Readers, are you ready for the most exciting part of any news consumer’s year? Oh, that’s right. It’s time to talk about content metrics, baby!
By which I mean: I found out what stories y’all were reading the most in 2017, and it’s pretty interesting.
When I’m not ranking Thanksgiving side dishes or writing about what the El Arroyo sign said this time, I’ve got a whole list of duties as the American-Statesman’s social media & engagement editor to keep me busy. Part of that list is analyzing which news stories perform the best on our websites and on social media. At the end of the year, I always dig into the numbers and find the stories most popular with readers over the past 12 months.
And this year, I’ve gotta say: Good job, guys. In 2017, Statesman readers clicked on some of the most important news stories we published, from hurricanes to Supreme Court decisions to school accountability ratings. OK, you also clicked on a couple stories with slightly less gravitas. An honorable mention that just missed the cut: a viral video of a snake in East Texas regurgitating another snake.
But enough about signs of the apocalypse. Without further ado, here are the 10 most-read stories of the year.
In a story that spread across the nation, 37-year-old Brandon Vezmar filed a claim in court against a date who accompanied him to see “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” at Barton Creek Square Mall. Vezmar asked for $17.31, which was the price of the movie ticket to the 3D showing. The petition to the court said the behavior of his date, Crystal Cruz of Round Rock, was “a threat to civilized society.” Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League offered Vezmar a gift certificate to drop the suit. Cruz later paid Vezmar back as part of an “Inside Edition” segment, and Vezmar said he planned to drop the suit.
Graham Dyer died in the custody of Mesquite police in August 2013. His parents, Kathy and Robert Dyer, had been told by police at the hospital where Graham was taken that their son had been out of his mind on LSD and had bitten one of the officers while they were taking him into custody. He’d seriously injured himself inside the police cruiser as they drove to the jail. The Dyers asked to see police records, but a Texas law said authorities didn’t have to turn those records over. The family found a way to get the records, and disturbing videos of their son’s final moments told a different story from what police said happened. Statesman investigative reporter Eric Dexheimer continues to follow the story.
The schools are usually the ones giving out report cards, but they get grades, too. Many Texas districts earned lackluster preliminary grades in January under a new letter-grade accountability system. Specifically, Central Texas districts — including Austin, Leander, Hays, Georgetown, Bastrop, Manor, Elgin, San Marcos, Hutto, Dripping Springs and Elgin — got Ds and Fs in certain areas. Our story included an interactive database that allows readers to search for their district’s grades.
On May 1, University of Texas at Austin student Harrison Brown, 19, was stabbed to death on campus. Investigators say Kendrex J. White, a fellow student, had a mental breakdown leading to the attack, which also left three students injured. White’s trial is expected to begin in 2018. He’s been indicted on four felony charges, including murder. Brown, who was from the North Texas town of Graham, was a runner and actor. He had won 2016 class favorite his senior year of high school, and his entire high school had also named him the most popular kid on campus.
In June, the Texas Supreme Court revived a lawsuit seeking to eliminate benefits offered to the same-sex spouses of City of Houston employees. The court ruled a marriage license did not guarantee same-sex couples to spousal insurance benefits. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn that ruling, rejecting Houston’s appeal without comment.
It’s been a long road from Paint Creek. In March, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was confirmed as U.S. secretary of energy in President Donald Trump’s cabinet. Then, in a shakeup of the National Security Council in April, Perry was added to the council’s principals committee, the primary group of policy-makers for national security. Perry’s addition came at the same time as the ouster of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, from the committee.
State Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston took a satirical approach to laws restricting women’s access to birth control and other health care options. In March, Farrar filed a bill that would impose a $100 fine for men who masturbate and ejaculate outside of a woman’s vagina. The bill’s name: “A Man’s Right to Know.” The bill also contained provisions that would restrict vasectomies, Viagra prescriptions and colonoscopies.
Alex Jones: Austin mainstay, conspiracy theory peddler, presidential ear-catcher … performance artist? Ahead of a child custody trial pitting the Infowars host against his ex-wife, Kelly Jones, the Statesman’s Jonathan Tilove profiled the rise of the broadcaster, who has “become an unlikely popular and political force in the Donald Trump era.” Alex Jones’ lawyers made the case that their client should not be judged by his on-air persona, while Kelly Jones’ lawyers argued Alex Jones’ persona made him an unfit parent. Kelly Jones was later awarded joint custody of the pair’s three children.
As Hurricane Irma made its approach from the Caribbean to the U.S. mainland, we collected a few links to webcams that would show the storm’s arrival from locations like Key West, St. Petersburg and Miami’s South Beach.
Yep, more webcams. Hurricane Harvey, perhaps the biggest story in Texas in 2017, devastated regions of the coast and left Houston submerged in floodwaters. We compiled a few livestreams broadcasting footage from coastal areas like Corpus Christi. Most of those were knocked out of commission by, well, the hurricane. We updated the story later to include Houston-area webcams, which provided our Central Texas audience with a window into the deadly conditions facing their neighbor to the east.
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