It's interesting going back through each of the 52 editions that we published in 2017. Reviewing the newspaper provides an opportunity to relive some of the community's top moments, as well as recall those stories that were a little tougher to write.
Each year, I go through this routine the last week of December to put together a list of top 10 news stories and top 10 sports stories. It's a subjective exercise based on various criteria that I've come up with to determine a story's inclusion in the top 10.
I begin research for the articles by reviewing each edition chronologically and making reference to the story in a running list. When I'm finished, I review each of those stories again, consider impact on the community among other factors, and then put the final list together.
In the past, I've had readers criticize me for including "negative" stories in the top 10 list. To me, it's not a matter of positive or negative; it's a matter of how important something may have been to the community.
I cover city council and school board meetings on a regular basis. The general fund fee drew a great deal of interest and because it impacted everybody in town, this had to be among the top 10 stories. I had it up in the No. 1 position to begin but dropped it down a few spots after considering a few others.
A "positive" story does occupy the top spot with all of the business revitalization in town. I wrote several stories about things going on in the business community and when I put it all together, it added up to a pretty significant part of the 2017 review.
Heck, just this morning (I'm writing this on Friday), I noticed a story on Out West Farm & Ranch's plans to reopen a local feed store had 122 shares on Facebook with a reach of more than 16,000. Those are significant numbers for a Philomath Express post that had been up for less than two days.
I also ended up moving the total solar eclipse above the general fund fee story. That was just a once-in-a-lifetime event for many of us and probably a day most of us will always remember. The build-up began several months in advance with Oregon being in the path of totality. I decided it deserved to be near the top.
Then I went with the general fund fee news. Although in general, the same group of people seemed to be testifying with similar comments at each public hearing, it did have a widespread impact on local residents. So, whether you were mad at the city for the move or accepted the fee with a degree of understanding, it was a big news story no matter how you looked at it.
The same could be said for the No. 8 story on the list. The hazing investigation carried over into 2017 and we were seeing standing-room only crowds at school board meetings. An organized group of parents and other individuals challenged the board, the students organized a walk-out because of decisions that had been made and there were many other impacts, from who would be handing out diplomas at graduation to changeover on the Philomath School Board. I felt this issue had to be included among the top 10.
But there were plenty of positive stories out there that affected us as well. Although there was a degree of controversy at the state level involving the Warriors and Braves nicknames, I saw it as a positive that the school district and Siletz tribe were able to work out an agreement. "Warrior Pride" lives on and that's not a negative; it's a sign of respect.
The fire staton's remodel and the Skirvins' generous rodeo grounds donation were also big "good news" stories. And I just had to include the PHS choir's state title among the top 10. It's the first time that the choir had ever won the state championship trophy. Now if the band had taken the state title as well the following week, well, that could've provided a boost into the top five.
In sports, the top story of the year had to be Philomath High's return to varsity football. I covered the first game back on the road at Junction City and there was a lot of emotion hanging in the air. And the way the Warriors rallied in the second half to win the game, well, that's the type of stuff you see in movies.
Then came a group of stories and team accomplishments that could've been interchangeable in the No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 spots. The girls soccer team got the nod for the No. 2 story because of its impressive playoff run to the semifinals. It was not expected with a No. 11 seed entering state.
The baseball team also made the semifinals but had gone in as a No. 6 seed and conference champion. The girls soccer team's journey to the semis had a little bit more of an unexpected theme to it.
The boys basketball team, which I put at No. 4, reached the state tournament but then hit a wall. Still, the Warriors had won their fourth straight conference title and that's impressive any way you slice it.
Volleyball came in at No. 5 with a spectacular season under a new head coach. The Warriors went through league play undefeated but then lost in the first round. I had a tough time on which team should go up to No. 4, boys hoops or volleyball. The difference for me came down to which team advanced further in the playoffs.
The top 10 for sports also had a "bad news" story included with boys cross-country at No. 8. For the same reasons as the news top 10, this was just one of those noteworthy events that occurred. The fact that Philomath actually qualified the boys cross-country team 33 years in a row is just an incredible streak to me. So when it ended, it was big news.
At the last minute, I decided to include the hiring of Terry Boss as the Oregon State men's soccer coach. It's a pretty cool story for a local to now be heading up the men's soccer program down the road. Maybe Anton Grube's team can get in a scrimmage against the Beavers (I doubt that could happen, but it would be fun).
Of course, you have to include Haylie Bennett's emergence with the OSU volleyball team this past fall. She started every match and was an important part of the Beavers reaching the NCAA tournament for just the fourth time in the program's history.