Wednesday I compiled a list of the top ten stories of 2010 based on number of reader comments. Now let’s slice and dice 2010 purely by personal preference. Out of over 1350 blog posts published this year, here are eleven stories, not necessarily in order of importance, that I think represent my best blog work in 2010. These stories may not have affected the most people or drawn the most fire, but they’re stories that make me feel proud to say I’m a blogger.
1. Local Candidate Forums: If blogging paid the bills, I’d cover local politics like this every day. Even without a big paycheck I managed to give solid coverage to the October 20 and October 27 candidate forums (fora?) held here in Madison. My notes and video from both events provided the most complete online record of our local candidates’ positions. As for commentary, well, where else will you find this kind of in-depth opinion and analysis on candidates for state legislature, county commission, sheriff, and county auditor?
Bonus: Quality local political coverage like this got my friend Matt Groce to invite me onto KJAM for some live Election Night punditry. What a blast! Thanks, Matt… and thank you, neighbors, for listening!
2. Veblen Dairies Collapse: In one of the biggest stories ignored by South Dakota’s mainstream media, serial feedlot polluter Richard Millner lost his mega-dairy fiefdom collapse. His dairies in Veblen, South Dakota, as well as operations in North Dakota and Minnesota, all went into bankruptcy. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rebuffed Millner twice and shut down his stinky Excel Dairy in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources declared it will not issue a manure permit to a dairy where Millner holds decision-making power. Millner tried to reorganize his investors to cling to the two giant Veblen dairies, but those efforts fell apart, and the bank will likely take possession of both facilities.
I hit this story hard because Rick Millner has left a swath of illegal environmental and economic destruction in every community where he’s done business. Why the media largely ignored this story, when Millner’s Veblen operations constituted 15% of South Dakota’s dairy industry and when his operations received special government support through the EB-5 Visa program, continues to puzzle me.
The Veblen dairy story also demonstrates that collaboration makes good online journalism. My coverage of Richard Millner’s environmental abuses and financial collapse was supported by numerous sources, folks who wanted to get the Veblen story out so Millner would not be able to take advantage of others the way he’s taken advantage of them. We owe these good people our respect and our thanks.
3. TransCanada Keystone Leaks: Four pump stations in a row, three in South Dakota, one in Nebraska, sprang leaks as TransCanada brought its Keystone I pipeline online. Four leaks in a three-month span; that’s three more leaks than TransCanada said we’d get in 65 years. And even with TransCanada now digging up sections of the Keystone I to check for defective steel, our mainstream media remain mostly quiet about TransCanada’s errors.
4. Clark Schmidtke, Russell Olson, and Court Records: Indy-Dem Clark Schmidtke challenged Russell Olson for the District 8 State Senate seat. For his trouble, Schmidtke got his criminal record brought to light in the South Dakota blogosphere. I reported both Schmidtke’s fraud conviction and jail time in Minnesota and Olson’s own lengthy court record. The local paper covered Schmidtke’s record, but not Olson’s.
5. Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem at State Fair Debate: If I had any doubts about voting for Blue Dog Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, witnessing her dismantle Kristi Noem on stage at the South Dakota State Fair Congressional debate completely dismissed them. That debate fueled ten full blog posts that convinced me South Dakota would be worse off with Kristi Noem in Congress. 52% of South Dakota voters agreed with me… but since 6% of them picked B. Thomas Marking, the 48% who backed Noem got their way.
6. “Summer Storm in the City as I Wait to Drive Home“: Speaking of Democrats, my first state Democratic convention was blogworthy; so was the thunderstorm afterward. Sometimes it’s nice to trade the political pen for the poetical.
7. Colton Turning Stimulus into Energy Independence: When he runs for re-election in 2012, President Obama should make a campaign stop in Colton, South Dakota, to show the results of his stimulus package at their best. My blog post on Colton’s energy independence initiative combined original reporting and good pix on a sunny fall day to highlight innovative thinking in small-town South Dakota, helped by smart investment by Uncle Sam.
8. How to Promote Arts, Culture, and Community in Small-Town South Dakota: The Madison Dairy Queen staged another successful Miracle Treat Day fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network. The fun kids games and live music on the street (and the Mason’s rooftop!) didn’t just help sick kids and their families; the event also provided an object lesson in creative community development in rural South Dakota.
9. IgniteSD: Speaking of creative cultural development, my friends John and Scott Meyer started IgniteSD, a fun community event that brings folks together to talk about their passions and big ideas. I had the privilege of delivering the inaugural IgniteSD talk in Brookings in April, an event that inspired this rhapsodic post. Then I helped pack Mochavino for IgniteSD #2 right here in Madison in May.
10. Lake Madison Public Access Area: Lake County opened its new public access area on Lake Madison this spring, giving me an excuse for a new bike route and a fun blog photo essay. If only everything worth blogging were within bicycling distance….
11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pacifism, and Blogospheric Multilogue: My post on the great Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his spiritual and physical struggle against the Nazis was just one thread in a conversation that involved numerous South Dakota bloggers and commenters. This conversation about theology, history, and politics represents the South Dakota blogopshere at its best: South Dakotans of very different political and religious persuasions engaging in thoughtful conversation about challenging issues. Let’s hope 2011 brings even more multivocal conversations like this.
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1350+ blog posts is a lot to review! I’m sure I left out some of your favorites. So I’m open to nominations from the floor: what 2010 stories did you like best?