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10 Best Of 2016: The KGOU Stories You Appreciated And Weighed In On

The 2016 presidential election, contests for contentious state questions, and curiously, alcohol infused with a breakfast staple dominated KGOU’s digital coverage this year. From Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation’s reaction to Hillary Clinton’s emails, to energy industry layoffs, to agriculture and capital punishment, there were plenty of stories for our newsroom to tell in 2016.

KGOU.org had more than 863,000 page views this year, an 18.4 percent increase over last year. As we wrap up 2016, we’re looking back at 10 of our most-viewed web stories, along with listener and reader comments from our website and Facebook page.

The April arrest of the manager of a popular Paseo Arts District establishment prompted questions about what bar owners can and can’t do under state law and Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission rules. It’s a little confusing, but basically the Oklahoma City Police Department said the employee violated a municipal law by violating a state law (more details and links to the laws in question are in the story).
Reader Bill1893 writes: What is an OKC cop doing enforcing questionable ABLE commission regulations with criminal arrest in any case? Did he do it as part of an ABLE task force or sting or the like? Was he just in the bar and said, hey, you know, I was reading ABLE regulations last night, and I have a hunch that bacon vodka is illegal, so you're under arrest? Either way, there may be a false arrest claim in the offing. Three days in jail is not a trivial deprivation from a civil rights perspective.

A month later, the ABLE Commision ruled in favor of The Pump.

Over the summer, shortly after the Republican National Convention, President-elect Donald Trump called on Russia to find emails deleted by his Democratic challenger – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole offered a tempered response to Trump’s comments, and said he still had concerns about Trump’s candidacy.

Reader ackthbbft writes: “Actively supporting espionage by a foreign government to affect our elections. That's a step beyond Watergate, even.”      

Reader Dahjer Cana’an writes: “Trying so hard to get him to say something negative about Donald Trump to put the focus on Trump for what he said rather than the actions & behavior of Clinton. This is insanity to me.”

Oklahoma City continued to reel from the downturn in oil and natural gas prices this year. One of the largest (and traditionally most stable) companies announced in January it would significantly curtail its workforce during the first quarter. A little over a month later, Devon Energy Corp. confirmed 1,000 employees would lose their jobs, including 700 in Oklahoma City.

According to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Devon’s February layoff ranked 13th among the 20 largest layoff events in 2016, CNBC reports.

Capital punishment in Oklahoma has closely scrutinized ever since the April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett. He took more than 40 minutes to die, and struggled on the gurney as corrections officers attempted to administer the lethal cocktail of drugs. Nearly a year later, Oklahoma executed another inmate – Charles Warner – but an autopsy showed the wrong drugs were administered. Richard Glossip’s execution was repeatedly put on hold before attorney general Scott Pruitt issued an indefinite moratorium on executions.

State Question 776, which Oklahoma voters approved by a 2-1 margin, amended the Oklahoma Constitution to guarantee the state’s power to impose capital punishment, and determine the methods.

Reader John Pitchlynn writes: NO on 776! And why?.. Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

It was shuffled around Oklahoma City and even run over by a car at one point. But the Ten Commandments monument once positioned on the north side of the state Capitol likely won’t return to Oklahoma City after 57 percent of voters rejected allowing public money to be spent on religious purposes.

Reader Michelle Meazel writes: It's ridiculous to even think we are at this point, in 2016... I'm a Christian and I'm fed up with the way people are behaving. We should not be trying to change the constitution to allow for monies to go to religious organizations or putting a monument for one religion on Capitol soil. It's ludicrous.

StateImpact Oklahoma spent hundreds of hours in 2015 and 2016 covering State Question 777. Supporters called it the “right-to-farm” amendment, and it would’ve guaranteed certain rights to farmers and ranchers without government interference. Supporters argued it protected agriculture producers from unfair regulations, and opponents said it would give huge agribusinesses a leg up over small, local farms.

The resolution was soundly defeated on a 60-40 split, with geography a major indicator of the differences. The Oklahoma City passed a resolution formally opposing the measure in September, and other cities took similar action.

Nine days after Donald Trump won the election to become the 45th U.S. president, a small group of so-called “street preachers” descended on the University of Oklahoma campus with an anti-Black Lives Matter and anti-Islamic message. Condemnation was swift from University of Oklahoma students and administrators. University of Oklahoma president David Boren climbed on top of a time capsule, bullhorn in hand, and told the protesters they had no right to be on campus.

Reader Jason Orr writes: “As a University of Oklahoma alumni [sic], I am deeply appalled by OU President David Boren's actions shutting down free speech on the university campus yesterday. Boren shouted from a megaphone as he had anti-BLM protesters removed from campus by OUPD, "Our campus, and our campus diversity is our strength." He went on to say, "You have no place here. You have no right to be here." In typical liberal fashion, Boren claims to be inclusive and embrace diversity while at the same time he uses his position to suppress and shut down opposing views. I am not posting this statement to support or oppose BLM. My intent is to say I am disappointed that the leader of my alma mater would go to such lengths to continue the coddling culture we are witnessing on college campuses across this country. Today, I am embarrassed and ashamed to be a Sooner.”

Our story with arguably the most impressive visuals in 2016, StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz spent a few days in one of the remotest part of Oklahoma with hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts. They gathered for Okie-Tex 2016, a stargazing event around Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma.
Reader Mary Sue Gover Sparkman writes: “Love the idea of being out there, where, as on of my friends says, "all you can hear is the wind blow'in ".”

(We actually reported and published this story last year, but it was broadcast nationally on Here & Now in 2016, and saw most of its pageviews this year, so we’re counting it)

Four decades after helicopters rescued as many refugees as possible from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon, Oklahoma City’s Asian District continues to thrive. Thousands of Vietnamese families settled in Oklahoma City after the war – largely because it was one of the closest major cities to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, where Vietnamese asylum seekers were processed. Many of them were educated, and helped stabilize a declining neighborhood along NW 23rd Street.

Reader Sara Norton-Sanner writes: “This story is fabulous!!”

Over the summer, dozens of works of art by Henri Matisse and his contemporaries lined the walls of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, in the exhibition’s only North American venue. KGOU’s Kate Carlton Greer visited the OKCMOA as curators and art historians opened the carefully packed crates to reveal paintings and sculptures that have never traveled outside of Europe. The exhibit also showcased the decades-long rivalry between Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Kate’s local story piqued NPR’s interest, and a slightly reworked version was broadcast on Weekend Edition Sunday a few weeks later.

Reader Kurt Gwartney writes: “I’m looking forward to seeing this in person.”

Those were 10 of the most-viewed stories in 2016, but we also covered education cuts, continued debates over civil asset forfeiture, and President-elect Donald Trump’s visit to Norman during a campaign fundraiser.

What can we expect in 2017? Lawmakers will return to the state Capitol in February for the next legislative session, and have another nearly $900 million hole to fill in the state budget. The country will have a new president, and StateImpact Oklahoma will follow the politically intense confirmation process of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Joe Wertz and Logan Layden will also continue to cover how decisions at 23rd and Lincoln will affect energy and the environment.

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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