This is my last 2014 round-up story, I swear.
These are based on our internal measurements, so I can’t reveal exact numbers without getting my fingers broken, but here’s my most-read stories from last year. (They pale in comparison to the reads crime, sports and photo galleries get, of course.) Although the stories you expect to be here are, they’re not in the spots I would have predicted, personally:
1. San Bernardino teacher accused of racist slur in classroom
Far and away my most-read story of the year, even putting together all the reads of my Rialto Unified Holocaust assignment coverage from the Sun, Daily Bulletin and Daily News.
On Friday, Sept. 12, I was at the Sun, writing up my court coverage of another story (one of the seemingly endless follow-ups to the California Charter Academy indictments) when LaRue Bell’s family came in, and asked to speak to a reporter. The district responded quickly to my inquiry about Bell’s assertions about his teacher and I thought that was that. But the story attracted a great deal of attention, emails from supporters of the teacher and several additional weeks of coverage. I intend to follow up on her job status now that the school year has started up again in January.
2. San Bernardino teacher arrested for alleged sex with minors
The second most-read story of the year was, again, a fairly simple one from our standpoint: The police reported that a teacher had been arrested for sex crimes with children. In the interest of finding other possible victims, the police put the news out, along with her picture, and we did the same, for similar reasons. But from the very beginning, her defenders proclaimed her innocence in numbers we typically don’t see and suggested there was more to the story. This fall, the district attorney ended up dropping all charges against the teacher, citing an “insufficiency of evidence.”
3. Holocaust denied by students in Rialto school assignment
This is the story I thought would be the top one of the year, as it made international headlines, changed the curriculum for Rialto Unified’s ninth grade students this year and led to numerous shakeups in the district. It was my top story at the Los Angeles Daily News, but only came in third place, trailing the two stories about San Bernardino City Unified teachers. I’m happy that my editors backed me up on my desire to post all 2,000 student essays online, via DocumentCloud, although I feel sympathy for anyone else who reads through all 2,000 hand-written essays.
4. Rialto Unified defends writing assignment on confirming or denying Holocaust
This was the big story that dropped in May, sending ripples across the nation and overseas. Within minutes of this being posted online, the district began getting emails from around the world, according to documents released under the California Public Records Act. One of the immediate impacts was that news sites across the country did their own versions of the story, sometimes crediting the Sun or me, sometimes not. Still, the story was the second-biggest for me on DailyNews.com and did well overall for the year.
5. Hundreds mourn Chino car crash victims at tearful vigil in Eastvale
This story, written with Greg Cappis, who was covering breaking news that Saturday night, was by a large margin the most-read story in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin this year, ahead of the initial story about the car crash I worked on earlier that Saturday morning and Rialto Unified Holocaust follow-up stories. Both likely got additional views from a grim coincidence: There was not one, but two Southern California three-car crashes that killed multiple teenagers that night. We received comments, tweets and emails from people scolding us for getting the facts wrong, when they thought they were reading about the Irvine crash, rather than the Chino one.
That title seems ever more inaccurate, now that I’m writing the 10th edition of this list. Still, tradition!
1. “History Eraser” - Courtney Barnett
2. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (Live)” - The Eels
3. “Cherry Bomb” - The Runaways
4. “(I’d Go the) Whole Wide World” - Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
5. “Boom Boom” - Storm Large
6. “We Used to Be Friends” - Alejandro Escovedo
7. “Leavin’ Trunk” - The Black Keys
8. “Avant Gardner” - Courtney Barnett
9. “Run Me Down” - The Black Keys
10. “Once Upon a Dream” - Lana Del Rey
11. “Salome” - Old 97’s
12. “From Nails to Thumbtacks” - The Baseball Project
13. “I’ll Be Your Man” - The Black Keys
14. “Hooked On a Feeling” - Blue Swede
15. “Spitfire” - Public Service Broadcasting
16. “Have Love Will Travel” - The Black Keys
17. “Lousy Husband (But a Real Good Dad)” - Todd Sharpville
18. “Goodbye to Guyville” - Urge Overkill
19. “Heavy Soul” - The Black Keys
20. “The Eagle Has Landed” - Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
21. “Countdown” - The Black Keys
22. “Skinny Legs and All” - Joe Tex
23. “Why’d You Only Call Me When I’m High?” - Arctic Monkeys
24. “She Said, She Said” - The Black Keys
25. “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” - Old 97’s
26. “Do I Wanna Know?” - Arctic Monkeys
27. “Next Girl” - The Black Keys
28. “Just One of the Guys” - Jenny Lewis
29. “The Princess Who Saved Herself” - Jonathan Coulton
30. “White Rabbit (Arabic version)” - Mayssa Karaa
31. “Girl You Look Amazing” - Nicole Atkins
32. “Lips N Hips” - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
33. “When It’s Time to Come Down” - The Black Hollies
34. “Thickfreakness” - The Black Keys
35. “Going Out” - Hospitality
36. “West Memphis” - Lucinda Williams
37. “Marvin, I Love You” - Marvin, the Paranoid Android
38. “Juicy Lucy” - Sonny Knight & The Lakers
39. “Under the Sea” - Toucan Steel Drum Band
40. “Brooklyn Bound” - The Black Keys
41. “Six Pack of Beer and a Pack of Cigarettes” - Erik Koskinen
42. “Greens and Blues” - The Pixies
43. “Go All the Way” - Raspberries
44. “Beast of Burden (Live)” - The Rolling Stones
45. “Them Eyes” - The Black Keys
46. “Cinnamon” - The Long Winters
47. “No Better” - Lorde
48. “Swampy Seconds” - Magic Mouth
49. “Metal Man” - Marvin, the Paranoid Android
50. “Spirit in the Sky” - Norman Greenbaum
51. “Come and Get Your Love” - Redbone
52. “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” - Rupert Holmes
53. “Bumpin’” - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
54. “Breaks” - The Black Keys
55. “Young and Beautiful” - Lana Del Rey
56. “Marvin” - Marvin, the Paranoid Android
57. “Abracadabralifornia” - RHCP2014
58. “Do the Rump” - The Black Keys
59. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” - CHVRCHES
60. “I Miss Your Bones” - Hospitality
61. “Fuck That” - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
62. “Yearnin’” - The Black Keys
63. “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” - Kenny Chesney
64. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
65. “Reasons to be Miserable” - Marvin, the Paranoid Android
66. “Stick Up” - Max
67. “Settle Me Down” - Zac Brown Band
68. “Spaceteam” - 100 robots
69. “Busted” - The Black Keys
70. “Tokunori” - Philippe Lachance
71. “Invisible (RED) Edit Version” - U2
72. “I Want You Back” - The Jackson 5
73. “The Voyager” - Jenny Lewis
74. “Rusty Cage” - Johnny Cash
75. “Time’s All Gone, Pt. 1″ - Nick Waterhouse
76. “Spacetheme - Easter Egg version” - Philippe Lachance
77. “Riptide” - Vance Joy
78. “Country Folks (feat. Colt Ford)” - Bubba Sparxxx
79. “O-O-H Child” - The Five Stairsteps
80. “Caught Up” - Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas
81. “Holding My Breath” - Mr Twin Sister
82. “Who Needs You” - The Orwells
83. “Okuma” - Philippe Lachance
84. “Criminal (feat. Freddie Gibbs)” - ZZ Ward & Freddie Gibbs
85. “I’m Not in Love” - 10cc
86. “Your Touch” - The Black Keys
87. “Moonage Daydream” - David Bowie
88. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” - Elvin Bishop
89. “Friend of the Devil” - The Grateful Dead
90. “Second Chances” - Gregory Alan Isakov
91. “Washing Dishes” - Jack Johnson
92. “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” - Lou Rawls
93. “Never Give In” - Mackintosh Braun
94. “All Around and Away We Go” - Mr Twin Sister
95. “Gobo” - Philippe Lachance
96. “Golden Twin” - Wild Ones
97. “Journey of the Sorcerer” - The Eagles
98. “Go Captain and Pinlighter” - Emperor X
99. “Waiting room” - Philippe Lachance
100. “Chicago” - Sufjan Stevens
Here are the previous nine iterations of this list: Previous editions can be found here: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
I had hoped to beat 2013’s total of 14 books, and am midway through two excellent ones, but both are slow-going, both because they’re fairly hefty reads during the holidays, and because I’m savoring them both: Tim Powers’ tour-de-force Declare, which melds World War II and Cold War espionage with genies and, from the looks of thing, Biblical apocrypha, and the incredibly comprehensive The Frood, a biography of Douglas Adams which includes many never-before-seen outtakes that never made it into the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy stories or other works. Both are fantastic reads and both are slow going.
Feb. 28: Top Secret America by Dana Priest
March 16: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
May 28: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
June 1: Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville by Gina Arnold
June 9: Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts and Douglas Adams
June 15: The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry
July 5: The Government Manual for New Pirates by Matthew David Brozik
July 31: The Radleys by Matt Haig
Aug. 25: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
Aug. 26: The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Sept. 23: Grimbeard Goes to Prison by Samwise Didier
Oct. 12: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
Nov. 11: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Nov. 22: Skink–No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Stay away from Last Kind Words Saloon, by the way. I’m not sure what McMurtry was going for there, but it reads like the old “be awful to you until you break up with me” maneuver and is all around unpleasant. Forget “not watering your plants while you’re away and letting them die” or “forgetting to pick you up at the airport” awful; we’re talking “I let your dog out of the house and it got hit by a car and died” awful. You’ve been warned.
The just-wrapped Serial podcast has been called an “inflection point” for podcasts. I’ve been listening to podcasts long enough to remember when iTunes completely transformed podcasting when it waded into the market in back in 2005. But certainly Serial, benefiting from the cachet of Ira Glass and popular enough to spawn its own parodies, has brought a lot of new ears (and maybe eyes, for video podcasts) to the medium.
Although there’s nothing exactly like Serial out there to fill the void until the next season starts some time next year.
- Although The Moth is probably the biggest name in personal story podcasts, for my money, Love + Radio cuts deeper and casts light into shadows that few people ever get to see. There are many episodes that I’m amazed that the producers found the people they did and were able to get them to share the often painful, sometimes hilarious and more than once in a while, more than a little bit profane, stories. There’s an element of danger in nearly all of these stories, whether physical or emotional.
- Criminal does what it says on the tin: This is a true crime podcast, although it’s often just as much about what led up to the crime and the consequences of it as the crime itself. Hackers, scam artists, serial killers: The podcast runs the gamut.
- Next to This American Life, Radiolab is probably the smartest, best-sounding podcast around. (It also plays on some NPR stations, but there are plenty of episodes that are podcast-only.) Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich are national treasures, and follow their curiosity down all sorts of rabbit holes. Alongside Alton Brown and the Mythbusters, they make science accessible and cool, even for those who might otherwise be intimidated by it.
- A podcast about design doesn’t sound compelling, but Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible makes eclectic subjects like the Portland city flag, the hashtag and the Ouija board fascinating, with sound design that is some of the best in the business. This is also a show that sometimes is played on public radio stations, but not nearly enough — your best bet is to find it as a podcast.
- Finally, Reply All is a technically a new podcast, but it’s really just the creators of the older TLDR pocast — itself a spinoff of the excellent On the Media radio show/podcast that all journalists should be listening to — striking out on their own. These short weekly shows look at elements of Internet life and history. In their first five weeks, they’ve looked at Jennicam, unwittingly sharing private financial lives via social media, the man who created pop-up ads, a social media network for medical professionals and an app that gets strangers to deliver in-person messages to recipients (sometimes). Even subjects that seem skippable end up being compelling and told with a sense of humor and fun.
There’s obviously a lot more podcasts out there — they replaced radio for me years ago — and I’m glad that Serial helped open more people’s eyes (and ears) to them. If there’s a great podcast out there that Serial fans would enjoy that I’ve missed, sound off in the comments.