The Martin Mars waterbomber makes its way into Sproat Lake in July 2016.

The Martin Mars waterbomber makes its way into Sproat Lake in July 2016.

Year in review 2016: top online news stories

Both good and bad news made it on our list of top online news stories in 2016.

Three of our Top 5 stories online were good news stories in 2016—or, at least, one of them turned into a good news story.

Our top website story told the tale of Sam Patterson from Vancouver, whose car slid off the road on Highway 4 and into Cameron Lake. Not such good news, but what followed captured the hearts of our readers and the grateful family. The search for the Good Samaritan who assisted the driver and her dog, trapped in the back of her sinking car, was No. 5 on our list.

While images of people fleeing the flames that ultimately destroyed 10 per cent of Fort McMurray, Alta. gripped the nation, people in Port Alberni wanted to know why the Martin Mars waterbomber was not on its way to Alberta to help. Our story with Coulson Aviation’s explanation was our No. 2 online story.

When Dan Weatherby of Chilliwack hooked a 53-pound salmon on his line on Saturday, Sept. 3 off Brady’s Beach during the 45th annual Port Alberni Salmon Festival fishing derby, it was the largest fish caught in recent history. His good fortune was our No. 3 online story in 2016.

Our No. 4 story was tragic, after a body was discovered in the woods behind the Alberni Valley Exhibition Grounds on July 14. The RCMP later announced that the person was William Charleson, who had gone missing June 23. The original article about Charleson’s disappearance was No. 10 on our list.

People woke up the morning of Nov. 1 to hear that a stabbing had occurred at the Johnston Road McDonald’s. The news that someone was arrested in the stabbing made No. 6 on our Top 10 online stories list.

Coulson Aviation’s role in the Fort McMurray fire again took our website by storm: news that a Sikorsky helicopter from Coulson was tasked to Alberta made our No. 7 spot.

Another missing person captured the attention of Alberni residents in July and made our No. 8 spot when the RCMP announced on July 5 that 49-year-old Shelly Jean Hofmann was missing from uptown Port Alberni.

No. 9 was an update tat a man was in custody following a police incident that happened at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre on March 30.

Coulson’s aircraft factored into several of our Top 50 stories, as did many different crime stories, fires, car accidents, wildlife vs. human incidents and big business deals.

Reporter Karly Blats’ video on the Santa Train taken on a snowy Saturday afternoon garnered more than 110 views on Instagram, was shared more than 365 times on Facebook and reached nearly 48,000 on social media.

People often talk about wanting to see more “good news” stories in the newspaper, but I would counter that the paper always has good news in it. However, when news breaks in Port Alberni, people go looking for it on our website and via our social media as well as in our newspaper, so we deliver what they want. Numbers tell the tale.

We’re upping our game for 2017, and you’ll see more video via Black Press TV on our website, as well as our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We cover breaking news 24/ 7, but we’re not mind-readers: we appreciate the shoulder tap that something is happening, no matter if we are already on a story or not. We love to share too, so send us your story ideas, news tips, photographs, and constructive comments on what you’d like to see in your community newspaper in the coming year.


1. Holiday becomes nightmare for family

2. Coulson Aviation explains why the Martin Mars is not in Fort McMurray

3. 53-pounder wins the 45th annual Port Alberni Salmon Festival

4. Body discovered in woods behind Alberni Valley Exhibition Grounds

5. Good Samaritan comes forward after Cameron Lake car sinks

6. UPDATE: Suspect arrested in stabbing at Port Alberni McDonald’s

7. Coulson Sikorsky helicopter to fight Fort McMurray wildfire

8. 49-year-old Port Alberni woman missing

9. UPDATE: Man in custody after police incident in Port Alberni

10. William Charleson missing in Port Alberni

Susan Quinn is editor of the Alberni Valley News. She welcomes news tips at