Our countdown of The News & Observer's most-read stories of 2015, as measured by digital page views, continues with tales of social media mania, a long-haul wrangle, celebrity doings and the loss of an icon. Stories 10 through 6:
By John Murawski,
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The story: When The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald reported Dec. 8 that the town of Woodland in Northampton County had declined to rezone land for a solar farm, and that residents had warned that solar farms suck up too much energy and hurt vegetation, the story went viral. John Murawski’s follow-up for The N&O reported that the town, which has already approved three such farms, simply didn’t want to be boxed in by a fourth.
The rest of the story: The Woodland stories were an international sensation. They inspired a Twitter hashtag, #WoodlandNC, and versions were posted on social media by news outlets including Huffington Post (whose Facebook post was shared more than 130,000 times), Esquire, Mashable, the New York Daily News, MTV, Slate, Popular Mechanics and The Weather Network, says N&O social media specialist Aolani Donegan. Overseas, they appeared on websites for The Irish Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Vancouver Observer, The South African and The Malaysian Insider, among many.
By Brooke Cain, June 25
The story: Jackie Hyland, one of the most recognizable news people in the Triangle as co-anchor of the Fox 50 newscasts at 4 and 10 p.m. and the 5:30 p.m. newscast on WRAL, had departed, according to Steve Hammel, vice president and general manager of the two stations. Hyland had been with the stations for more than three years, arriving after anchor Pam Saulsby left in 2011. Her last newscast was the 5:30 p.m. program on June 18.
Hammel did not elaborate on the reasons for Hyland’s departure but said in an email, “We appreciate her 3+ years of service and wish her the best as she pursues new opportunities.”
The rest of the story: Hyland’s new opportunity is with the State Board of Elections, where she started this month as the public information officer. At WRAL and Fox 50, Lynda Loveland succeeded Hyland as Gerald Owen’s co-anchor on July 20 after about a year as morning anchor and reporter for the two stations. Before that, Loveland was co-host of the morning radio show on MIX-101.5 for five years.
By Bruce Siceloff, June 8
The story: State troopers had been told to enforce an often-overlooked law that prohibits motorists from parking on interstate ramps to take naps. Truckers were complaining, saying the naps were necessary to avoid violating federal safety limits on hours driven, when no rest stop was readily available.
The rest of the story: Bruce Siceloff followed up in November with a report that the enforcement effort began after complaints to Gov. Pat McCrory from a longtime political supporter and donor, Charlie Shelton. The effort first focused on a stretch of I-77 in Surry and Yadkin counties, near Shelton’s home and a winery he owns with his brother, Ed. Siceloff also reported last month that spaces for truckers at rest areas and truck stops are less plentiful in North Carolina than in neighboring states.
By Josh Shaffer, March 1
The story: At age 63, Cassandra Peterson, who was soon to appear at the three-day Comic Con event in Raleigh, “can still wriggle into the tiny black dress,” Josh Shaffer wrote, “still tease her raven hair into a gravity-defying helmet and still pull off absurdly protruding cleavage – scarcely aging as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.”
In an interview, Peterson talked about what the Elvira character has meant to her fans over the past 34 years (“You helped me through puberty,” many guys say) and to her.
The rest of the story: Peterson is in demand for interviews wherever she goes. In October she chatted with Auto World News about her customized black 1959 Ford Thunderbird, which she acquired for her first movie during the 1980s, sold and reacquired a decade later. She spent $35,000 to restore it as Elvira’s ride, complete with a spider-web grille, a hood ornament depicting Elvira as a bat, and hubcaps adorned with skulls and crossbones.
By Andrew Kenney,
The story: Five days after beloved ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died of cancer, mourners gathered at Providence Baptist Church for a visitation with his family that lasted four hours. The visitors included golfer Tiger Woods and former UNC basketball star Phil Ford, along with friends who remembered him from his days at R.J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem, UNC-Chapel Hill and two Triangle TV stations.
The rest of the story: Scott’s legacy lives on, and the honors continue. President Obama said he “inspired us with courage and love.” UNC basketball honored him at “Late Night with Roy” on Oct. 23. TNT’s Ernie Johnson Jr., when he won the 2015 Sports Emmy as best studio host, gave it to Scott’s children. The NFL’s top Instagram post of the year was its tribute to Scott in January, liked more than 223,000 times. And there was ESPN’s moving tribute, which you can see, and read about, at nando.com/scott-espn.
Eric Frederick is The News & Observer’s digital managing editor.
Frederick: 919-829-8956. Twitter: @Eric_Frederick
Our 15 best-read stories of 2015
Coming Thursday: The year’s top 5 stories online