We-Ha.com looks back at West Hartford’s most read stories of 2017.
By Ronni Newton
Happy New Year!
As the calendar year comes to an end, I always think it’s interesting to take a glance into the rearview mirror, to see which West Hartford stories and issues attracted the most attention.
We-Ha.com was officially launched in September 2014, and in our fourth full year of operation we continue to experience very strong growth in readership. The number of page views, newsletter subscribers, and Facebook followers continue to increase. I was particularly happy to see a large jump this year in the amount of time that readers spend on each page!
This year’s stories covered a wide range of topics, including business openings and closings, events, features on residents, sports, school activities, burglaries and other crimes, sports, animals, and weather.
These stories touched everyone’s lives in different ways and left impressions that won’t soon be forgotten.
In addition to the stories that I personally wrote during 2018, at the end of 2017 we welcomed Marlon Pitter as our sports reporter and he has had a major impact on the sports coverage that We-Ha.com has been able to provide. Marlon has covered Conard and Hall boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse, baseball, football, soccer, and field hockey – and I hope you’ve had a chance to read his write-ups about our local student-athletes.
It’s hard to decide how many stories to highlight but since we did 15 in 2015, 16 in 2016, and 17 in 2017, it seems to make sense to highlight the 18 most read and most talked about stories of 2018. Are you surprised at any of these? We’d love to hear what our readers consider the top stories of the year.
- In 2016 and 2017 the most-read stories were tragic ones, and unfortunately that was the case for the story with the most page views in 2018 as well. On Dec. 17, a 12-year-old West Hartford boy fatally stabbed his twin sister and severely injured their mother (who is still hospitalized) at the family home on Stoner Drive. As the situation unfolded late that afternoon and throughout the night, multiple updates were provided to the story.
- Story no. 2 had fewer page views but thousands of Facebook shares – and while it was also categorized as a “police” story, it was really a debunking of a rumor that had spun out of control. As a blonde woman, I was also personally very glad to assure the public that blonde women were not being targeted for abduction in West Hartford!
- The story with the third-highest number of page views was also a police story, and thankfully had a happy ending. On Nov. 30 we reported that a 15-year-old girl had been missing since the previous day. Several days later she safely returned home.
- Another police story came in fourth – the discovery of a dead body in a car parked in the Brace Road parking lot in West Hartford Center on a Saturday night in April. Later that week, police released the name of the deceased person, 23-year-old Andrew Carbone of South Glastonbury.
- Each week we publish the most recent residential real estate transactions in West Hartford, along with a photo of the highest-priced home sold that week. It’s of such interest to people that the “Real Estate” category on We-Ha.com received the fifth-most page views on the site in 2018. There have been so many news stories lately that I am actually quite a few weeks behind in reporting real estate transactions, and hope to be caught up soon by posting several updates each week.
- We-Ha.com interviewed Hall High School student Leah Jackson, after she was the target of several acts of anti-Semitism – a highly disturbing incident that happened around the same time as even more flagrant acts of anti-Semitism were taking place at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT. Jackson said that she and other students planned to develop and deliver educational workshops on Judaism, the Holocaust, diversity, and other relevant topics, and we will follow up on the status of those plans in the new year
- A follow-up to the tragic stabbing incident on Dec. 17 took seventh place. The day after the incident, police charged the 12-year-old suspect with murder with special circumstances (because the victim was less than 16 years old) as well as first-degree assault. The boy was remanded to the custody of Connecticut Judicial Marshals. At this point there are no further updates to this case. A statement released by Mayor Shari Cantor on behalf of the family at the center of the tragedy, and the story about the white ribbons that have been posted and prayer services held on behalf of the family also had thousands of page views.
- I’ve lost count of the number of utility poles that have needed replacement this year after being hit by vehicles, particularly on New Britain Avenue as well as South Main Street. Many people read the story, which was accompanied by some dramatic photos, when on July 13, an 18-year-old was injured after wrapping the car he was driving around a pole in the center of Elmwood.
- Restaurant stories continue to be popular in West Hartford, but this restaurant story got to be the ninth-most read in a very unusual way. Zaytoon’s Bistro opened in August 2017, but many more people read the feature story about this Mediterranean restaurant on Park Road after bullet holes were discovered in the front window in September 2018. Police obtained warrants and arrested several of the suspects in November, but said that the suspect believed to have been the actual shooter had left the country.
- In 10th place was the most popular story of a restaurant that opened this year! Just in time for Fourth of July weekend, Rockledge Grille officially opened its doors – and its windows and deck – affording diners the best view in West Hartford along with a great menu from Beachland Group (Beachland Tavern, and Park Tavern). “The Rock” has become a very popular dining and gathering spot for those who live in my neighborhood, and we love that it’s a 5-minute walk!
- Another popular restaurant story this year was the news that Mike Ladden had sold Noble & Co., as well as McLadden’s to Bean Restauarant Group and the Picknelly family of Springfield, MA. While McLadden’s has had some minor tweaks to the menu, Noble has been completely transformed – the interior as well as the menu – and reopened in early December as the immediately-popular Union Kitchen.
- As a whole Business Buzz is the most well-read feature on We-Ha.com, and added together the 2018 columns would most likely take the top spot on this list. The April 23 column – with news that included the plans for Balos Estiatorio to open on South Main Street, plans for the opening of what is now Poke Man in Blue Back Square, REI’s move to The Corbin Collection, and more – comes in at no. 12 on its own. I love writing the column, and the challenge of pulling together interesting tidbits of news that I hope – if not surprise – will at least interest readers. From time-to-time some readers ask me to discontinue the personal details that I often share in the introduction, but a far greater number tell me that they enjoy reading it so for now it will continue. The news part always begins at the bullet points, so those who prefer to skip over the intro can easily do that. Other very popular Business Buzz columns include the Aug. 6 and April 2 editions.
- Every year I eagerly anticipate the Halloween display that Matt Warshauer creates in front of his North Main Street home, as well as the discussion I have with him about his inspiration. This year’s display, while not quite as ghoulish, was one of Warshauer’s boldest statements ever – contemplating the “death of democracy” and coming in as story no. 13. As he did in 2016, after Halloween – and just in time for Election Day – Warshauer transformed his display into a very overt political statement urging people to vote and hoping for a “blue wave.”
- A tribute to West Hartford resident Tracey Gamer-Fanning, who died in October at age 48 after living – and in her own words, thriving – for 12 years with a brain tumor, came in at no. 14.
- News that a former student teacher at Conard High School was charged with sexual assault after engaging in a relationship with an 18-year-old student garnered plenty of page views. Over the summer, Tayler Ivy Boncal was granted accelerated rehabilitation by a judge.
- I find this rather odd, but when I look at Google analytics I often see people reading this story, even though it was written nearly four years ago! In 16th place for 2018 was the “Getting Personal: NBC Connecticut Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan” profile that I wrote in February 2015! Hanrahan has since been promoted to chief meteorologist at NBC Connecticut.
- In 17th place was a sad police-related story, about a 14-year-old West Hartford girl who was the driver of a stolen car that crashed into a brick and concrete pillar at the entrance to Trinity College. One of the passengers, a 16-year-old Hartford boy, was paralyzed as a result of the crash.
- Ending on a happy note – the Gatsby-style wedding of Tyler Anderson and Melanie Stepka at the historic Goodwin Hotel came in at no. 18.
There were thousands of other stories published in 2018 on We-Ha.com, positive stories as well as tragic ones, that impacted the lives of our residents.
Others that just missed the top 18 range from a search for home invasion suspects in May, to voting for Best of West Hartford, to a guide to Celebrate West Hartford!, to a sneak peek at the Junior League of Hartford Show House.
I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring. I’m sure there will be plenty of great stories to tell, and I look forward to another year of bringing hyperlocal news to West Hartford!
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