Call it a meaty scoop.
After reporting online Thursday that Dairy Queen corporate food inspectors received a complaint about “human meat being inside a burger” — a morbid detail brought to our attention by restaurant manager Saif Momin — we’ve seen a veritable blizzard of responses.
After being questioned about which number a customer should order for the cannibal combo and seeing comment after comment on social media with some new twist on this macabre, mushrooming myth, we decided to bury this tall tale with calls to the coroner and Dairy Queen corporate.
By midday Friday, staff writer Adam Benson broke a rather unsurprising yet oddly needed news story: Greenwoodians are not unwitting flesh eaters.
To be clear, we don’t know how many of those sharing the ghoulish tale actually believed that USDA Certified Ground Chuck might refer to something other than hamburger meat. We do know, however, that those simmering rumors wouldn’t chill themselves, hence why we sought to fact check the allegation.
To no one’s surprise, this story went viral.
Shares on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Fark gave the story reach far beyond the Emerald City. Soon, The Washington Post served as an aggregator, pushing this story out to a national audience and its millions of followers on social media.
By Sunday, mentions were fading, but the seemingly dying story arose from the dead for another round of punny headlines. Fox News, Vice and yes, even Eater, wrote their own versions Monday, all based on Adam’s reporting.
We’ve had a lot of fun with this story and definitely enjoy seeing Index-Journal so heavily mentioned by the national media. Maybe next time it can be for a heartwarming feature and impressive piece of journalism instead of some gruesome quick hit. However, here’s a little secret: viral stories don’t translate into a lot of web page views for small-town newspapers.
That is unless you count the 18 site referrals from allrecipes.com as “a lot.”
Think about it. How often have you read an aggregated story — a piece that retells the reporting of another organization — and sought out the original piece to read or share? If it’s often, or even at all, then you’re a rare soul.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Radio stations, television studios and even The Associated Press for years have relied on newspapers to break local news, with the notable exception of those lurid stories that draw TV crews and writers from regional and national outlets. Those stories would result in an on-air hat tip or a printed shout out, but that doesn’t translate into new subscriptions or single-copy sales.
Even now, as newspapers have faced decades of falling circulation and shrinking newsrooms, they are still the most common source for quality, local news.
Which is why it makes sense to subscribe to your local newspaper.
If that’s us and you are not a subscriber, it is easy to sign up. Just call 864-223-1411, stop by our office at 610 Phoenix St. between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays or visit bit.ly/SubscribeIJ.
Why subscribe? Well, we deliver more than laughs about an alleged and likely nonexistent secret ingredient. We deliver local news to the Lakelands seven days a week. That means we write about the lightning-sparked fire that damages a local church. That means we report on the restaurant that abruptly shutters after getting a lousy food grade. And yes, when there’s an update on the FBI raid that sparked the Dairy Queen rumors, you can read about it in our pages.
All stories that can be at your fingertips if you subscribe, in more depth than anyone else will report.
Chew on that for a while.
OK, stick a fork in me (or don’t), I’m done.