Several stories from 2021 drew sustained attention. They explored topics such as reckoning with a history of racist violence in Kansas and how school districts are coming to terms with Native American mascots.
But one subject commanded the most attention by far – the economy.
The three most read Journal stories published in 2022 all dealt with economic issues and came out of our Summer edition, “Signs of Revival,” focused on rural entrepreneurship. Anchored by stunning photography from our own Jeff Tuttle, they told in-depth stories about places and the people working to help them grow.
In many ways, that Summer edition on entrepreneurship marked a turning point for The Journal. For years, social media – especially Facebook – is how most readers found our stories. But traffic from Facebook dropped considerably over the year as the social media landscape continues to evolve.
“Signs of Revival” represents the last time Facebook delivered traffic in the ways it had in the past. While social media still represents an important way for us to reach audience, you are now most likely to find our stories through organic search. And our weekly email newsletter continues to grow in importance.
And we learned this year that text stories might not always be the best way to keep you informed and engaged. In August, The Journal convened a livestreamed discussion on a state constitutional amendment dealing with abortion. Announced just a few days in advance, the discussion drew 179 live participants, one of our biggest events ever.
We’re only just beginning to plan out our coverage and events for 2023. But you can look for a renewed focus on the economy and entrepreneurship, as well as immigration and demographic change. And, as ever, social cohesion will be on our minds as we look to discover new ways to help people understand areas of common ground as well as their differences.
Below are the five most-read stories published in 2022. Thank you for reading and we look forward to our journey together in 2023!
Not all heroic reporting efforts result in scintillating investigative reporting scoops. Sometimes extra hard work is required to tell a story well.
You might not expect it from the non-controversial nature of the subject, but reporter Monica Springer went above and beyond to give readers a window into the work of poll watchers. To ensure that both Democrats and Republicans received adequate representation in the piece, Springer called source after source until she finally got the right balance.
It’s not clear why some folks didn’t want to talk to her. Heated rhetoric over stolen elections doesn’t help. But people on multiple sides of the aisle wanted to read the story, which made this piece rare in its cross-partisan appeal
#4: How one small Kansas town is using conversations about race and history to bring people together
In one of the most moving experiences of the year, The Journal hosted a livestream discussion in February that drew more than 100 viewers to hear from African American families who’d been reconnected with their rural roots in Stafford County, Kansas.
Written by reporter Beccy Tanner, a well-known chronicler of Kansas history, the story explores how leadership from unusual places helped preserve and elevate a history of African American settlement in that part of Kansas that had been forgotten or ignored.
When descendants of the Exodusters returned to central Kansas for homecoming weekend to establish connections with their once-unknown ancestors, Tanner and Tuttle were there. They captured events that proved emotional for both visitors as well as residents trying to come to terms with the good and bad of their local history.
Topeka, the state’s Capital City, sometimes suffers from an image problem. And judging by the concerns that residents have expressed about quality of life and safety, it has tangible problems, too, that need to be addressed.
But in recent years, the community has made considerable strides with the help of new life downtown and collaboration across the community. Topeka appears to be hitting its stride, although even if its biggest booster acknowledge that challenges remain.
This story highlights the progress that has been made in Topeka and explores what else might need to happen.
Four-plus years ago, Journal reporter Joel Mathis ventured to Tonganoxie to understand how a critical mass of residents stopped Tyson Food from building a large chicken plant there over the course of two weeks.
It was a story about the power of residents to mobilize, the perils of too much secrecy and an example of how social media has changed the local political landscape.
Earlier this year, Mathis returned to Tonganoxie to ask a different question: What has changed since then?
He found a vibrant environment for small businesses downtown, a community that all too willing to say to a big project of a different sort, and a trend toward openness when it comes to economic development. But also lingering questions about how to manage the community’s growth and wariness about going down the route of acrimony again.
What does it take for smaller communities in the heartland to thrive? In some places, entrepreneurship is proving to be an engine of growth and revitalization.
Places such as Ord, Nebraska, have emerged as regional poster children for economic development. Journal reporter Mike Sherry went searching for a Kansas community whose story could rival Ord, and stumbled upon Council Grove, a community seeing green shoots of its own.
But as residents there can attest, such shifts can be difficult to make, and there isn’t tried and true formula that work everywhere.
Sherry explores how communities are developing their own combination of tactics in the solutions journalism about towns finding their own versions of success.
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