Nearly every year, at the end, we in the journalism business like to publish a story about the most-read stories of the year. A look back before heading into the new year.
We could do that, but you’d likely see stories about breaking news and anything to do with new restaurants coming to town. Oh, and cruelty to animals.
Not that those stories aren’t important. It’s just not surprising those stories tend to get the most views, because, well…who doesn’t like knowing about a homicide, or a new restaurant or how someone mistreated puppies?
We just wanted to try something a bit different this time.
So, instead of the most-read stories of 2022, Ashland Source reporters Dillon Carr and Nathan Hart decided to put together a list of our five most-impactful stories this year.
At Ashland Source, we aim to produce local journalism that matters to you. We relish writing stories that have impact in your lives.
Impact can mean a number of things. Impact can mean prompting online discussion, inspiring action by elected officials or policy changes.
Impact can mean a citizen decided to go to a public meeting after reading a story we wrote. It can even mean having meaningful conversation with someone you’d normally never talk to.
And so, here’s our list — counting backwards from five. (Oh, and if you appreciated our work this year, consider becoming a member.)
This story might fit into the rare category of being one of the most-read and most impactful stories of the year. It was the first story we wrote on the Amish people refusing to pay fines attached to the misdemeanor charges for disregarding the state’s new buggy law.
It sparked a roaring conversation on our social media channels and prompted more coverage that, ultimately, led to a more informed community.
This story not only offered readers an accurate and clear picture into how much has been spent on the vacant building — it showed residents why commissioners’ grand plans for the building fell through by showcasing numerous public records that highlighted issues with the building’s structure.
It showed residents that the Ashland County commissioners took a big risk in purchasing the building. It remains to be seen whether the risk will pay off. The former Pump House has one developer interested, with an offer on the table. However, that deal has yet to be completed.
The homeless problem in Ashland County is “hidden” from general view, and as a result, is an issue that goes underfunded.
The story specifically brought awareness to the county’s lack of emergency shelter for men and a shortage of affordable housing, which experts continue to deal with and find solutions for.
The article has been cited in public meetings when the topic of housing comes up.
I co-wrote this story with former Report for America Corps Member Emma Davis.
The story had a direct impact on policy at the health department, leading to the creation of a new Facebook page and the hiring of a Public Information Officer and health educator.
The new hire is specifically in charge of in-person and online health education as well as monitoring activity on the website and social media.
By exposing the fact that a land bank board member’s property was sold to the land bank through an informal email thread, this story’s impact was far-reaching.
It sparked discussion, both during in-person official meetings and in online forums. It led to formal inquiries submitted by citizens to the state Ethics Commission. It led to the land bank’s board committing to changes in operation. It led to an updated policy handbook.
This story highlighted a previously-unknown problem one of Ashland’s largest businesses was having; the person responsible for uploading required COVID data to the CDC left Brethren Care Village, causing fines to pile up.
After I published this story, I heard from people involved that they appreciated the fairness and accuracy in my reporting. Without someone like me sniffing around in various government databases, this story never would have seen the light of day.
I wrote this story a few weeks ago when information on Catherine Puster’s resignation was still sparse. I spoke with a member of the school board who said he would be very curious to see what I found out because even he didn’t know the specific reason why she had resigned.
Puster gave me a reason for her resignation: the toll that the pandemic took on her and the school district. This story cracked open the mysterious resignation and was one of our most well-read stories during that time period.
A few days after Stanley Gardner allegedly shot and killed his son, details were still sparse. People were asking about the shooting at Ashland City Council and asking us directly what happened. So I started digging.
I got my hands on the 911 call from the day of the shooting, which provided a slew of new details on the incident. Readers finally had a more complete picture of what happened that day, and the story was very widely read and discussed on social media.
Just a month into my role at Ashland Source, I broke the news on Ashland Superintendent Doug Marrah’s retirement before anything had been officially announced. The public didn’t know he planned to retire before I published this story.
I heard afterward that this article ended up in a text group chat between teachers at Ashland City Schools, and just a few weeks later Marrah would officially announce his retirement.
As part of my role as an education reporter, I regularly attend Ashland City Schools Board of Education meetings. Normally they are tame, procedural affairs attended sparsely by the public. But in late November, the Ashland Public Library controversy came to a board meeting, sparking a fiery debate and a rare non-unanimous vote from the board.
The board’s next meeting a week later was packed with members of the public. One reader told us that he showed up to the meeting after reading the Ashland Source article. He didn’t know this was going on until we wrote about it, and he ended up more civically engaged afterward.
Do you remember stories we published that you think made an impact in your life or in the community in which you live? Tell us about it! Feel free to reach out personally at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.