An interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson on the death of Chavis Carter in Jonesboro, AR.