Pub Notes: The Devil Strip’s most popular posts of 2015

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Honestly, I hadn’t thought to see which of our stories were most popular in 2015 until I noticed our friends Joanna and Brit had done that at Akron Empire, a blog that is 1000 kinds of awesome. (PS – We made the list a couple times. Yay!)

When I looked, I wasn’t terribly surprised by the top spots, but to give some shine to other stuff we’ve published, I’m going to compile two lists: The Most Popular Posts of 2015 and The Most Popular Non-UA Posts of 2015.

Later, I might do a “Best Stories of 2015 That Chris Never Posted Online” list too. There were a lot of those stories…

THE DEVIL STRIP’S MOST POPULAR STORIES OF 2015

  1. “You’re So Akron If… (It’s a Rubber City Thing)” – This makes sense because it was the cover story for the first issue we ever published so it had a good shot of making this list no matter what. However, a random surge in October pushed it well over the 10,000 views mark. The good news is that we’re about to do our next installment in a month. Can’t wait to see how that goes.
  2. “The King’s Ransom” – The story detailed allegations that President Scarborough rigged a search committee to hire Dr. Lakeesha Ransom as the Honors College Dean came in a close second place, views-wise. We had quite a few hits from the Toledo area, accounting for some of that traffic. Two, we had a lot of emails to share, which gave curious people plenty to peruse. The timing, as controversy was peaking, probably had a lot to do with that too. For whatever it is worth, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Dr. Ransom as a person. Regardless, this story will get an update soon.
  3. A Tale of Two Proposals” – Our foray into serious local coverage, particularly of concerns about the University of Akron, this story started as one question that spawned others: “How does a six-person startup with no client base and zero experience in higher education beat out a lauded firm with 325 employees that’s worked with 1 million students?” Still haven’t heard a satisfactory answer to that one, but in the meantime, we’ve done a couple of follow-ups and learned a little more about co-founder Thomas Roulston III. That said, the university reports students like their success coaches. The question now is whether that’ll show results when it comes to retention and graduation.
  4. “Mr. Todd’s Wild Ride” –  Here, we posed questions about clear discrepancies in two versions of curriculum vita submitted by Dr. Todd Rickel, dean of UA’s College of Applied Science and Technology. Afterward, he admitted he lacked he attention to detail to get his own CV right, despite the nearly $300,000 salary the job commanded. Dr. Scarborough and the Board of Trustees tossed aside faculty concerns that Dr. Rickel had falsified his resume intentionally. Later, when a THIRD version of his CV surfaced in Rickel’s personnel file, the administration refused to comment. They’ve also refused to address why his vita listed continuous employment when his resume showed long breaks between jobs. As vice provost of the university, he’s a potential replacement for Dr. Mike Sherman who recently took a new role at UA. Hard to demand rigor from your students on their work when you can’t get it from your vice provost.
  5. “Making a ‘Grand Entrance'” – One of the challenges of covering the ongoing controversy at UA has been that there are so many different stories that don’t seem to connect. This one, however, started putting the pieces together. The elimination of the baseball team had been sold by President Scarborough as a necessary evil required by the tough financial situation at the university. However, that seemed fishy from the get go. One, alumni and supporters weren’t allowed any time to try saving the team. Two, baseball players were paying a lot to attend UA, so when they left the “cost-cutting” move ended up costing the university money. It seemed clear there was something else and this appears to be it. Scarborough envisions (or envisioned) a “grand entrance” that would require getting rid of the baseball field. When Scarborough told local sports radio UA officials talked to the Akron Rubberducks about saving the team, but nothing could be done it made no sense. …until we learned he wasn’t talking about money but finding a home for the team. By the way, the Rubberducks denied the university ever called.

THE DEVIL STRIP’S MOST POPULAR NON-UA STORIES OF 2015

  1. “You’re So Akron If…” – It’s still the number one story and has little, if anything, to do with the university.
  2. “Dear Mr. Van Awesome” –  Usually, the hard part is getting it right when you’re trying to tell an honest, fair story about someone you’ve met, conveying some sense of who they are without canonizing them in the process. To my great disappointment, I never got to meet Dan Van Auken and I never will. He died a full year before I ever put a single word down. This story started as a blurb about an upcoming show, its main attraction to most being the scheduled appearance of Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. But after I asked “Doc” Rich about Dan, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. If you read his story, I hope it helps explain why. Dan Van Auken was no saint but in his abundant humanness I think you find an example of humanity at its best, a good that burned inside of him and is easy to see reflected now in the people he loved.
  3. “What’s About to Happen to The Devil Strip” – Like a total jerk, I joked at the beginning of that Pub Note about Issue 12 being our last. But that was five issues ago, and really all that’s changed is that we’re a monthly magazine now. We have installed an editorial team to make our coverage better (you may have noticed I got a little obsessive about the University of Akron for a while) and we continue to tweak this because we want to be around for a long, long time. That’s the best way we can pay our debt to Akron.
  4. “Super Big, Very Important (Formerly Secret) Announcement” – Another of my Pub Notes, this one revealed some very good news: We received a Knight Cities Challenge grant to launch a monthly subscription box service called Unbox Akron. That was on March 31. Since then, my close friend Roger Riddle moved up here to help and we’ve launched our first box just in time for Christmas. We’re still in beta, meaning it isn’t widely available, but if you’re interested in seeing what the hubbub is about then click here to sign up for the newsletter. Every so often, we open up a couple extra slots.
  5. “Akron City Limits with the Shivering Timbers” – Last spring, we had this idea. Local favorites Shivering Timbers were going on tour and we wanted to do some cool video stuff with The Akronist so why don’t we start a video series of local performances with local bands? The show itself was great and there is a video ready for public consumption. Reviving this idea is on my 2016 to-do list too. But this post? It’s all about Ilenia Pezzaniti‘s video with Shivering Timbers. I remember posting this and marveling that this is my new day job.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: “Akron’s Faded Flower,” Jenny Conn’s excellent story about the Mayflower Hotel; “We have bigger problems than the ‘Serial Pooper’,” in which I rant about the attention that got; “The Next Big Thing: Ava and the Hit Men,” a fun profile on pint-sized rockers; “These Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” a profile on Dance Dance Party Party-Akron; “WTF: What the Food Truck?!” Greg Milo’s attempt to find out why we don’t have any food trucks in Akron; and “More Sauerkraut Balls, Please!” which is still the most popular post by The Wanderer, Holly Brown.

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