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Top Wausonian stories of 2021
The most popular stories of 2021 with The Wausonian's readers
As we’re about to head into 2021, I wanted to take a look back at the stories we’ve run in the year. Which ones resonated with Wausonian readers?
In some ways it’s not entirely fair - we grew our subscriber base quite a bit since the start of the year. It was a few months old this time last year, and has had an entire year of growth to benefit from. So stories published earlier in the year has a much smaller subscriber base than newer ones.
Also, I had a brief panic and took down the newsletter, before getting over my fears and republishing it. I’ll explain a little more when we get to the actual story, which is number one on here by a long-shot.
A Tale of Three Lees: One of the things that always struck me as odd was just how long some people stay in Marathon County Jail. Jail, as anyone with some familiarity with the criminal justice system probably knows, is meant to hold people for either pre-sentencing (depending on their bail disposition) and for sentences of less than one year; prisons are for anything longer than a year. But looking through the jail logs I receive daily, I notice people inside for years - more than three, in some cases. It also happened that three of the prisoners had either first or last names of Lee, and illustrated different reasons why someone might be in jail longer than a year. Sometimes delays by defense attorneys draw out the process with motion after motion; but other times it seems to be trouble finding a defense attorney - as in, sometimes months go by before the first part of a court proceeding can even happen.
The Riverlife/Mall switcheroo: City leaders got a little bit of a shock when they learned leaders of the Wausau Opportunity Zone had seemed to talk the developers approved for the third Riverlife project into working on the mall instead; or at least, that’s what they told the Economic Development Committee. It turned out, it’s much more complicated than that and revealed some rather troubling details about something that has been bugging me about city development: why so many projects get approved only to fall apart later. The story might have begged more questions than it answered, but it’s an ongoing thing.
Wausau has been losing students: I wanted to learn two things with this story: How many students was Wausau really losing, and what impact does it have on the school district’s bottom line? It’s complicated, but as we learned, short term enrollment drops don’t matter much because of state funding rules, but long-term declines have impacts on how much the district gets in state funding. And even removing the sharp drop in enrollments during the COVID year, Wausau’s student counts have been on a long-term decline.
How the Juedes case finally came to trial: I was surprised to find myself in a courtroom at the end of 2019, covering a homicide charge against someone for a crime that occurred in 2006. Moreover, the question of “why now?” not only didn’t come up that day in 2019, but never seemed to really be answered. So I sat down with the detective who worked the cold case, and what I found out was actually pretty surprising.
The waterpark fiasco: When The Grand Lodge at Cedar Creek announced it was closing its waterpark, it didn’t seem like it was going to be more than a quick brief. It turned into a major story when a former manager there contacted me to let me know there was much more going on. (Thanks to the outside organization who passed my name along!)
It turned out the organization was hiding a bacteria outbreak at the waterpark, and had cskimped on proper maintenance. The former manager and multiple former employees reached out confirming the details the manager told me. The hotel had to close the waterpark. Moreover, multiple people mentioned to me they’d been there recently and gotten sick or gotten some kind of rash. Yikes. (The bacteria test failures were confirmed by the Health Department; the shutdown was voluntary its employee told me.)
The reaction was strong. The post went viral, and I had more new subscribers in a week’s time than I typically gained in a few months. I also had a pretty nasty interaction with a manager there, who accused me of making it all up (despite numerous employees pointing to the exact same problems and the health department confirming the bacteria).
I had a brief panic and took down The Wausonian. It got to be a little too much. There are some behind the scenes things I hadn’t thought through all the way. But in the end, I knew and know today that I am on to something special with The Wausonian. So I put it back up and have been growing it since.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at some of the posts here. The year 2021 was a great one for The Wausonian and I can’t wait to see how this grows in 2022. Thanks for all of you who have been along for the ride, subscribing, telling your friends, sharing our posts. It’s you guys and your feedback, comments and enthusiasm that keep me going.
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