Looking back can be a useful guide to looking forward, and that’s definitely the case with our annual review of the previous year’s top news stories, as voted on by our readers.
I scoured a year’s worth of newspapers, more than once, to come up with potential candidates for our annual ballot to determine the top headlines of the year. It is admittedly a bit subjective when narrowing the list down to 25, but we try to be as inclusive as possible. Of course, one person’s idea of a “most important” topic is another person’s less-compelling story. Everyone has their favorites, and I’m sure we left out a few of those. Sorry about that, but keep reading — your top story may have some ongoing traction that turns it into something bigger.
I usually have several reactions when I page back through the preceding 12 months: The year seems to have passed by incredibly quickly (didn’t we just publish that story?). There was a lot going on in the valley and environs. Many local stories have a long narrative arc; we may be at the beginning, middle or end of any of them. And, we produced hundreds of pages packed with news, features, photos, sports, arts, opinion and more. I’m grateful to our outstanding crew of staffers and contributors. They make it happen week after week.
Revisiting the previous year is a reminder of what’s been important to valley residents and fans in the past, and what’s likely to be of interest going forward. The results of our ballot are, I think, also indicative of the valley’s mood. It seems we were looking for some things to celebrate.
This year, a feel-good story claimed the top spot: the Methow Conservancy’s transfer of the Wagner Ranch property to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Second place went to what we called “the grand openings,” three long-written about, long-anticipated major projects that enhance the community: the Winthrop library, a new fire hall for Okanogan County Fire District 6, and a new town hall (it’s now a Civic Building) for Twisp. Their stories now enter a new phase.
The rest of the top 11 (including a tie for 10th) have a lot of familiarity, although there were some intriguing unpredictables: the November general election results, the sale of Sun Mountain Lodge, and the re-emergence of grizzly bear reintroduction to the North Cascades as a possibility.
The previous year’s top story, the fires of 2021, was a lot less impactful in 2022 and the voting showed that — our ongoing concern about fires drew just enough votes to boost the summer of 2022 onto the top stories list.
But we are clearly weary of the COVID challenge, as that story dropped from No. 2 in 2021, to also-ran in 2022. Let’s hope it doesn’t make a comeback. Many other worthy stories did not make the final cut, but every one of them drew votes. I thought several of them had a shot at the top 10.
We treat the top sports stories of the year separately so they get their own space and attention. See page B1 for sports writer Rick Lewis’s take on Methow Valley sports in 2022. Elsewhere in this issue will you find pages devoted to the year in arts, the various changes of 2022, favorite photos of the year, and a sampling of cartoons from Len Baublitz and Erik Brooks. We didn’t have room for much else, but we’ll back up to full speed next week.
At the very end of the year came a major breaking story that was too late for the 2022 ballot, but will likely be in the running for 2023 because its story arc is just beginning: The Methow Conservancy’s proposal to buy 1,200 acres of former Sunny M Ranch property to preserve and protect. A major fundraising campaign will keep that story active for the next six months, and beyond.
It’s a certainty that many of the stories on this year’s ballot will show up again, as we follow their evolution (and perhaps resolution). There will also be surprises, which makes the “news” part of newspapering interesting to us — and you.
Thanks to all who participated — we are always grateful for your engagement and support. Stay tuned for the next 12 months.