Twelve months ago, we put together a “year in review” article, recapping the Daily Yonder’s most popular stories from 2019. That roundup yielded what we called then “a diverse mix,” covering “economic development, healthcare, broadband, agriculture and our changing environment.” One year later, there is zero doubt about the top story of 2020. This year will be forever remembered against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the stories we produced this year offer further proof of that.
Still, coronavirus may have been the top story of the year, but it’s been far from the only one. Our team at the Daily Yonder provided robust coverage of the pandemic’s impact on rural America while also following other important stories. In 2020, we published more than double the number of stories we did in 2019 – nearly 600 in all!
Much has been made of the interminable nature of this challenging year. Yet, even in these hard times there have been highlights and things worth remembering. With that spirit in mind, join us in taking a look back at our top 20 stories of the past year. We hope they help you take stock of 2020 and remember where we’ve been together.
10. Livestream Conversations and Rural Assembly Everywhere
Heading into 2020, our team was planning to produce more multimedia storytelling, in the form of videos, podcasts, and more. Like most folks, we had to adjust our plans, as travel and physical interaction were put on pause. But they came together somehow. Starting in April, we brought together virtual panels for livestream conversations on important issues such as rural broadband, housing, disaster preparedness, and more. And it all culminated in October when the Daily Yonder served as a presenting media partner for Rural Assembly Everywhere, a five-day virtual festival featuring a wide variety of live and recorded programming. Our 2020 highlights begin with a couple top stories from our livestreams and Rural Assembly Everywhere.
Livestream Conversation Offers First-Hand Accounts of Broadband Challenges During Coronavirus Pandemic
Pandemic Guidelines Don’t Acknowledge Realities of Marginalized Communities
9. Other Important Stories for 2020, Not Overlooked
The Daily Yonder strives to provide thorough coverage of the issues that matter to rural America. Covering Covid-19 kept us busy in 2020, but that didn’t stop us from following other important, familiar stories too, whether it was job numbers for rural counties, the challenges of the US Postal Service, or rural response to the 2020 Census. Here are two other such stories that struck a chord and refused to be overlooked.
‘People Need to Fight It for Everything They’re Worth’ – Battles over Pipelines Are Far from Over
Small-Town Teams Figure Prominently in Major League Baseball’s Proposed Cuts
8. Some Much-Needed Levity
When sad, scary news headlines dominated this year, momentary distractions and escapism proved key. These articles were two of the most popular in that category, giving readers reason to laugh or crack a smile. And the fun doesn’t stop there, thanks to Liz Carey’s ongoing series on rural humorists.
Commentary: Glamour Shots at the Super 8 Motel
Leanne Morgan: A Comedian Moves from Living Rooms to Center Stage
7. News You Can Use: How-To’s for an Uncharted Age
We had to re-learn how to do a lot of things this year. Once routine activities, previously taken for granted, had to be re-worked to be done safely and with social distancing in mind. Our writers documented a number of these learning experiences, from going to church to supporting the arts. Daily Yonder readers responded with particular interest and appreciation to the two stories below.
When Traveling Is Necessary, Will You Find a Necessary Room?
How to Garage Sale During a Pandemic
6. The Next Rural Renaissance Starts in 2020?
One question posed this year was would the pandemic would drive increased migration from big cities to rural areas and small towns? Whether or not an urban exodus eventually materializes, we’ve long told stories that highlight the virtues of rural life. We published many in 2020, such as the two below, and we’ll continue to do so in 2021, whatever comes to pass next.
Commentary: Millennials, Restart Your Life in a Small Town
New Index Reveals the ‘Hidden Innovation’ of Rural America
5. The Movement for Racial Justice Goes Rural
When George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis over the Memorial Day weekend, it sparked mass marches and public demonstrations nationwide. The movement for Black lives and racial justice went far beyond big cities and extended into small towns and rural areas too. Our team reported on the action and took a closer look at the role rural people and places play in seeking reform and reconciliation.
Small Cities and Towns Join National Police-Violence Protests
Commentary: Black Lives Matter at the Mountaintops in My Old Kentucky Home
4. The Pandemic’s Early Days
Interest in the novel coronavirus skyrocketed in March, as people anxiously sought information to understand the risks of infection. From the early days when infection rates and perceived risk in rural areas were low to the first cases and outbreaks in rural counties, our team led the charge in covering the rural implications of the pandemic. Many of our most-read stories of 2020 came from this initial period. Of particular note was our analysis of regional outbreaks based on counties’ economic categories. The Daily Yonder’s coverage linking early outbreaks to rural recreation counties was eventually referenced in a number of reports from larger mainstream media organizations.
Rural Counties with Recreation Economies Show Higher Infection Rate
Research Confirms Potential Grim Impact of Virus in Rural Areas
3. Election 2020 and the Rural Vote
A year ago, we had little doubt the 2020 Election would prove to be the biggest story of the next 12 months. Those expectations were shaken up considerably by the coronavirus pandemic, but the election retained its high-profile, delivering some of our top stories of the year. And for the first time in 2020, we rolled out an Election Hub, which gathered up all of our reporting in one place, alongside links to essential voter information and resources, including a ballot preview tool.
For Most Americans, the Local Presidential Vote Was a Landslide
Election 2020 Hub: Rural Voters Decide
Keep it locked to the Daily Yonder for reporting and analysis on the role of rural voters and rural issues in the race, the results, and the road ahead. View the Election 2020 Hub.
2. Hillbilly Elegy, Here We Go Again
2020 saw many new movies delay their theatrical releases or go straight to streaming. Big tentpole blockbusters have been hard to come by this year, creating space for smaller films to drive the conversation. Netflix’s adaptation of JD Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy was one such movie that generated a lot of a chatter, and the Daily Yonder was ready to weigh in with a rural-rooted perspective. Our assessment of the film, and our broader review of rural stories in popular entertainment, led to two of our highest performing stories ever, not just for 2020 but all-time in the site’s history.
Opinion — Ron Howard’s Film to Appalachia: ‘Get a Job’
10 Rural Movies (and 1 Show) to Watch Instead of Netflix’s Hillbilly Elegy
1: Covid-19 Red Zone Reports and Dashboard for Rural America
The first weeks and months of covering Covid-19 felt like a sprint, but it was clear to most that we needed to be ready for a marathon. Once we made it through the initial rush, our team put together a regular ongoing format for tracking the pandemic’s progress, our weekly Red Zone Reports. Out of those reports came our Covid-19 Dashboard for Rural America, which features a number of interactive, regularly updated graphs and figures. Both items were eventually shared on the web, via rural radio, in local newspapers, and beyond, leaving no doubt that these reports were our most important output for 2020.
Red-Zone Report: Rural Counties Set Record for New Covid-19 Cases
Covid-19 Dashboard for Rural America
We’re tracking the spread and impact of Covid-19 across rural America. The numbers and maps on this dashboard are updated weekly. View the Covid-19 Dashboard.
Farewell, 2020. Here’s to a Brighter Year Ahead
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of the year that was for the Daily Yonder. If you had a favorite story that wasn’t included on the list, be sure to share it with us on social media or in the comment section below.
As we turn the page on 2020, we wish all our readers a safe, healthy and happy New Year. We look forward to bringing you more great coverage of rural stories in 2021, and beyond. Let us know what kinds of coverage you’d like to see more of in the new year. We’ll make our resolutions accordingly.