I make plenty of editorial decisions about which stories deserve blog attention. But to determine the most interesting stories of 2014, I like to look at what you readers spend your time reading and discussing.
Below is a table of the 30 most-clicked stories on the Madville Times in 2014. Note that this table isn't a perfect measure of which stories got read. Lots of people come to the blog and just read the front page every day; compare the nearly 14,000 hits for the top story below with the over 935,000 hits the home page got throughout the year. But this table does represent the relative popularity of specific stories accessed by people hitting the story link on Facebook or Twitter or clicking on the comment link to join the discussion.
The most viewed story was my relatively brief note on Watertown High School's Ki-Yi Homecoming royalty, plus related reading on co-opting American Indian culture. The comment section here and on Facebook went ape the top irony of year: Arrow partisans shouting that people who don't belong to their culture have no business discussing their culture.
Perhaps to our collective blogospheric shame, sixteen of these thirty stories dealt with fake U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth and her husband, fake Libertarian candidate for Attorney General Chad Haber. Perhaps to our credit, the most popular story in that subset, and the second-most clicked post of the year, was the April 1 posting of one of the most fact-based and rigorously researched posts to appear in the South Dakota blogosphere, the challenge to Bosworth's nominating petition. That challenge did not succeed, but it led to Bosworth's arrest and indictment for perjury (trial coming February!) and may lead to petition reform proposals from incoming Secretary of State Krebs.
That petition challenge post also has an unusual staying power. Most good blog posts grab eyeballs for a day or two, maybe a week if other blogs link and respond, and then fade from view. The petition challenge announcement drew 3,091 views in April, dropped to 359 in May, then climbed back over a thousand hits in August, September, October, and December (1,209 hits!). That post has apparently proven a useful reference for folks researching Bosworth and nominating petitions.
Religion remains a big draw for this liberal, atheist blogger's audience, with six of the top thirty stories touching notably on religious issues. I had to beat up on Tea Party Senator Ernie Otten (R/6-Tea) for his sloppily drafted and doomed religious discrimination bill (i.e., if you've got religion, you get to discriminate!). Senator Phil Jensen (R-32/Rapid City) also came under fire for his fundamentalist fear and loathing of homosexuals and other folks he wants to keep outside of his America. But I came to the defense of the very religious management of the Sioux Falls Original Pancake House, which was falsely accused of firing a worker for praying (with Annette Bosworth!). Both stories drew vigorous discussion.
Moving from a count of views to voices, we see more strongly the interest in stories relating to God and gays, as well as a more diverse array of topics that you deemed discussion-worthy:
Ten out of these top thirty most-commented articles related directly to matters of religion and/or LGBT rights. Four of these most popular conversation topics dealt with Democratic politics, candidates, and the route to electoral victory (which we are still avidly seeking!). Only one dealt directly with the Bosworth-Haber circus. Overall, the most-commented list shows a bit more interest in policy matters that will persist beyond the the 2014 cycle, a tendency I find encouraging.
One notable feature of both of these most-viewed and most-commented lists is the relative absence of stories on the South Dakota political scandal of 2013 and 2014, the EB-5 affair. Out of 1570 blog posts published on this blog this year (and I have a couple more coming!), I tagged 172 "EB-5" (good grief! That's 11% of my output! Compare that to my 2014 Bosworth tag count of 107). None of them made the top 30 on views; three made the top 30 on comments. These numbers may suggest that the Republican narrative prevails: EB-5 was just a Democratic smokescreen that no one was interested in. It may also suggest that EB-5 was simply a much more complicated topic, daunting to read about, even more daunting to attempt to discuss... and that I didn't do a good enough job of making it simple. More on that later today....
I have my disagreements with you, dear readers, about which stories in 2014 deserved the most attention and discussion (pit bulls? really? get a grip!). But that disagreement only seasons the great pleasure I take in offering you these hundreds of stories a year and learning what you think. Whichever stories you dig, I am honored that you take the time to read, share, and discuss these posts. Thank you for another great year of mostly civil discourse on the Madville Times!