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The Hottest Stories of 2009 on Salem-News.comTim King Salem-News.com
A look at the people and the top stories of Salem-News.com in 2009.
(SALEM, Ore.) - This is certainly one of the most interesting pieces that I have the pleasure of writing each year. Thousands and thousands of hours have been invested in delivering this information to our viewers, and here we sum it up and find out just what it is that people want to see.
The stories that make the top twenty for 2009 are probably not so much a reflection of the average Salem-News.com viewer, as they are of general national interest. A good amount of our daily traffic comes from outside sources.
The viewers who account for those numbers are often arriving at Salem-News.com because they found a story that interested them on the Google feed, or one of many other search engines, blogs and news aggregators that carry links to our stories.
The numbers we are using this year are from Google Analytics. They are a modest representation of our numbers, as 30-50% of the people who visit us do not have the Google Toolbar, and are not counted.
Above and beyond the stories and names listed below, it is important to note how many people are now part of our team and I am so grateful for their contributions. The writers are why we are who we are. They range far and wide in their backgrounds and walks of life and all contribute excellent stories and photos and in the case of our gifted artist Glen Bledsoe, Salem's only original online cartoon strip.
Glen is one of many writers here who are highly educated scholars, like Dr. Phil Leveque, who trained the first doctors in Tanzania and Uganda, and Jeff Gates and William Barth who are both attorneys. Professor Alan Sabrosky Ph.D. worked in world affairs for years, and served five years as the Army War College's Director of Studies.
Along with Gordon Duff who wrote our #2 story of the year, Chuck Palazzo in Vietnam who writes about issues related to Agent Orange, and former Marine Jerry West in Canada, Jeff and Alan are Vietnam War Veterans. Dr. Leveque served in the U.S. Army Infantry during WWII. Our writer Phil Northcutt in California who monitors Veteran's Affairs issues was a U.S. Marine in Iraq.
In fact we have more former U.S. Marines working as journalists than any other mainstream news organization in the country. This background that many of us share is a good example of our attitude in life. We are careful and thoughtful, but we are very serious in meeting objectives. Perhaps one of the largest goals we have met is the exposure of the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro in Southern California as a toxic waste zone.
When we began reporting on it a little less than two years ago, there was virtually nothing published of any significance about the contamination, and a contractor was getting ready to build houses on it. With the help of fellow former El Toro Marines Bob O'Dowd and John Uldrich and Roger Butow, we have been able to publish dozens of articles and video reports about this deadly place that are easily found on Google by anyone searching for information about the base. Semper Fi.
A very high quality writer who contributes frequently to Salem-News is Daniel Johnson, another Canadian. His commitment to Salem-News has been nothing less than awesome and his stories draw massive amounts of comments and other feedback as he confronts American politics from afar.
Perhaps our most solid long term contributor, along with Glen Bledsoe, is a man who is a literal record holder. Henry Clay Ruark, Salem-News.com Op-Ed writer, is 92 years old and the oldest working journalist in the nation, possibly the world. He contributes regularly and has published hundreds of pieces since our initial launch in the summer of 2004. Like Dr. Leveque and Daniel Johnson, "Hank" as we often call him, is a mentor in my life and a powerful journalist who again like Dr. Leveque, reminds me of a walking encyclopedia.
Another writer who has contributed a great deal is Ken Ramey in California. He covers religious stories from a highly educated and diverse perspective and is a wonderful example of our talented team. Ken was raised during the Great Depression and it is an honor to have him as a member of this group.
One individual who has scored a number of home runs in recent months is our News Photographer, Jerry Freeman. Under my guidance, Jerry has progressed through a training program here at Salem-News.com and he shoots video for us today on an extremely regular basis. Jerry has a real eye for a story and is fast becoming an experienced newsman.
When it comes to regular contributors, I can't rave enough about some of our more diverse and fascinating writers like Marianne Skolek, who helped convict Purdue Pharma of false marketing, and today reports on their questionable activities on a regular basis, while keeping an eye out on the rest of this seemingly out of control industry that has cost so many lives. Along with this fascinating writer, is Doug Dickerson who like Marianne, lives in South Carolina. Doug's inspirational Management articles are enlightening and highly educational, and appear right on time as each new week begins.
Another writer who has generated a lot of interest since joining Salem-News.com is Ersun Warncke, who is currently in Estonia. Look for reports from Ersun as he compares the economic conditions of this far away former Communist land with another place that has remarkably similar agricultural and economic conditions, you guessed it... Oregon.
Speaking of fascinating, how about that Bruce Sallan? The former Vice President of the ABC network, Bruce was a real powerhouse in the 1980's, the force behind an endless list of TV shows and movies that many of us grew up with. But for Bruce, there was a certain point when mindless and often questionable television entertainment was no longer the answer. Today he pursues life as a writer who specializes in what might be the most important single subject in all of life; the family.
Keeping with that fascination theme, we have Anthony Wright in Mexico, an Australian art collector who works as a writer and photographer, and Bernard Powell here in Salem who heads a very organized paranormal research group. We certainly can't forget or overlook the lovely Michelle Andujar who is from Colombia and covers multi cultural activities in Salem.
Contributing writers who live south of the U.S. border include our friends Eddie Zawaski and Gail Parker in Argentina, and Vic Pittman in Mexico, all former Oregonians. Their articles are most beautifully written and captivating.
One of our very most interesting writers is Oleg Shirokov in Simferopol, Ukraine, which is a sister city to Salem, Oregon. His articles introduce you to the people of Ukraine and he reviews the many changes that have taken place in crime and sex oriented services since the fall of Communism.
Dexter Phoenix who is from London, England and I are both war photographers. We first became acquainted when Dexter was still working in Los Angeles, where he moved after covering military conflicts in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, and stories in other African and European nations. I have covered operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We are both people who have seen another side of life and are fortunate to have that experience.
Dawn Hatchard is working with Salem-News.com to boost our upcoming education section. You can't miss her fiery red hair or her great writing style. Lela Taylor has written wonderful stories about community activism, alcoholism, and also has followed a historic story about the disappearance of a young girl in the area back in the 1940's, who was her aunt.
I don't know how to express my appreciation of these individuals properly, but along with those mentioned here and others like the wonderful and bright Salem advocate Lee Coyne, a highly educated social worker and educator, and Kevin Montgomery, whose reports, video and photos have graced our pages many times, we have been able to keep moving in a solid direction.
Gerrit Roelof is our extremely talented Outdoors Reporter. His background as an avid outdoorsman, firefighter and police officer, give him a real edge when covering the expansive wilderness of Oregon. Alysha Atma is our African Affairs Correspondent, her heart is golden and her desires to help people on the African Continent are sincere. I believe she will change things and already has. Karen Friedman writes about the problems between Israel and Palestine, and also operates an important group called World View News Service. Many of us write about Israel and Palestine on that note, and it is the opinion of our group that no bigger issues stand in the way of world peace.
Allan Erickson is part of the group LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and he confronts issues regarding medical marijuana from a law enforcement group's perspective. Skipper Osborne is very active in the area of Civil Rights in Oregon and is the former President of the Portland NAACP. We are proud to be associated with people who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of helping others.
My sons Matthew, Austin and Sean King all contribute to Salem-News.com, and we sure appreciate people like James "Jimmy" Lewis and David Duncan who help our Web Designer Matt Lintz with the technical side. Our close friend Raymo Mancini provides much of the music you hear at Salem-News.com. Ersun is also very talented in this area. Gerry Villani is a Salem-News.com photographer who also has an extensive worldwide photo portfolio.
Most of all, the people to thank for all of this are our General Manager Bonnie King, my beautiful partner in life and my boss here at Salem-News.com, and the Guru himself, our Web Designer Matt Lintz. These are the people who have kept the train on the rails, negotiating a sometimes tricky course, but always coming out ahead, with our solid policies of never charging for stories or using irritating pop-up advertising holding true after half a decade of operation.
There is not a chance on this earth that I'm remembering all of the people I would like to thank, or calling out all of the appreciation that is owed, and I apologize to anyone who is not mentioned here. I strongly believe this will be our year; it's been interesting to say the least to be five years ahead of the ball when it comes to local independent Internet news.
Here is the count, starting with the year's top story and including the twenty most visited. Again, the Google Analytics numbers are very conservative, the actual visitor count numbers would actually be 30-50% higher:
First place with 87,701 views:
Interestingly, our top story for 2009 was not written by one of our staff members, but by a retired Seattle Police Chief named Norm Stamper.
He contributed an article on behalf of the group LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) that was an open message to Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position generally referred to as the United States "Drug Czar".
In this story Stamper, the former Seattle Chief, asked the current chief, Kerlikowske, to be rational and open toward cannabis as he enters his new role.
Second place with 29,717 views:
One of our secret weapons at Salem-News.com is the better part of a platoon's worth of former U.S. Marines who are now writers. Gordon Duff in Ohio was a Marine in Vietnam.
He has become a good friend of Salem-News.com and his brave articles about 9-11 and the questions surrounding this national tragedy are a perfect complement to his other work that frequently if not constantly examines the world's most severe issues that relate to the military and foreign affairs.
Gordon writes for Veterans Today on a regular basis and our collaboration is getting Gordon in front of more people than ever.Third place with 28,893 views:
April 17 2009
Sexy, Nude or Bikini Clad: Women in Their 40's and Beyond Prove Age Means Nothing
Social Commentary by Tim King Salem-News.com
I would feel better if my top story for the year had been one of my reports from Iraq or something along those lines, but instead it is my article about how women today are defying age with healthy approaches to life.
I am glad that I have been able to write about this. I have lived in places where the average age of a woman was 43, whereas in the United States today some women aren't even reaching their prime until their mid-40's in many cases.
The personalities cited in the article include Jodie Foster, Goldie Hawn, Justine Bateman, Valerie Bertinelli and Mary Louise Parker. The purpose of this article is to celebrate women of all ages and encourage them to believe in themselves.
Fourth place: with 26,148 views:
A story about Miley Cyrus getting in trouble over posing with no shirt at the age of 15 has been a consistently popular story ever since it was launched in May 2008.
What does this say about America? Probably that people are as fascinated by the taboos of life as they ever were. A nation that runs the course between slutty celebrities and puritanical religious value, seems attracted to the things that we are all supposed to shun.
I think it is art. The girl isn't showing anything so to speak, except her back. But this is the country that freaks out about Janet Jackson's nipple showing, while the latest torture movie in the Saw series gets an 'R' rating.
Fifth place with 24,753 views:
At the time this was written, friends, family and fans of actor Patrick Swayze, were holding back tears over the news that the cancer he has been battling had spread to his liver.
Remembered for his starring and supporting roles in numerous films, he may best be remembered for his roles in The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn and Ghost. Swayze was told in January that his pancreatic cancer is terminal, and he has started preparing for death, according to reports.
It isn't just that Patrick Swayze is famous, he is loved by millions and his performances are memorable and historic.
Sixth place with 24,425 views:
I have had to wonder over and over again why this story comes in month after month as a top pick. I don't mean to slight the importance of Michele Obama, but the article is about a traffic accident during the Obama campaign that involved the First Lady-to be.
The motorcycle rider was a 40-year old hydraulic mechanic named Tim Emerson, of Iowa Falls. Witnesses told police that the van, driven by a campaign aide, was starting to make a left turn when the motorcycle traveling behind the van, which reportedly had been passing cars on the left, smashed into the left rear side of the van.
As it turns out, the photo we used of Michele Obama is popular in the Google photo searches, and that is what keeps leading people to the story in numbers, since 2007 when it was published.
Seventh place with 20,906 views:
We certainly run our share of stories about legal medical marijuana, and so it was no wonder that this story about a new cannabis resource application for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, is our seventh most popular story of the year 2009.
As police continue to chase people and arrest them for marijuana use, a cannabis industry is taking form, particularly on the west coast, and there seems little for anyone to do anything about it. Soon larger and larger amounts of legal tender will make marijuana an acceptable fixture in everyday life.
The new application allows users to locate cannabis resources worldwide - including the nearest medical cannabis collectives, doctors, attorneys, organizations, and other patient services in the states, such as California, that have passed laws allowing medical cannabis.
Eighth place with 18,888 views:
This might be one of the strangest stories we have covered, and there is stiff competition for that dubious title. 5 kids whose parents immigrated to the U.S. six years ago from the Ukraine, told police they were the victims of severe abuse at home.
The parents, 40-year old Alexander Kozlov and 39-year old Lyudmila Kozlov, received serious support from their fellow church members. They gathered with signs at the courthouse during the trial, and they left hundreds and hundreds of comments on our articles that followed the story.
There is much to be learned from the story of the Koslov's, who their advocates say are good people who meant well, in spite of the convictions. They refused a public defender, were difficult for the court to work with, and ultimately received seven years in prison for the charges.
Ninth place with 18,496 views:
Our writer Allan Erickson of Eugene really nailed the hypocrisy of the President with this one, citing his disappointment with how Barack Omaba doesn't think that legalizing marijuana is a good idea when he admits at the same time that he used to smoke it.
Allan reasons that as a former pot smoker, the President should realize that while his pot smoking didn't disqualify him as a candidate for the highest office in the land, a conviction surely would have.
Every day in the United States 99 people an hour are arrested for pot. Nearly a million people a year. Now that is a lot of police time, court time and sometimes jail time that we pay for. And what is the goal of this prohibition again? Do we believe Prohibition II has stopped anyone from trying pot?
Tenth place with 17,941 views:
A few years ago while still in practice, our writer Dr. Phil Leveque was asked by a healthcare professional at the Portland VA Hospital if he would help PTSD Veteran Victims get permits to use legalized medical marijuana. They knew that he already had Veteran patients from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He said "yes" and within two weeks had more than 50 Vietnam Vets requesting his help.
This article discusses the "illegal" marijuana that helps PTSD sufferers, and the government's answer for them: strong pain killers like Oxycontin and Morphine and every related pain killer.
Nobody in the world knows more about this subject, as a WWII combat soldier and war survivor/Physician/Forensic Toxicologist and Pharmacologist, than Doc Leveque. He maintains that the drugs the VA prescribes to Veterans for PTSD are potentially deadly and they lead to massive unnecessary addiction.
Eleventh place with 16,797 views:
The number one question Americans asked then Presidential Candidate Barack Obama via the change.org Web poll, was: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"
This story was the setting for what ended up being a sad heaping helping of disappointment and a sign of bigger things to come for the Obama Administration. Even though the question about pot was number one, it was disregarded and tossed out in the end.
When this story was written, we only knew that the question was at the top of the poll, we did not yet know that it would ultimately be tossed out.
Twelfth place with 16,058 views:
This was a news release from the American Beverage Institute, criticizing Mothers Against Drunk Driving for publicly lamenting that President Obama chose to hold a “Beer Summit” in an effort to cool tensions between the gentlemen involved in the recent police incident in Cambridge.
“MADD is no longer an organization that opposes drunk driving, but an anti-alcohol group that has been hijacked by the modern day temperance movement,” said Sarah Longwell, ABI Managing Director.
“That someone in a position of leadership at MADD would criticize President Obama for simply drinking beer, illustrates the neoprohibitionist mentality that now dominates the group.”
Thirteenth place with 13,157 views:
I watched part of Dirty Dancing yesterday, the part where Patrick Swayze's character walks into the dance hall and takes the mic, before lighting up the screen with the wonderfully choreographed performance that I think stands as one of the best movie scenes of all time, and I cried.
The loss of Patrick Swayze is not an easy thing for many of us, it reminds us of our own mortality and his loss was like the cashing in of a gift. We are left with presents, but we know there will be no more to look forward to.
This particular article's strength was possibly rooted in the fact that it was encouraging, when other outlooks on his health were bleak. I think a lot of people wanted to read a more positive side of this acting legend's story.
Fourteenth place with 12,663 views:
This certainly has to be the funniest thing we have ever published at Salem-News.com. It is a phone call from a drug cop who has been pilfering marijuana from the evidence room, to 911, after he and his wife ate too many pot brownies and thought they were dying.
The conversation with the dispatcher does not initially reveal who the guy is, though he sort of sounds like a cop. He apparently was willing to throw his career away with the 911 call. Interestingly, there is no such thing as a lethal dose of marijuana.
It might be one of the strangest things you have ever heard, and then we learned later that his wife had been going through some large amounts of cocaine in a recent period. Guess where that came from?
Fifteenth place with 11,997 views:
The interesting thing about story popularity, is that we only have something to do with it as writers and publishers. If the story is not interesting, or the type of thing people are looking for, it will not make this count, that's for sure.
Therefore, the fact that marijuana seems to come up repeatedly is probably a reflection of the fact that Salem-News.com is the only daily news agency in the nation that covers mainstream news, and also medical marijuana seriously.
This story is a classic example of how Dr. Phil Leveque lays out the facts for people to read so they can better understand this popular herb that the government has tried very hard to keep people in the dark over. There are a certain number of medical conditions that qualify a person to use medical marijuana in Oregon and California and other states.
Sixteenth place with 11,374 views:
A Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative-leaning O'Leary Report has found 52 percent voter support for treating marijuana as a legal, taxed, regulated substance.
The survey, published as a full-page ad in today's issue of the political newspaper The Hill, polled a sample of 3,937 voters weighted to match the 2008 presidential outcome -- 54 percent Obama voters and 46 percent McCain supporters.
"This new survey continues the recent trend of strong and growing support for taxing and regulating marijuana and ending the disastrously failed policy of prohibition," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.
Seventeenth place with 11,309 views:
As the story about the five Ukrainian children who fled their family to report abuse to the police progressed, details emerged from the Marion County Sheriff's Office that would make your skin crawl. The couple, Alexander and Lyudmila Kozlov, used several methods to inflict abuse on their children. The final bout happened because a teenage daughter cut her hair without her parents' blessing.
We learned from this sad story that the U.S. government does not apparently in any way instruct new arrivals to our country in customs or laws. These people seemed to have no idea that they could actually be incarcerated for what they did.
People from Eastern Europe lived a very harsh life during Communism; the U.S. needs to do a better job educating people who move here, that way families can stay together and parents can stay out of prison.
Eighteenth place with 10,722 views:
The Neocons hate this one, but statistically, the Republicans just smoke the Democrats when it comes to sex scandals. Now that is not to say that Democrats are saints by any means, and from Kennedy to Clinton, there are plenty of offenses on the left side of the aisle, but they don't compare.
Of course it is the irony and the hypocrisy that fry a lot of people's circuits when it comes to the God fearing right wingers and their in the closet activity.
Parades are popular in this country, and they don't always involve marching bands. Sometimes the ones doing the parading are politicians in the Christian majority, and sometimes they turn out to be the most horrible people, as this story shows.
Nineteenth place with 10,277 views:
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is the winner of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player presented by Kia Motors, the NBA announced.
The 11-year NBA veteran totaled 1,105 points, including 82 first place votes, from a panel of 126 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for third, three for fourth and one for each fifth-place vote.
The NBA MVP trophy is named in honor of the late Maurice Podoloff, the first commissioner of the NBA who served from 1946 until his retirement in 1963.
Twentieth place with 10,014 views:
When I first heard about this story, which incidentally was our #1 article of the year in 2008 with 74,583 visits, I knew I was seeing something special.
Gina Elsie was inspired by her grandfather's service in WWII to become today's "Betty Grable" style pin-up model, with an agenda of visiting wounded veterans in hospitals, and simply to cheer them and lend her kind spirit. She sells the same calendars that she always gives for free to wounded veterans, and has some great stories to share. Gina recently donated $15,000 to the Portland, Oregon VA Hospital.
In fact, after a recent conversation, Gina Elsie agreed to become a Salem-News.com writer, and we look forward to welcoming her aboard very soon and hearing of some unique encounters as a beautiful pin-up model who spends her extra time around the Americans who need her most.
Here are last year's winners:
Articles for December 28, 2009 | Articles for December 29, 2009 | Articles for December 30, 2009