Year in review: The five most impactful Collegian articles of 2016

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The Collegian reflects on its top 2016 stories based on view numbers and impact to students, staff and the rest of the K-State community. Here a student reads while relaxing in her hammock in the Quinlan Natural Area. (File photo by George Walker | The Collegian)

For many, 2016 will rest in infamy.

From the famous people we lost to a controversial election that has left the eyes of the world fixed upon the United States, 2016 was a year full of headlines.

Locally, Kansas State had its own year of controversial issues and hot topics. From Title IX investigations to Bill Snyder’s 200th win, there were many topics to read and write about throughout the last year.

Based on view numbers and impact to the K-State Family, here are our five most impactful stories of 2016, ranked from Nos. 5-1.

No. 5

K-State ashamed: A recent history of the failed quest for sportsmanship at K-State

In February, then-sports editor and now-outgoing editor-in-chief Tim Everson called out the K-State administration for being more concerned about the appearance of the university than the actual idea of “family” that is so integral to the culture of K-State. With more than 77,000 views, it was the most-read article written in 2016 by any Collegian writer.

Everson also wrote the third-most viewed article of the year a month later, calling out the university administration for not listening to the fans, particularly in their pursuit of former K-State basketball player Brad Underwood, who now coaches at Oklahoma State.

While we may never know exactly what caused his departure, the fact remains that since these two articles ran, Kirk Schulz has left the K-State presidency and taken the same job at Washington State, even establishing goals to make WSU a top-25 public research university by 2030, a similar goal to what he established at K-State with his “K-State 2025” plan.

No. 4

UPDATE: K-State Black Student Union responds to racist social media post

In the second-most read Collegian story of 2016 at more than 57,000 views, one that broke the news and was updated as more information became available, former K-State student Paige Shoemaker made national headlines in September for her racist Snapchat post that went viral. It appeared to show her and a friend, Sadie Meier, wearing a “black face” face mask.

The article garnered responses from Shoemaker in the form of a Facebook note, a response from Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, and other administration officials.

The K-State Black Student Union also issued a formal statement addressed to “the Kansas State University Community.”

The statement called for greater steps to address diversity locally and called upon the university to build a Multicultural Student Center and create more need-based scholarship opportunities. It also said the university needed to amend the student conduct policy and add a “required cultural competency course” to the K-State 8.

No. 3

Public still not responding to rules, Konza Prairie looking at closure possibility

In April, the public nearly lost regular access to the Konza Prairie.

In the fourth-most viewed article of the year, Collegian writer Rebekah Branch reported on the recent rule-breaking taking place at the Konza, including people bringing dogs, littering and departing from established trails, all of which can impede the research that takes place at the Konza, according to John Briggs, Konza Biological Station director.

The article was viewed over 49,000 times, and the trails still remain open.

No. 2

4.0 K-State student drops out, says college is a scam

Whatever your thoughts are on former K-State freshman Billy Willson and the lewd, almost inevitably-offensive photos of him flipping off major university landmarks, the fact remains that his post on Facebook, and the passionate opinions people shared because of it, were extremely helpful in public discourse.

A university education is not for everybody.

As unhappy of a discussion as that may be for people, and as much as nobody, myself included, enjoys seeing our proud university given the middle finger, the discussion his post and the affiliated articles led to were good because each facilitated discussion.

When there’s outrage, people make changes. Some people start calling their legislators demanding more scholarships so students can take reasonable course loads. Other people realize they can be successful without college and start to consider leaving as an option instead of wasting time and burdening themselves with loans they can’t afford or are not yet ready for.

All of this discussion is good, even if it’s unpleasant and full of heated debate. Then-staff writer and incoming news editor Kaitlyn Alanis’ article generated over 39,000 views in less than two weeks since publishing.

Even more importantly though, it generated outrage and discussion, both with the Collegian about the journalistic integrity of posting such photos and writing such things, and with everyone involved about the value and true necessity of a college education.

That makes it newsworthy and impactful, and brings it in at No. 2 on this list.

No. 1

Calling it what it is: Rape

Clearly the most impactful article of 2016, however, was one nobody will ever know the full impact of. It was the sixth-most read with more than 24,000 views.

In her first-person account published in February, former writer, editor and photographer Erin Poppe detailed her own rape and how she survived it.

Even more, Poppe detailed how she survived the aftermath of it. She didn’t talk about how she has “coped,” because to “cope” implies finality and completion. The word “cope” implies success or final triumph, and Poppe wrote about how there has been no finality for her.

Instead, Poppe explained in her article that she continues to survive and continues to learn how to process her rape. Her article was not an end-state, but “another step forward.”

At the same time, she addressed a host of misconceptions on the topics of rape and sexual assault, such as that all rape is violent.

It is not, and there were people who read her article, including survivors of rape themselves, who maybe had not reported it and needed to hear that.

For all of these reasons, Poppe’s article was the most impactful Collegian story of 2016.

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Shelton Burch
Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.