Top 10 web stories of 2015 — Readers have their favorite stories, and we have a few more too
The Top 10 catalogs what the news staff of the Addison Independent chose as the most important stories of 2015, but readers have their own opinions about what interested them most last year. To get one indication of that, look at the top 10 stories on our website. Here are the headlines for the most-read stories of 2015 on addisonindependent.com, with their page views according to Google Analytics (note: Many of these stories had separate follow-ups that are not included in the count. Unfortunately, the analysis did not track all of the site activity late in the year). We’ll post this list with links to the stories at addisonindependent.com.
1. Middlebury College student dies on campus Thursday, no foul play
page views: 13,326
2. Cancer takes Bristol youth; help sought for family
page views: 5,363
3. A life at risk, and nothing to do but wait: Bristol woman needs lung transplant
page views: 4,255
4. Car strikes and kills bicyclist in Weybridge
page views: 3,904
5. Prosecutors: Man drove drunk and killed Middlebury man bicycling in Weybridge
page views: 2,773
6. Longtime local baby doctor Alan Ayer dies at 71
page views: 2,371
7. Greg’s Market to close on Wednesday, April 1
page views: 2,261
8. Police arrest seven in connection with Ferrisburgh break-ins
page views: 2,135
9. Accident victim making strides in recovery
page views: 2,123
10. Petition seeks firing of ANeSU superintendent
page views: 2,011
Picking only 10 top stories in 2015 leaves most of the stories we saw and reported on the cutting room floor. Addison County saw many important, interesting, touching and fun stories last year. Here are some of the other stories of 2015 that caught our eyes.
• Probably the biggest story that did not make it into our Top 10 was that the 2016 election season got a start in 2015. More than 18 months before the 2016 General Election, Bernie Sanders officially declared himself a candidate for president of the United States. This is a very long lead time in Vermont, but Bernie can be excused since he is running a national campaign. But when it comes to the race for Vermont governor, many times the candidates don’t declare until a few months before the August primary.
The 2016 race for governor was unique as well in that the sitting governor, Peter Shumlin, announced in June of 2015 that he would not seek re-election. This started the race for that office early and by summer’s end Matt Dunne, Sue Minter, Shap Smith, Bruce Lisman and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott had all announced or were on the verge of announcing their candidacy for governor. Smith bowed out before year’s end citing his wife’s battle with cancer.
With the lieutenant governor throwing his hat into the governor’s race, several candidates then said they would run for that office. So here we are before the start of the 2016 Legislative session and we already have more than a half dozen people actively running for Vermont’s top two constitutional offices.
• One of the weirder stories we saw last year was four decades in the making but came together quickly in March when news broke of the arrest of New York City real estate heir Robert Durst on a first-degree murder charge. News media from around the country quickly followed a lead that linked Durst to Middlebury’s most notorious unsolved cold case. Turns out that Durst lived in Middlebury in the early 1970s and operated the health food store “All Good Things” on Court Street. This is the same store where then-18-year-old Lynne Schulze, a Middlebury College student, was last seen before she was reported missing in 1971. When Middlebury police acknowledged that a criminal investigation into the matter was ongoing, the media horde descended on Addison County’s shire town. Reporters from as far away as Texas and Louisiana came to the Independent offices seeking information on the case. Of all the media that covered this story during its week in the spotlight, only the Addison Independent got a statement from the family of Lynne Schulze.
• Fun of a different sort came to Middlebury with the inaugural Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. The four-day festival at the end of August exceeded expectations for attendance, film submissions and the enthusiasm with which it was embraced and supported by the community. The festival boasted 93 short- and feature-length films submitted by newly minted filmmakers from throughout the world. It sold 205 festival passes, at $75 each, for people seeking access to screenings at three venues and related special events; 110 day passes, which for $28 allowed the ticketholder to attend shows throughout a single day; and 500 tickets to individual film screenings. That amounted to 815 total pass and ticket sales.
In addition to bringing unique entertainment to town, the festival brought a special vibe to Addison County during a week that is typically a little quieter. Along with putting people into the seats of local theaters, the festival placed film enthusiasts into local stores, restaurants and hotels for the duration of the event. Some downtown Middlebury stores extended their hours to 7 p.m. to take advantage of the extra customer traffic. Some restaurants, like The Lobby, offered meal discounts to those who presented MNFF passes.
• Middlebury physician Jean Andersson-Swayze told us a heroic story of her trip to the West African Republic of Sierra Leone early last year. The country was suffering under an epidemic of Ebola. Andersson-Swayze offered her services to help care for scores of suffering Ebola patients.