Death to click-bait.
Phoenix New Times' staff writers and news fellows covered weighty stories in 2019 that changed the course of history in this town.
Yes, we count clicks, and appreciate every one. But at our best, we publish for people — like the 3,000 community members who showed up to a Phoenix church this June to protest abuse by cops, the tens of thousands whose lives could be put in jeopardy by a summer power shutoff, and the millions affected by outside influence in our election. These are the people and stories you also want to read about, responding with keyboards and touchscreens to vote these 10 news articles our most popular, having viewed them a combined 1.5 million times.
Here's a look back at our top 10 news stories, plus their aftermaths, from 2019:
Facebook posts by 72 Phoenix officers surfaced in the Plain View Project by legal activists, causing a firestorm of protest when the public learned about them in New Times. Officers and sergeants joked about Muslim people using goats as sex slaves, shooting former President Obama in the face, killing protesters of police brutality, and more. Chief Jeri Williams launched an investigation, putting a dozen officers involved on administrative leave. Eventually, Williams ordered the firing of one officer and disciplined others.
Following this story's publication, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted unanimously to prohibit power companies from disconnecting electricity to residential customers during the often-scorching weeks of June 1 through October 15. The regulatory body is still trying to decide how to deal with the problem on a permanent basis.
A detailed investigation tracked the influence of the Koch Brothers behind what would be become an election to essentially kill future light rail projects in the Valley. In the August election, residents of all eight Phoenix City Council districts voted overwhelmingly to keep light rail chugging along.
In July, State Senator Sylvia Allen seemed to follow in the footsteps of disgraced ex-lawmaker David Stringer with insensitive (some would say racist) comments about Latinos. Allen, speaking at the "Mormon Political Pioneers" celebration at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix, worried aloud that Latinos would soon turn the state into "South America," and expressed concerned over Latino birthrates. That news, and Allen's subsequent apology, made headlines across the country.
Mesa Community College hired Douglas Belmore to teach English classes. Belmore, as students told New Times, also used his time to promote the wacky, far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. He soon became an ex-teacher at the college.
While investigating an alleged vehicle break-in, Gilbert police Officer Christopher Robinson questioned the alleged victim's ex-wife, Samantha Glass, who was drunk at an apartment complex. In a body-cam video, the public could watch how Robinson callously dropped Glass on her head, causing a bloody head injury. The lawsuit was still wending its way through federal court as of early December.
When Jehovah's Witnesses flocked to Chase Field for a national conference in August, most news outlets marked the occasion with soft stories on the out-of-the-mainstream Christian sect. New Times, meanwhile, focused on a different angle: the church's history of shunning those who split from the group and covering up child sexual abuse.
Everyone loves a good hot mic story, and Local Fox10 anchor Kari Lake provided a doozy this year. Co-anchor John Hook and Lake didn't realize they were broadcasting on the internet when Hook fretted that New Times might cover Lake's promotion of Parler, a social media site favored by conservatives. Lake's on-air response: "Fuck them. They're 20-year-old dopes ... That's a rag for selling marijuana ads." Former New Times Editor Stuart Warner later thanked Lake for the backhanded compliment.
New Times published several stories about the shocking arrest of Dravon Ames and his family, and was the first news outlet to publish the dramatic videos that showed an officer threatening to blow the head off the unarmed black man suspected of shoplifting. The case that led to a meeting at a local church between about 3,000 protesters and Phoenix city leaders, and sparked new interest in creating a civilian-led review board of police use-of-force incidents. Chief Jeri Williams later fired the officer, Christopher Meyer.
Hundreds of thousands of people read New Times' stories on Emily Lopatofsky, a severely mentally ill woman who disappeared following her arrest in March for allegedly fighting with a police officer. Her jailing flouted a previous court order instructing police to take her to a psychiatric hospital if they encountered her on the street. Six months later, the confused young woman was found in a hospital 2,000 miles away in Cancun, Mexico, by her mother, who had never given up hope of finding her daughter. But Lopatofsky's troubles haven't ended. Her criminal case remains pending in Superior Court, and she remains, as the court order put it, "persistently or acutely disabled and in need of psychiatric treatment."
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