Texas Public Radio's Most-Viewed Stories Of 2020
It goes without saying, 2020 was a big year for news. TPR.org welcomed more than 6.3 million page views to its website. Readers were interested in local stories including the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the presidential election. NPR stories were also popular, like this one about Jeff Bezos' dad, and this story about a Walmart employee who struggled to work through the pandemic.
TPR is dedicated to providing our readers and listeners with a wide-range of news coverage. Here are the most-viewed TPR stories:
After a year of seemingly endless bad news, it isn’t surprising that our top story was one about community, nature and building bridges — literally. The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge opened at Phil Hardberger Park in December, connecting the previously divided 330-acre park. The bridge is covered with native trees and plants and is now the largest wildlife bridge in the U.S.
When cities across the U.S. clamped down on large gatherings and the CDC recommended no more than 10 people to a meeting — it led to disappointment for a lot of brides and grooms. Americans spent $54 billion on more than 2 million weddings last in 2019. Those numbers cratered in 2020.
Election officials faced an increasingly urgent question: how to accommodate voters who become infected in the days leading up to the election. In Texas — a state that fought expanding mail-in ballot access all the way up to the Supreme Court — some COVID-19 positive voters wondered if they’d have to choose between their right to vote and the public's health.
Many people wondered how schools would reopen after Texas’ summer surge of coronavirus cases. Would learning continue virtually and, most importantly for some Texans, would the football season go on as planned? The University of Texas at Austin's first game set the tone for an unusual season. However, despite safety precautions inside the stadium, some in the crowd were mask-less and not distanced outside the venue. The lack of enforcement within the arena concerned UT students and community members.
When much of the country was on lockdown because of the coronavirus, construction of President Trump's border wall continued. Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a full-stop on construction. But the administration accelerated some efforts to build the wall, and Trump used the pandemic to justify his push for it.
A 20-year-old Corpus Christi man named Adam Salim Alsahli opened fire on officers guarding the entrance of the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi. Officials said the shooting was terrorism-related, and social media profiles which appear to belong to the suspect reference support for the Taliban and al-Qaida. The shooting comes just over five months after a Saudi flight student at Naval Air Station Pensacola shot and killed three sailors on that base.
Hundreds of asylum-seekers who reached the Texas-Mexico border this year didn't get a chance to make their case in U.S. immigration court. Instead, the migrants — mostly women and children — were put on planes to Guatemala and told to ask for asylum in that country. The Trump administration said the Asylum Cooperative Agreement helps drive down the number of migrants asking for asylum in the U.S., but critics claimed the U.S. sent asylum-seekers back to dangerous places.
San Antonio Independent School District lost touch with more than 9,000 students district-wide and with 25% of its elementary students a week after launching virtual classes. SAISD shut down mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — which, for many schools, happened during spring break. District officials cited outdated contact information as the main reason, but began distributing laptops to regain contact with younger students.
9. How A Peaceful George Floyd Protest Turned Violent In The Alamo City
Protests broke out across the nation after police officers killed George Floyd in Minneapolis — including in downtown San Antonio. San Antonians came together the following weekend for a peaceful march and vigil. By the end of the night, the situation devolved into a riot after protesters, counterprotesters and police clashed outside the historic Alamo. Protests against police brutality and in honor of Floyd continued throughout the summertime.
Teachers — in particular — found themselves at the center of coronavirus concerns and racial equity this year. An art teacher at Great Hearts Western Hills was told she would lose her job if she continued to wear a “Black Lives Matter” mask. Lillian White said she was asked to stop wearing the mask several times before she lost her job, but she kept wearing it because she thought it was the right thing to do.
5G will bring the next generation of wireless technology to cities across Texas, but advocates argue it will bring the fifth generation of digital inequality to low-income and rural areas. Unlike in banking, digital redlining — or not investing in low-income and minority communities — is not illegal. Many would argue that companies putting infrastructure where people can afford to upgrade are doing what makes the most money. But as a result, 5G won't close the digital divide. In fact, because it will speed the obsolescence of technology low-income people can afford, it will likely make it worse.
Bexar County’s former Republican party chairperson made several statements this summer likening the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd’s murder to hoaxes. It didn’t take long before Gov. Greg Abbott and other high-ranking Republican leaders called on Cynthia Brehm to resign. She continued her runoff campaign, eventually losing to John Austin.
More than 1,500 San Antonians have died from COVID-19 this year. Kyle Coleman, the Bexar County Emergency Management Coordinator and a public servant for decades, died during the coronavirus surge this summer. He had a heart attack due to complications from COVID-19, according to county officials. Coleman’s wife asked Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff to share this message: “It is my hope that this will bring attention to the importance of wearing masks and practicing safe distancing.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff made legal waves when he solved Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate riddle. The governor hinted at a loophole in his statewide orders limiting what local officials could and couldn’t do regarding COVID-19 restrictions. While city and county governments could not require their residents to wear masks, they could require business owners to enforce the policy instead
15. Migrants Are Being Held In Hotels And Then Expelled Without Access To Attorneys
Immigration justice remained a top concern during the coronavirus pandemic — especially in cities near the border like McAllen. The Trump administration implemented an order that quickly expelled migrants without hearings, effectively ending the asylum process under the pretext of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Migrant children and adults were detained in hotels and sent back to their home countries.
Most-viewed local election story:
Political news was in no short supply this year, and TPR readers were interested in stories that had the potential to impact them here at home. Four out of 32 large sorting machines were removed from San Antonio’s Perrin Beitel Road distribution center according to representatives of the American Postal Workers Union Local 195. The machines sort 35,000 pieces of flat mail (like ballots) every hour. Mail-in ballot delays and other concerns related to the U.S. Postal Service were at the forefront of voters’ minds leading up to November. Texas didn’t experience extreme counting delays, but the winner of the presidential election wasn’t called by the Associated Press until about four days after the election.
Most-viewed arts story:
Many San Antonians took the pandemic and simultaneous “lockdown” in stride. One artist re-imagined Loteria cards with coronavirus themes. Rafael Gonzales, Jr. designed cards to represent his coronavirus experience: rolls of toilet paper called “El Hoarder,” a frozen margarita called “La Coping Mechanism” and more.
Click here to see TPR's top podcast episodes of 2020.
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