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Tumult, tragedy dominate year's headlines

Staff writer

In police jargon, “22” — as in “10-22” — means “disregard,” something many Marion County residents may wish they could do with year 2022, now slipping away.

Tumult and tragedy dominated the year’s headlines according to analysis of online metrics from the Record’s website.

Taken together as a collection of stories, political upheaval in Marion, Peabody, and Florence dominated headlines for weeks.

Marion fired its city administrator after its city clerk and two top cops — half the force — resigned in December.

In Peabody, both the police chief and the mayor, then all regular police officers, resigned after heated comments in September about cleaning up illicit drugs in town.

In Florence, first the fire chief and then the entire fire department were fired in April.

If personnel matters weren’t enough, Marion voters also rejected by a more than 10-to-1 margin in December a charter ordinance the city council had approved that would have limited taxpayers’ rights to vote on city borrowing.

Tumult wasn’t the only quality resulting in dominant headlines this year. Tragedy topped the list of most read individual news stories.

The No. 1 individual news story of the year was about how a teen was found dead more than two hours after he missed a corner on Lakeshore Dr. and crashed his ATV into a ravine at Marion County Lake.

He was not wearing a helmet, was driving a vehicle designed for off-road use, and had lost track of friends who were following him and helping illuminate his way on the dark, unmarked road.

News coverage of another fatal accident that week — one that killed three people at US-56 and K-256 — and of the toll working the accidents took on emergency responders were the 10th and 15th most-read stories of the year.

Coming as the second most-red story overall was coverage of evacuation of most Marion County schools because of threat of violence issued in Missouri and probably that, as it turns out, was not intended for Kansas.

Florence firing its entire fire department was the No. 3 individual story.

No. 4 was the death of longtime sheriff Rob Craft from complications of COVID-19.

No. 5 was another death — that of a Marion man who accidentally set himself on fire while working outdoors.

St. Luke Hospital delivering its first baby in years — to a 14-year-old mother — came in at No. 6.

The firing of county emergency manager Randy Frank, came in seventh.

Marion’s clerk and top cops resigning finished in eight place.

The sudden departure of Marion school superintendent Aaron Homberg at a cost to the district of $62,000 finished ninth.

Next in terms of readership was the arrest of now-fired Peabody police officer Chad Voth on suspicion of being drunk while on duty.

One of the year’s next-ranking individual stories, which set off a series of stories that became one of the leading issues of the year, was about how a patient had died after waiting 17 hours under county transfer rules to be sent to an out-of-county hospital.

Other stories in that group included the resignation under pressure of the county’s ambulance director and the departure of 40% of the ambulance system’s staff.

Grass fires also grabbed considerable attention in 2022, the biggest individual story coming in at No. 18 and focusing on a fire in September east of Marion County Lake in which Marion’s fire chief briefly was regarded as missing.

Two more fatal accidents were among the Top 25 individual news stories — a double fatality involving Tabor College athletes in February and the discovery of a Florence man’s body along US-50 in Chase County 11 days after he wrecked a vehicle there in April.

Crime stories accounted for 31 of the Top 60 stories of the year. Among other stories in the Top 60, 10 dealt with politics; 7 with accidents; 5 with other deaths, including the death at age 36 of Marion’s municipal prosecutor; 3 with businesses; 3 with weather; and 1 with sports.

Two of the business stories dealt with debate regarding a new Family Dollar/Dollar Tree store in Marion. The third was about the closing of a Mexican restaurant in Marion.

The weather stories dealt with a weak, EF-1 tornado that caused considerable damage in northern Marion County in April and with a planned power interruption, later postponed, that would have cut power overnight during a cold snap in November.

Although several Marion County sports teams did remarkably well in 2022, the only sports story to crack the Top 60 was not about athletic accomplishments but rather about coaches at Marion and Centre who were suspended and ordered to apologize to student-athletes.

Although bad news dominated the most-read list, a few positive stories did make the Top 100.

The highest ranking, coming in at No. 89, was a story about 28 new rental houses planned for north of Marion’s ballpark.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the story was dashed after the discovery of incorrect address information in an application for state tax assistance. State support was canceled, but developers say they hope to reapply in 2023.

The other positive story of the year, coming in at No. 95, was an invitation from Tampa, Florida, to provide transportation and lodging for up to 100 residents of Tampa, Kansas, to visit.

In all, 2,596 separate news stories were included in the analysis.

Last modified Dec. 28, 2022

 

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