As we prepare to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, we took a look back at our most-read stories of the year, since our launch in early March

By Shereen Siewert

Since March, Wausau Pilot and Review has published more than 2,500 stories and reached more than 1.9 million readers. The vast majority of those stories are local — something we take great pride in — because we firmly believe people will always care more about what happens in their own neighborhoods than in Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, or any other Wisconsin community.

According to Google Analytics, these 10 local stories were the most viewed in 2017:

1. Felony mugshot galleries. Sometimes controversial, these weekly photo lineups are always our most-read features of the week. We know there are mixed feelings about publishing these photos. But law enforcement officials and prosecutors say galleries can be a tool to help keep the public safe. Why? Because they alert the public to criminal behavior in their neighborhoods. They can also help prevent crime and are considered a deterrent. We explain our rationale in this editorial.

2. Police officer among 4 dead in shooting rampage. The events of March 22 affected us all in a myriad of ways. The shooting shattered our sense of safety and represented our worst nightmares, and the losses suffered that day still reverberate in this community as we struggle to make sense of such senseless, violent acts.

3. 20th person indicted in central Wisconsin meth conspiracy. Drug abuse continues to plague this community. In this case, the conspiracy operated from June 2013 to May 2016, when methamphetamine was brought into Wisconsin from Minnesota on a weekly basis. In all, over or 127 pounds of methamphetamine was distributed, with a street value of over $5.7 million dollars. We commend the members of law enforcement who battle the war on drugs, who investigate drug trafficking, and who seek to bring dealers to justice.

4. Iozzo’s to see new life as a supper club. Iozzo’s, at 3115 Camp Phillips Road, closed after nearly 40 years of service to the metro area. But now, a new restaurant has taken its place: The Jig. We couldn’t be more delighted to welcome this new food spot to the area, and we hope 2018 will prove successful for the new owners.

5. Wausau Center on sheriff auction list. Bring up the words “Wausau Center mall” and it seems everyone has an opinion on what they’d like to see happen with the once-bustling shopping center, which lost two of three anchor stores in recent years. This year, former owner CBL turned the property over to the bank, and the mall is now under new ownership. As a focal point of the city’s downtown district, we hope the mall will find new life and new direction in 2018.

6. Our View: It’s time to re imagine the Wisconsin Valley Fair. This story was also the most commented-on editorial of the year. Nationally, it seems that fairs are booming. So why is the Wisconsin Valley Fair continuing to struggle? In our view, the answer boils down to this: It’s time for a new business model, one created by looking at other, more successful fairs, and making some serious changes that will keep our local fair alive. Fair board, are you listening?

7. 3 charged in weekend heroin overdose death. Heroin use continues to grow dramatically as the opioid epidemic ravages our communities. Families are losing their children. Children are losing their parents. It’s a problem that we cannot ignore, and one that we as a community cannot seem to shake. This and other tragic stories show the different ways drugs can take over lives, the difficulty in finding successful treatment, and the devastating loss that can occur.

8. City takes another step toward Thomas Street plan. As the city moves forward with a design plan for the second phase of Thomas Street reconstruction, the debate rages on between officials and a group of residents opposed to the plan. Independent environmental testing is planned for early January, which we hope will answer the question once and for all whether the project is safe from an environmental standpoint. But that’s only part of the story, which we believe will continue to make headlines in 2018.

9. Aniwa couple faces criminal charges after 24 animals seized from home; puppy euthanized. This story broke our hearts, after police seized two dozen animals that were being held in conditions so horrifying a 3-month-old puppy had to be put to death. Police said several of the animals were stolen. This case has not yet concluded, with both suspects due in court again in early January. We’ll be following this closely.

10. EPA “not aware” of Wausau Chemical relocation plan. This story revealed a lack of communication between city officials and the EPA regarding a redevelopment plan for Wausau Chemical, which sits on a Superfund site. Mayor Rob Mielke had said the land would be redeveloped as part of the riverfront development project. But a deed restriction from the EPA, on file since 2007, prohibits residential development on the land. In our report, EPA Project Manager Sheri Bianchin said that so far, the site has been cleaned up only to meet commercial or industrial redevelopment standards. The organization will closely coordinate on additional studies and further cleanup required before residential redevelopment will be allowed.

High quality journalism is a community asset that sustains democracy and quality of life. Wausau Pilot & Review, named for two of Wausau’s earliest newspapers, is in its infancy, but will continue to grow and evolve over the coming months and years. We’ll do our best to add depth to the coverage of community issues that matter to you and to your family, and we’re always open to your suggestions, your comments, and your submissions.

Thank you, readers, for making our inaugural year a success.