The 25 most popular WBEZ stories of 2011

December 30, 2011

I have this information, so why don't I share it? Here's a list of the top 25 stories on WBEZ.org this year. It's an interesting mix and most of them are legitimate popular, not just on the list because the combination of the keywords "Emanuel, guns, conceal, carry, Charlton Heston" tripped the Google. I mean, we have that too. But here are the top 25, in cased you missed them.

25. Steve Dolinsky: Top 5 Sushi Spots

Steve Dolinsky blogged for WBEZ since 2009 and ended his run in the summer of 2011. His Thursday posts of "Top 5's" for food in Chicago were very popular and show up a few times on this list.

24. Steve Edwards: A Map of Illinois' nuclear plants

In the wake of the (almost) nuclear meltdown in Japan after the devastating earthquake, Steve mapped where nuclear plants were in Illinois. So, you know, you know.

23. Jim DeRogatis: Will Dave Matthews save the far South Side?

Our music blogger Jim DeRogatis wrote about Dave Matthews Caravan coming to the former U.S. Steel grounds this summer. Dave Matthews fans are pretty rabid. Any time Jim writes about DMB, the site gets really crowded.

22. Jonathan Miller: East Germany and Krypton come to Chicago

I'll be honest, something is screwy with this piece. It's from 2009 and it's on our most popular today. I think Google likes Krypton and East Germany as keywords.

21. Sound Opinions: Steven Malkmus

The frontman for Pavement stopped by the Sound Opinions studio for an interview and performance. Andrew Gill put some video on him and this got picked up by most of the national music blogs.

20.  City Room Blog: D.C. Earthquake felt in Chicago

We were sitting at our desks at Navy Pier and we felt an earthquake. Then Andrew Gill and Elliott Ramos followed up with sources and it was true, the D.C. earthquake could be felt in Chicago. The secret here was getting the story up fast. People were interested because they just felt it too.

19. Eight Forty-Eight/Nina Barrett: The perfect hard-boiled egg

This story was not only done well, but timed well. It was broadcast on Eight Forty-Eight right before Easter. This story did get the help of Google searches to rise the ranks, as it was one of the most popular stories we've ever had on a weekend (the Saturday before Easter).

18. Jim DeRogatis: Favorite albums of 2011

No brainer, right? One of the best music critics in the country breaks down his faves of 2011.

17. Steve Dolinsky: Top 5 Thai restaurants in Chicago

I think these places all still operate. So there ya go, Dolinsky is the gift that keeps on giving.

16. Justin Kaufmann: Carl Kasell reads Any Given Sunday Pacino speech

This was inspired by the Bears/Packers NFC Championship game. I had Carl read that ridiculous speech that Al Pacino gives his squad in Any Given Sunday. It was a funny send-up that was taken by the site Deadspin and turned into a slideshow. They put serious pictures of the Bears/Packers rivalry and plopped them over our track. It went from tongue-in-cheek to compelling media. I cried when watching it.

15. Jim DeRogatis: Pitchfork & Odd Future

DeRo is killing it! Remember this story? One of the best of the year. Pitchfork invited rap group Odd Future to play at the festival. The only problem was that the group's lyrics are pretty offensive to women. This is indie-rock culture? In the end, it all worked out but for a while there were some great discussions about art, music and what is appropriate at city festivals.

14. Mark Bazer: Google+ is dumb

This was one of Mark Bazer's first posts with WBEZ.org. He wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about Google+ and it caught fire, mostly because people wanted to read the reviews of this new Google product. It was a parody of reviews of something that really didn't need to be reviewed. It was a great piece of comedy and Mark was able to use the buzz word "Google" to help his Google rank.

13. Jim DeRogatis: Biggest Turkeys of 2011

DeRo again! This was a Thanksgiving special. Jim puts out to the internet the albums he thinks were 2011 stinkers. They respond.

12. City Room video: Questionable police tactics caught on tape

There was a cell phone video given to us showing what looked like police officers opening the door on a squad to show rival gang members this kid's face. It was an explosive story with the comments all but threatening us over and over. But like I said at the time, it was really the only place that police officers and gang members were in one comment thread talking to each other about what they think of the issue of gangs and gang violence.

11. Achy Obejas: My interview with Jorge Luis Borges

When the popular artist was featured on the Google home page, Achy remembered that she had once interviewed Borges. So she pulled out the interview from her archives and it spread like wildfire. Viral on top of viral.

10. City Room/Michael Puente: Indiana courts hold up ruling on police entry

This story by our Northwest Indiana reporter caught the attention of Google News. Sometimes, that happens where Google will pick up one of our stories and throw it into their national feed. Traffic ensues.

9. City Room/Kate Dries: Chicago Code canceled, city to lose millions

I guess people really liked Chicago Code.

8. Claire Zulkey: The great Anthropologie sweater debacle

Claire bought a sweater or two at Anthropologie during their big sweater sale. But what happened when she brought it home? Claire takes her sweater humiliation and puts it down on paper for the world to see. My favorite touch: The black lines across the eyes. Hilarious.

7. Justin Kaufmann: Newest pledge drive operator standing by

This post served as the biggest mystery of 2011. It was a cute video of my son answering pledge drive phones. It got substantial traffic but died off like anything would. But it just kept coming back, almost every day. It still is in the 'most popular' widget weekly. Why? Well, I think because it's great content. But we figured out that it might have been great SEO (almost too good). When you look up WBEZ.org on Google, under Pledge Now - the link goes to this piece. We've since fixed, but it continues to climb the charts.

6. Steve Dolinsky: Top 5 Italian restaurants

Dolinsky. Top 5. Best of the bunch. And Chicago loves Italian.

5. City Room/Tony Arnold: Indiana stage collapse challenges gay marriage

Interesting take on a news story. Because one of the victims of the terrible Indiana stage collapse (at a Sugarland fair concert) was gay, there were questions about what the domestic partner could do in terms of identifying bodies and being recognized as partner. I think it all worked out in the end, but it was tense and frankly, sad.

4. City Room/Gabriel Spitzer: Why does it take so long to board plane?

This piece was about a physicist challenging the way airlines choose to board planes. Is there a better way? A more efficient, productive way to get people on a plane? Great story that topped our analytics for over two months.

3. City Room: Emanuel confident he can keep city safe

This story was right when the "flash mobs" were hitting the Mag Mile. So it grabbed a Chicago audience based on the news but it also grabbed a national audience because it was linked up to some pro-gun sites that bombed the post. Like I said up top, Emanuel, guns, conceal and carry will work every time.

2. Justin Kaufmann: Artist sketches what NPR personality might look like (from listening) 

People really like NPR. And it probably didn't hurt that everyone featured in the artist's sketches retweeted this post. 

And drum roll please...

1. Justin Kaufmann: Chicago's #1 Cubs Fan (Or at least the drunkest)

The April Fools joke to top them all. This video made the rounds and ended up becoming a viral smash hit in the sports world. Why? Because people believe that the Cubs fan in question (actress Kate James) is real. And they will argue and comment endlessly. This video showed up on popular sites, blogs, talk radio, local TV and came close to making it to Fox News. It was what every video editor dreams of and every small boutique tries to deliver: A viral video. It may not be the hard hitting journalism that you expect from WBEZ, but it definitely put WBEZ on the map (for snarky sports coverage).