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We often joke that all you need to do to get a story lots of web traffic is put something about nudity, the Chargers or condos in the headline. Our list of the top 10 most read stories of 2010 just confirms that, but it seems we forgot about another grabber — natural disasters. (We’re waiting for the day when flooding in Mission Valley during a Chargers game makes naked people leave their condos.)
These aren’t necessarily the most important or impactful stories we did this year, but they were the ones that grabbed the most attention.
Without further ado, here are the Top 10 along with updates about what’s happened since the articles were published.
The Story: Every year, thousands of bicyclists take off most or all of their clothes and bike around cities like London, Philadelphia and Chicago to protest oil dependency. Local cops often don’t lift a finger to enforce anti-nudity ordinances during the World Naked Bike Ride, but in San Diego officials told organizers of the first-ever ride here that they’d have to cover up. I heard about the planned ride and got a scoop: the would-be nudists were headed to court to force the city to back down.
Behind the Story: Humor writers Gene Weingarten and Dave Barry linked to the story, joking about the appropriateness of the name of the young woman who sued the city.
Postscript: The bicyclists repeatedly lost in court. (One defeat prompted this headline on our site: “No Nudes Is Bad News for Bare Riders.”) The ride went on, however, in front of a big crowd of cops and gawkers. While none of the participants were nude, they wore as little as they thought they could get away with. There’s no word yet on whether there will be another local ride next year.
2. Why Mission Valley Is Underwater, Dec. 22
The Story: Rains hit the county hard before Christmas, and the usual flooding hit Mission Valley. But this time there was a big twist: the stadium filled with water, and city workers had to rush to pump it out before the Poinsettia Bowl.
We took a look back at our 2006 investigative series by reporter Will Carless examining the risk posed by putting an unplanned neighborhood in the middle of a flood plain. As the story noted, “there’s no plan to evacuate its 18,000 residents in the case of a flood.”
Behind the Story: Carless wrote: “If and when there is such a catastrophic event, local experts admit that they don’t really know what will happen to a community that’s seen its population grow by 41.8 percent since 2000. The last study to examine what might happen to Mission Valley in the event of extraordinarily heavy rainfall was in 1985. Since then, more than 2,000 condos and innumerable commercial buildings have made their home in the valley.”
Postscript: The city got the water out of the stadium and a somewhat soggy Poinsettia Bowl went on as scheduled.
3. How to Avoid the Chargers Blackout, Oct. 1.
The Story: The NFL’s blackout policy prevented Chargers fans from seeing their team’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals on the tube. I compiled a list of ways that Bolt boosters could still tune in.
Behind the Story: This story included one of the most boneheaded errors of my journalism career. Enough said.
Postscript: The Chargers won the game against the Cardinals by 41-10, but they later lost their bid for the playoffs — a spectacle that was, indeed, televised.
4. The Web’s Best Quake Coverage, April 4.
The Story: The 7.2 magnitude Easter Sunday earthquake hit in the afternoon. I compiled a batch of the most memorable videos that promptly appeared online, including those of a young San Diego woman startled out of her guitar-playing and a sloshing swimming pool in Brawley that looked like it had been hit by a storm. I also found videos of shaking at Balboa Park’s Lily Pond and a liquor store in Chula Vista.
Behind the Story: A video titled “San Diego earthquake” shows a few guys playing guitar as the quake strikes. The video might be fake: Commenters noticed that neither the blinds nor the water in a glass do much in the way of moving. And the house sure didn’t creak like mine did.
Postscript: The Los Angeles Times says there are signs that the shaker “directed tectonic stress toward Southern California, putting the region at a higher risk for a future quake.”
5. Need a Pothole Fixed? Do It Yourself, Nov. 18.
The Story: Reporter Adrian Florido had just left his home in Hillcrest to go to work when he ran across a man filling in a pothole in the street. The guy turned out to be a frustrated resident who decided to take matters into his own hands after trying to get the city to do something.
Behind the Story: The city blamed its computer system for not processing all the information that the man entered when he requested a repair.
Postscript: The do-it-yourselfer says a city crew repaired the pothole, and a damaged section of street near his house has finally “been sufficiently fixed to be safe.”
6. Condo Owners Fear X-Ray Would Show Mushy Bones, June 21.
The Story: Residents of a condo/townhome development in the Bird Rock neighborhood in La Jolla are suing the builders of their homes, claiming they were poorly constructed and are now almost impossible to sell, real-estate reporter Kelly Bennett (now our arts editor) reported.
Behind the Story: The development “had all of the pieces of San Diego boom-time opulence. Slick brochures. An interest list of 5,000 names. Jazzy advertisements prophesying its future as the jewel of Bird Rock. An invitation-only sales event that proved such a lucrative ticket that attendees color-photocopied their friends’ invitations and snuck in.”
Postscript: At least one of the lawsuits is still in court proceedings.
7. Why They Chose SDSU Over UCSD, Aug. 30.
The Story: San Diego State has long battled a reputation as a “party school” that doesn’t focus much on academics. Now, some researchers are choosing SDSU over UCSD because of its close-knit environment and emphasis on teaching.
Behind the Story: Doctoral students at SDSU can’t get their degrees from there alone. They must get them in conjunction with another university. Typically, it’s UCSD.
Postscript: Anirban Banerjee, a postdoctoral fellow at SDSU, said he was nervous that the university’s less-prestigious name might hurt his hunt for a job, but thought his teaching experience might help.
Now he has started applying for jobs, but he said it’s too soon to know whether his research at SDSU will help him or hurt him. “I believe that if you have good publications (which is a bit difficult to get from SDSU, since we not fully equipped) it should not matter, but that’s an ideal scenario,” he wrote in an email to reporter Claire Trageser. “We will see.”
8. Paying Cash for Condos in Downtown, July 12.
The Story: Kelly Bennett followed up on an earlier story about the troubled Vantage Pointe complex with a look at how many buyers downtown were paying for their condos with cash because it became harder to get a mortgage.
Behind the Story: The massive condo complex of Vantage Pointe was the site of a major showdown between buyers and developers in 2009 because of what it meant for the real estate market and continued to be an important story in 2010.
9. Shadow Inventory Is For Real, Jan. 2.
The Story: They’re the boogeymen lurking behind San Diego’s housing market: homes that are in foreclosure but aren’t up for sale yet. When they finally do hit the market, they could spell trouble for prices. Rich Toscano, who analyzes real estate and the economy for us, explored “what lurks in the shadows.”
Behind the Story: The homes may never go on the market.
Postscript:: Toscano provides this update: “As the original article suggested might be the case, nothing dramatic happened with shadow inventory. But a little something happened. Inventory increased through most of 2010, eventually rising quite substantially from the level it was when the story was written. I didn’t actually check the data on this, but common sense and anecdotal evidence both suggest that part of this inventory rise was caused by an increase in foreclosed homes making it to market. However, most of the shadow inventory remained in limbo, meaning that a large amount potential inventory still hangs over the market.”
10. Layoffs Hit Union-Tribune Newsroom, June 17.
The Story: The newspaper had cut more than half its staff since late 2006 to address declining advertising revenues. But this cut was different that the ones in the past. “The changes are being articulated as part of a new, refocused vision for the newspaper. The Union-Tribune is simultaneously hiring, recruiting new leaders and offering entry-level reporting jobs. Some reporters laid off Thursday have the option of taking one of those jobs — dubbed a junior staff writer, which pays about $35,000 annually — or a six months’ salary severance,” Rob Davis and I reported.
Behind the Story: The Union-Tribune’s new editor, Jeff Light, said the cuts portended larger changes to come at the newspaper, which was under new ownership as well.
“The benefits will not be immediately apparent,” he wrote. “But by summer’s end, you will see a different U-T both in print and online.”
Postscript: Among those laid off was Robert Pincus, the newspaper’s long-time arts critic. His departure sparked an outcry among readers who felt the paper was abandoning its coverage of the arts. Since the layoffs, the newspaper has shrunk the width of its print edition and dramatically overhauled the edition’s design. Online, it has altered its presentation, has begun to link to other publications occasionally and appears to improving its multimedia presentations.