How a 1998 story made SF Chronicle’s most-read list on Friday

“Slow news day?” a Romenesko reader wrote late Friday. “Looks that way on SFGate. The number three most read story is one written on Aug. 1, 1998. Don’t know what happened but I’d be interested to know.”

I sent the reader’s email to Chronicle editors and deputy metro editor Trapper Byrne responded:

What I’m told is that Yahoo had a story somewhere about the dangers of amusement parks. (“It’s summer, be careful you don’t die” — one of those.) To illustrate the perils, they linked to the 1998 tiger mauling at a Vallejo animal park. So many people clicked on the link that it drove the story into the “Most Read” box on the SFGate main page, which is completely automated and outside the control of human beings. The Gate editor tried to compensate by changing the headline to make clear that the story was 14 years old, but I doubt it did much to ease readers’ puzzlement.

MOST VIEWED MYSTERY — Another Romenesko reader writes: “If you go to Mercurynews.com, you’ll see in the ‘Most Viewed’ box an ordinary game story from a 2010 hockey playoff series. It’s been on top, or in the top 5, for months. And if you look at the comments, you’ll see that the technical staff can’t figure out why. [See below.] It never goes away.”

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