Top 25 stories that helped propel RCNS beyond 6 million views in first 30 months
As Riverside County News Source (RCNS) passes 6 million unique views and its first 2 1/2 years in operation as a provider of free, fair and well-rounded news reports and community interest stories I thought I would share some of the RCNS headlines that have made a big splash in Riverside County since RCNS officially began covering news stories in November, 2016.
I’ve also included some interesting statistics about where, when and how often RCNS articles are read, including a full list of the more than 180 world-wide countries and about a dozen additional recognized territories where RCNS stories have been viewed and shared over the past 30 months.
Diverse, honest and straight-forward coverage
With categories covering a wide variety of interests, RCNS strives to provide its readers with relevant news and compelling feature articles and is constantly analyzing, assessing and adjusting its format to better provide its readers what they most want to read.
In addition to its main news categories, RCNS provides readers with the opportunity to choose, search and browse categories that most interest them. RCNS works hard to provide a bit of everything – from community interest stories to cooking videos and articles, restaurant and food reviews, a Guest Writer Spotlight – an Op/Ed type column that provides anyone interested in sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences with others from around the community, and of course a bit of daily humor – including the new and already very popular Today’s Lighter Side of the News and Your Daily Laugh.
Some of RCNS’s category favorites, based on the number of unique views as well as social media shares, include its Community Reporter’s Corner, which features a place for community news pages to share information in a variety of categories such as law enforcement and fire related incidents and traffic collisions as well as general community interest stories.
Recurring columns and regular features such as Sara’s Town, Adventures in Downsizing, Breakfast With Bubbie and RAOK: Random Acts Of Kindness, are always favorites for the regular readers and keep loyal RCNS fans coming back month after month.
- Sara’s Town is a monthly, 30-45 minute community interest video series featuring Hemet’s own hometown reporter Sara McMahon, a 24-year-old who proves daily that Autism is no barrier to fulfilling one’s dreams of being a positive role model within her community.
- Adventures in Downsizing is a regularly recurring new feature chronicling one crazy family’s adjustment from living in a 6 bedroom, 3600 sq. ft. home in a semi-rural community of 150K residents into a 300 sq. ft. RV in a truly tiny mountain community of just over 600 people, high in the mountains below Mt. Shasta. Low on facts, but high on humor, Adventures in Downsizing gained an almost immediate, cult-like following and is the most requested regular series on any of RCNS’s social media pages.
- Also always a huge hit is RCNS’s own Breakfast With Bubbie. The exclusive advice column, written by Robin “Bubbie” Montgomery, covers a variety of issues, questions and concerns as written in by the communities RCNS serves.
RCNS is currently translated into countless languages and read in more than 180 countries, with the site’s top views coming from the United States with more than 5.9 million views over the last 30 months. Not surprisingly, Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia take the next four top slots.
Other top viewing countries include Philippines, Germany, India, Ireland and Japan, as well as a few surprises, such as Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Kenya, and Ukraine. Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates also rank high in the list, just to name a few.
View full list of countries where RCNS articles are currently read below.
Community reporting and community based, social media news groups:
The keys to RCNS’s current and future success
From RCNS’s earliest inception, as a contributor to community based news group Hemet Eye News, the concept was to tap into the true eyes and ears of the community – namely, its citizens. From the beginning, social media based news groups helped bridge the gap between those who wanted to know about what was happening in the neighborhoods where they reside and what is actually happening – as seen by those who share what they have seen in any of countless community based news pages.
Tapping directly into an already available and wildly popular resource, much of RCNS’s local news coverage, including photographs, interviews and first-hand descriptions come directly from social media news groups and those pages’ hundreds of thousands of followers.
Always with expressed permission to use by those who take and share the videos and photographs, Facebook groups such as What Is Going On In Riverside County? with more than 134,000 members, Temecula Talk with more than 60,000 members and Hemet Valley Incidents with nearly 50,000 members, often provide the first hint of a potential or pending big story.
In some communities, such as the San Jacinto Valley – with nearly two dozen social media based news groups – first hand accounts of active incidents often begin flowing in – in real time – almost immediately; with photographs, videos, details, descriptions and first-hand accounts flooding in within minutes. Needless to say, with such a wealth of readily available material, I cover a LOT of Hemet and San Jacinto based stories.
Unfortunately, the extensive coverage of Hemet and the San Jacinto Valley in general has caused some citizens to formulate a much more negative opinion of those areas than necessary, when in reality much of what they are reading about are the normal goings-on of any community of comparable size. But with much higher than average community involvement, reporting and coverage, those potential news stories with readily available photographs and/or videos tend to move to the top of the RCNS “To Write” file.
Since beginning this adventure, I quickly came to the conclusion and have always since said, I can write the most interesting and factual news report possible, but it is the photographs and videos that truly first draw the readers in and keep them coming back for more.
In total, RCNS and its sister venture Shasta County News Source (SCNS) are connected with more than 200 social media based news groups; from San Diego, Imperial and Riverside Counties to the south and Shasta and Siskiyou Counties to the north. These community based news groups, run by the citizens specifically for the citizens, often provide an invaluable source of real-time information and details never before available under traditional news models.
While some pages pass along and share information provided by members and news organizations from around the community, other pages such as Hemet Eye News, Hemet Valley Incidents and Public Safety Incidents go far beyond just sharing news – and their dedicated and all-volunteer cadre of community reporters work around paying jobs and family obligations to go out on a daily basis and actively hunt down the news for their members.
With scanners tuned to city, county and statewide police and fire channels, cameras ranging from $50 cell phones to $10,000 professional photography equipment, and official press credentials, many of these “News Teams” are both radio and/or computer dispatched and the level of teamwork and ingenuity they employ while they doggedly stalk their stories can sometimes be truly inspiring.
Day or night, rain or shine, and often during every available, waking moment, these dedicated community reporters fan out throughout the areas they live or work, covering calls and responding to active incidents. The dangers can be very real and many wear bullet and/or stab resistant vests under bright, reflective jackets that shout PRESS and MEDIA in bold letters.
Some have been attacked, many have been threatened, and all have felt true heartache for the victims of the crimes, accidents and tragedies they cover.
In at least one very high-profile recent incident, another story broken by RCNS and later covered both nationally and internationally, one community reporter and professional “stringer” was arrested and booked for interfering during an accident investigation. The collision was being conducted by the very agency he had previously volunteered for. Charges in the case were later dropped against the photo and video journalist and both sides later admitted mistakes were made in the way the incident was handled.
Despite that one incident, most community reporters – including that particular photographer/videographer tend to maintain close working relationships and even friendships with the law enforcement and fire professionals who work within their communities. While occasional minor conflicts have arisen – at least in the cases of local incidents, they have almost always been quickly and easily resolved. Without a doubt, there is a general sense of admiration and respect for those dedicated professionals who work daily to protect us, sometimes from ourselves.
Some of these groups have even figured out how to make money from the videos they shoot live at active crime scenes and during accident investigations, and several individuals and groups that began as community news pages just a few, short years ago now make decent money selling their video footage and photography stills to mainstream news organizations – always eager and hungry for potential headline news stories, especially those with available video and first-hand accounts.
Photographs, videos, interviews and details culled from these community news groups are then coupled with official details from any involved agencies obtained from on-scene interviews, as well as press releases and social media releases. That compiled information is then provided in AP Format – free of charge – to anyone who wants to read it and share it, with all main social media platforms covered.
*All lists and statistics based on numbers pulled from WordPress Apr. 12 & 13, 2018.
#1 With 58,486 views over the last 352 days, this story – one of countless broken by RCNS before being covered both nationally and internationally – has been read in dozens of languages in more than 150 countries.
The truck driver, Hemet resident Louis Navarro, who happened to spot the wayward wanderer – all dressed up in her finest party dress, complete with shiny, patent leather shoes worn backwards – live-streamed the incident to his Facebook account.
As he led the terrified little girl several hundred yards back away from the highway to a home where he later found the girl’s parents and siblings, he can be heard asking the girl where her family is and comforting her when she starts crying on the long walk back to her home.
In a second live-stream video posted to Navarro’s social media, a child and parents can be heard admitting the family had been asleep when the pretty party princess wandered away from the residence.
Although the incident sparked outrage toward the girl’s sleepy parents as well as a huge wave of admiration and support for Navarro, who was later interviewed by several area news agencies, Sheriff’s and CPS officials later determined the parents had not been negligent in the incident.
In an almost unbelievable and terrifyingly similar incident that happened just one week later, another tiny tot was found wandering – just minutes before midnight – down the middle of busy Hwy 74 in Valle Vista. The road – also known in the area as Florida Avenue in Hemet and the Palms to Pines Highway between Idyllwild and the desert communities it connects – is the valley’s main east/west corridor and connects the 215 Freeway with Idyllwild, Mountain Center and multiple desert communities beyond.
Several good Samaritans, who just happened to pull up to a home in the area, spotted the little boy and were forced to chase the terrified tyke down the highway and around a closed business before the trio eventually managed to “corral and capture” the little guy a half block away from where he had first been spotted.
The women and child, soon surrounded by two dozen or more other very protective and angry parents and children who had come out to help search for the midnight wanderer’s parents, later very reluctantly turned the sweet but exhausted little guy over to sheriff’s officials.
More than four hours later, sheriff’s officials were in the process of turning the boy over to the care and custody of Child Protective Services when they got an unexpected but welcome 911 call reporting a missing child’s disappearance from a nearby residence.
The 2-year-old’s mother – who had been at work until about 3:30 a.m. – later explained to sheriff’s investigators she had returned home and discovered to her dismay that the home’s front door was wide open and her son was missing from his bed.
Her frantic 911 phone call helped authorities find the walk-weary waif’s way home. Investigating authorities later determined that while the boy’s father was sleeping – long after he had put his son to bed for the night and gone to bed himself – the adventurous tyke had gotten out of his bed, opened his front door and wandered away from his residence, barefoot and wearing only a full and sagging diaper, into the cold night and eventually into the arms and hearts of the strangers who later rescued him.
Sheriff’s deputies who investigated the incident subsequently determined that no criminal negligence had been involved in what could have been a horrific tragedy. An independent investigation conducted by CPS also found no negligence on the part of the parents.
#2 With 51,815 views over the last 628 days, this story – also broken by RCNS before being covered both nationally and internationally – was talked about and cited on countless local and statewide news channels, including by KTLA-5’s Chris Burrous, who tweeted a link to this story to countless followers as well as area news agencies calling the report, “Best info on Perris 215 fwy guy with guns” regarding the incident. UPDATED: Armed man on I-215 freeway in Perris who forced closures ID’d
Incidentally, RCNS was the only news organization covering the incident live, with photo/video journalists Miguel Shannon and William Hayes arriving at the scene just one minute after the dispatched call. They were at the scene filming the armed man’s bizarre antics for nearly 15 minutes before the arrival of law enforcement officers.
The incident led to the hours-long closure of the freeway and a heavily traveled overpass, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters, while a Sheriff’s Bomb Squad was brought in to investigate the alleged suspect’s claims of having rigged his vehicle with explosives.
Sadly, another community reporter, John Strangis, was on his way home from covering this incident when he drove right into an hours-long, “running,” armed, stand off that ended with a fatal, officer involved shooting. That story was also broken and covered live exclusively by RCNS.
Not surprisingly, with two huge, breaking and exclusive stories published between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., that day – July 24, 2017 – was and remains RCNS’s single biggest day for individual views, with 59,304 reads during a 24-hour period. 44,698 of those views went to the freeway shooter story and the officer involved shooting received 7,721 during the same period.
Sadly, there is a saying in news, of which I admittedly have zero formal education in and minimal experience in providing that says, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Regardless what people claim to want to read, based on hard, verifiable, and constantly repeatable and repeating statistics, I have found this to be more true than most would ever imagine.
#3 With 51,367 views over the last 742 days… this April Fool’s article has literally been read around the world – with views in 178 countries – and is now the subject of intense, ongoing Internet debate amid accusations of government conspiracies, collusion and cover-ups. I kid you not. Links and references to this story can be found on no less than a dozen conspiracy based pages and websites at any given time.
To be fair, I will now admit that to help add realism to the report – posted just moments before midnight at the end of April 1st as an “update” to a breaking story – then-Hemet PD Chief Dave Brown got in on the fun, not only allowing me to “quote” him extensively, but the “report” then became a huge topic of conversation at a massive community rally the next day.
Two years later, this article is still RCNS’s number one searched report – with daily searches coming in from around the world – and the story still averages 10 to 50 views a day. I have since nicknamed this article the “gift that keeps on giving.”
What’s really funny is when people quote the article back to me, somehow still unaware of the humor intended by the report. Especially those who insist to me that they have personally been inside the tunnels of my wild imagination.
And the comments and conspiracy/disinformation accusations… all I can say, is WOW. Some people take these things verrrrrry seriously!
#4 With 42,439 views over the last 100 days: UPDATED: Four Hemet area residents arrested in connection with San Jacinto double homicide
#5 With 36,512 views in just the last 11 days, this tragic story has been shared and viewed around the world, with motorcyclists who knew and followed the victim’s popular vlog writing me daily thanking me for the “thoughtful” and detailed coverage.
#6 With 29,686 views over last 217 days, this story still vexes me as none of the involved agencies have ever been willing to release any new or updated information about the case. Despite numerous written and personal requests for information, this case still generates countless regular inquiries for updates.
#7 With 29,201 views over last 818 days, not much can be said about this unbelievably tragic story.
#8 With 26,487 views over last 382 days, at least this story had a happy ending.
#9 With 26,446 views over the last 225 days, this story – like many RCNS covers – was just heart breaking.
#10 With 25,853 views over the last 349 days: UPDATED: SAN JACINTO: Woman found dead along side of roadway ID’d
#11 With 23,948 views over the last 477 days, this article covered the sheer and complete destruction of an iconic Hemet restaurant.
#12 With 22,747 views over last 464 days… all I can say about this report is I hated, just despised covering this – as I have a strict personal policy against covering suicides. But in some rare cases – primarily that effect the general public, I will make exceptions.
#13 With 22,700 views over the last 639 days, I’ll just set this one here and sneak away very slowly and quietly, as it was and still is a *metaphorical* ticking time bomb. This article was one of several that all branched from a single, planned incident and turned uglier than anything I would ever want to be involved in again.
#14 With 22,183 views over the last 160 days: UPDATED: WOODCREST: Man killed while trying to stop vehicle theft identified
#15 With 19,974 views over the last 234 days: SAN JACINTO: Woman killed at cemetery in apparent murder-suicide identified
#16 With 19,958 views over last 795 days, I was still barely a cub community reporter and learning the ropes when this high-profile, all-day long incident happened.
#17 With 19,862 views over the last 476 days, this incident happened mere minutes from my home at the time and was just beyond tragic and senseless.
#18 With 19,392 views over last 384 days, this article got a surprisingly high number of views in other countries – primarily Spanish speaking areas.
#19 With 18,885 views over the last 785 days: SAN JACINTO – UPDATE# 3: Toddler’s death being investigated by Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit, officials say
#20 With 18,581 views over last 327 days, I am still sometimes shocked when I see these photographs and others like them.
#21 With 17,998 views over the last 706 days: Driver involved in Hwy 74 crash that killed infant held on $1.86M bail
#22 With 17,261 views over the last 333 days: UPDATE: Family grieving after missing Winchester teacher’s body found
#23 With 17,146 views over last 786 days, the images from this crash were simply stunning. I still have no idea how this was not a fatal accident.
#24 With 16,767 views over the last 497 days stories like this one, because of my former career as a sex crimes and child abuse investigator, are truly the most difficult for me to research and cover.
#25 With 16,389 views over last 734 days: MORENO VALLEY: 2-arrested-following-3-month narcotics investigation
Still here? Enjoy a few honorable mentions:
And last, but certainly not least, I leave you with this beautiful story, adapted with permission from a Facebook post written by a long-time Hemet area resident, Rita Slayton.
Still want to know more? Ever wondered what a one-man news army looks like? Unlike the teams that actually go out and chase down the real news stories, my “big” one-man operation is pretty low-budget. To say the least.
Still here? WOW. You must really be bored. If you have ever wondered how I went from a rising career as a sex crimes and child abuse investigator for Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to a 100+ hour per week “jhobby” – ie, not a “real” paying job, but WAY more than a casual hobby, or if you just happen to have 15 minutes to kill check out this Discovery Channel documentary segment about my accident and truly miraculous survival.
WARNING: NOT for the squeamish.
Contact the writer: email@example.com
Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.