There is no question, 2020 was a year no one wants to remember. However, we are looking back at the top stories from the eyes of our online readers, and the results are staggering.
Around Texas, the country and the world, articles were read 15 million times at tylerpaper.com and the website was 282 people away from 3 million unique users of the site.
For the printed newspaper, it was an interesting year. During the first three months of the pandemic, more people were turning to print subscriptions for the newspaper. They could stay home and have it delivered and wrapped in plastic without leaving their homes.
Our readers at first wanted coronavirus updates. But the majority of readers enjoyed the news, sports and lifestyles features, the business openings and crime stories.
Here is a look at some of the top stories:
1) Protests turn violent in Tyler, by John Anderson, 369,860 views
On Sunday, July 26, a Protest for Portland rally organized by Hank Gilbert, who was running against Congressman Louie Gohmert, was scheduled in the downtown Tyler square.
The hot summer day turned into a black eye for the area as three other groups showed up: participants in a Back the Blue rally, supporters of President Trump and Louie Gohmert and members of a group associated with white supremacists called the Proud Boys.
Gilbert’s campaign manager had his cell phone taken and on video, he was punched in the face as he asked for the phone. Caroline Artmire was yelling at a volunteer who was there setting up voter registration and another man had heard enough yelling and swearing and called her a name. Her father, Eric Artmire, then grabbed Paul Benson by the neck and an indelible photo captured by Sarah A. Miller was all over the internet and publications nationwide.
It was a quick incident and we were there. One national publication claimed months later, over 200 people were involved. However, that week, we used our own video recordings and recordings from all four groups to tell the accurate story. There were no more than 14 people involved, though the downtown square was packed. Tyler police said three warrants went out for arrests. This case is still open in our eyes.
2) Caregivers at Tyler special needs home arrested, by Zak Wellerman, 177,595 views
Two former caregivers at a special-needs home in Tyler were indicted by a Smith County grand jury for alleged physical and verbal abuse of a nonverbal teen with autism. Reporter Zak Wellerman ran screen grabs of a video of the abuse. The father of the abused teen placed cameras in the room and brought them to the Tyler Police Department.
3) Mahomes and friends: KC Chiefs close with home town buddies, by Phil Hicks, 167,324 views
Before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, Tyler Morning Telegraph Sports Editor Phil Hicks grabbed a photo of “The Group of Five” from Whitehouse High School who appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s Pigskin Preview back in 2013.
For the cover story, the quintet was in The Situation Room in “the White House” planning for the coming season. Not only were they best friends, but Patrick Mahomes, of course, was the quarterback, with his top receivers — Ryan Cheatham, Jaylon Dews, Coleman Patterson and Jake Parker.
Hicks talked to the friends and had photos of them, still friends in 2020. On Feb. 2, Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory and was named the MVP of the game.
4) Mahomes earns MVP contract, by Phil Hicks and John Anderson, 124,629 views
The Tyler Morning Telegraph had the only comments from Mahomes after he signed a record NFL contract during the off-season. The newspaper ran photos in news and sports of Patrick and his family and his agent, Leigh Steinberg.
5) The Mahomes play that won the Super Bowl: Cook to Kingsbury, “That was all Patrick,” by John Anderson, 122,056 views
The biggest play of the Super Bowl was not a touchdown, rather a conversion on a 3rd-and-15 to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Former Whitehouse football coach Adam Cook watched the play from the stands at the Super Bowl and smiled. The Tyler Morning Telegraph was at the Super Bowl in Miami and captured photos of Cook and Mahomes. The story talked about how that play may have been the result of a freshman in Whitehouse in 2009 charting plays on the sidelines instead of running around in the stands with his friends during the varsity games.
It detailed coaches like Cook and Mahomes’ coach at Texas A&M Kliff Kingsbury (now the coach of the Arizona Cardinals) and even current Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid all working with Mahomes’ strengths to allow that play to happen.
6) Where’s Flossie? Cold Case Murder solved, online only exclusive by John Anderson, 103,823 views
Flossie Wilbur, who would be 110 if she was alive today, has been missing since Aug. 24, 1985 from rural Angelica, N.Y.
She was in the middle of unloading groceries in the village on Main Street when she vanished. All police could find were her groceries in her car. The town is near the Pennsylvania border. Law enforcement told John Anderson there was a death-bed confession and where the search for her remains took place near Almond, N.Y.
Anderson worked with videographer and drone pilot Zach Lyman to fly over the scene and the story gained national interest.
7) Gov. Abbott sets rules driving to Texas from Louisiana, by John Anderson, 90,142 views.
During the unknown months of the pandemic, decisions were being made on what to do about traveling. At first, Louisiana had a high rate of cases and vehicles were checked on the interstate. With so many in East Texas working in both states, the story was of regional interest.
8) Mahomes gender reveal, by Zak Wellerman, 68,547 views
Brittany Matthews and Whitehouse native and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes revealed the gender of their baby on Oct. 21.
In a video on Twitter and Instagram, Matthews told the world they will be the parents of a baby girl. Using their dog’s footprints, the gender was unveiled with pink paws on the ground. “Baby Girl P.s- Yes, my dogs walked down a run way with pink paws for the reveal.” Mahomes shared his fiance’s video on Twitter saying, “#GirlDad.”
9) New Mahomes family expecting a child, by John Anderson, 52,185 views
Brittany Matthews posted a photo with her fiance, Patrick Mahomes, on Sept. 29 of the couple holding an ultrasound photo with their child.
The caption read, “Just taking a small detour to the wedding.” While 2020 has been a tough year for many, the Tyler couple, or the nation’s new favorite couple, has had an amazing year.
First, Mahomes, a Whitehouse native and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, was named the Super Bowl MVP with his victory in February in Miami. Then, the day Mahomes – along with his Chiefs teammates – received a Super Bowl ring during a ceremony at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Matthews.
10) Caltrop devices story and video, by Zak Wellerman and Ben Fenton, 37,805 views
For three months, starting in July, caltrops were causing tires to shred on our roads. During a news conference at the Texas Department of Transportation office in Tyler, TxDOT said more than 300 caltrops have been found along the 12-mile stretch on I-20 between US-69 and FM 314.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office was seeking the public’s help in finding people who had been leaving the devices used to flatten tires.
Police said the caltrops were made of welded rebar and sharpened on each side.
Tyler Morning Telegraph reporter Zak Wellerman had several stories and videographer Ben Fenton wrote the original story and published a video.
11) No more Robert E. Lee or John Tyler with school name changes, 43,629 views
Our team coverage included videos before and during the vote to change the names and then coverage of the actual names.
Robert E. Lee, which was known by the sports teams as Tyler Lee, was changed for the 2020-2021 school year to Tyler Legacy. John Tyler was changed to Tyler High.
Phil Hicks, our sports editor and a John Tyler graduate, explained in a column, “What’s in a name?” the history of Lee and former president, John Tyler. Hicks wrote, “So John Tyler now eliminates John from its name and is now named after the city of Tyler, which was named after John Tyler.”
He added, “Sam Cooke once sang, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Accepting change does not come easy. Even before Christ was born, Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.”
With the decision, maybe we can move forward and work together for educating our young people, which is most important.”
12) Video: Off-duty Bullard police officers working security at Times Square Grand Slam force Black teen to ground, by Jessica Dillon, 41,923
Managing Editor Jessica Dillon posted a video and a story showing off-duty Bullard Police officers speaking with a group of three individuals when a teen, who has his hands behind his back and appears to be in handcuffs, begins pushing up against the shoulder of one of the officers (they were hired as security at the Times Square Grand Slam entertainment complex in Tyler).
The officer then grabs the teen near his neck and slams him to the sidewalk, as members of a crowd who had gathered to watch the incident scream in protest.
The family of the teen met with Bullard officials and an attorney.
13) Video and story: Bullard resident wins $1 million on scratch off, by Zak Wellerman and John Anderson, 37,765 views
Who doesn’t like a story on scratch-off lottery tickets that actually amount to winnings over $5? Store employees and customers talked about the win and in our video, we bought the same ticket ... and lost.
14) Greenberg Turkey fire video and story, by Zak Wellerman, John Anderson and Jessica Dillon 37,205 views
We were live at the scene with video during the fire on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 at the world-famous Greenberg Smoked Turkeys Inc. in Tyler.
Readers around the country were following the story and showed concern for the employees, the business and the owners.
Good news came: Greenberg Smoked Turkeys later broke ground on a new shipping and freezer facility after the fire and explosion severely damaged the storage facilities.
More good news: The company website is back online, and Greenberg is accepting orders for the 2021 holiday season.
15) Patrick Mahomes releases Whitehouse-inspired Adidas shoes, by Brandon Ogden, 32,109 views
On Dec. 10, Whitehouse native and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes partnered with Adidas to release a new shoe that is inspired by Whitehouse Wildcats colors
“It’s my hometown Whitehouse Wildcat colors of our own type of Ultraboost, and I’ve already gotten a pair, and I mean they’re sweet, they’re comfortable, you can go out there and look cool,” Mahomes said. “It’s not technically my signature shoe. That’s something that I will hopefully be able to work with Adidas and get my own type of shoe. We’ll keep working with Adidas and keep seeing how much they’ll let me put my imprint on different things and hopefully soon enough we’ll have that whole thing going.”
16) Videos and stories: Lindale football heading to state finals, by Brandon Ogden, John Anderson and Phil Hicks, 31,952 views
Brandon Ogden had features on several players and John Anderson had highlight videos of Lindale as well as game previews. Phil Hicks and Anderson interviewed Pat Mahomes, who was the Lindale quarterback in 1987, a big year for the Eagles. He talked about teams he admired, his team and the 2020 team that made school history by reaching the state finals at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington.
17) Video and story: Traffic stop shows the whole story, by John Anderson, Jessica Dillon and Ben Fenton, 30,107 views
A reader sent Jessica Dillon a video of a man being pulled over by Smith County Sheriff deputies. They pulled their guns, had him back toward them and cuffed him on the hot pavement and put him in the car.
Without knowing what happened, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith viewed the body cam footage with John Anderson and Ben Fenton. It turned out, the man who was pulled over was wanted for allegedly stealing the vehicle and out-ran deputies. He almost crashed on the road he was pulled over on and wisely pulled over.
Also on the body cam, you could see the man open and close the door three times and reach for something under his visor. None of this could be seen from the original video sent by a neighbor. The body cam sound picked up the officers working with the man to make sure he was not on hot pavement and the air conditioning was on in the car while they investigated.
18) Mahomes named SI Sportsman of the Year, by Brandon Ogden, 25,012 views
Whitehouse native and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was one of five athletes selected as the Sports Illustrated 2020 Sportsperson of the Year.
The theme for the issue of the magazine is 2020: The Activist Athlete.
Mahomes was joined by teammate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, LeBron James, WNBA player Breanna Stewart and tennis player Naomi Osaka.
The piece on Mahomes in Sports Illustrated was written by another Super Bowl MVP, Doug Williams.
19) Trump flotilla on Lake Palestine, Trump boat parade on Lake Tyler draws hundreds on water and land, by Jessica Dillon and Ben Fenton, 24,967 views
The Tyler Morning Telegraph covered the Trump rallies with stories, photos and videos.
20) Saturday Night Live parody features Brookshire’s, supermarket plays along, by John Anderson, 23,619 views
Saturday Night Live on NBC aired a parody commercial of items you can get during the pandemic at the Tyler-based Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy. The show used “Bartenson’s Grocery Store” with the font, red and green colors and logo with the signature leaf exactly the same as Brookshire’s.
Brookshire’s embraced it and played along and our readers loved it.
The video, which aired on NBC, was viewed over 2.5 million times on the SNL Facebook page, featured one of the biggest names in comedy, Kate McKinnon, who has appeared in six major movies. Playing alongside of McKinnon in the 2 minute and 28 second sketch was Aidy Bryant. The duo have been nominated for an Emmy Award.
The “commercial” starts with the two saying chicken, milk, eggs, soap and bread are “flying off the shelves,” but customers might want to buy some items that were “extremely in stock,” so much that “we can’t get rid of them.” They showed frozen Hawaiian pizza, then fake products like mint Pringles, fluoride bananas, Boy Scout cookies, oat milk pizza, crab flavored Pepsi and Pepto Bismol Oreo’s.
Brookshire’s CEO Brad Brookshire and Chief Operating Officer Trent Brookshire dressed the same as McKinnon and Bryant and posed like the comedy duo in three photos. They posted on the Brookshire’s Facebook and Instagram pages. With the photos came the caption from the Brookshire’s, “From your friends at Brookshire’s grocery store (not to be confused with Saturday Night Live’s Bartenson’s Grocery Store), we wanted to let you all know that we are out of stock of Mint Pringles, Dasani Clorox wipes, Pepto Bismal Oreos and Peeps Soup. But don’t worry, we have substitutes!”
Other stories between 15,000 and 23,000 views:
Anderson column: Chris Dean refuses to say no; Food trucks finding ways to keep rolling despite pandemic; Multisport mother: Carlisle’s Lizbet Rocha raises daughter, plays five sports; signed to play volleyball at Texas College; First three Coronavirus cases in Smith County; Broadway Square Mall undergoing multi-million dollar transformation; largest in its 45-year-history; VIDEO: Super Bowl MVP Mahomes thanks teammates in locker room; VIDEO and story: Mahomes MVP press conference, thanks Whitehouse, local friends and coaches; Tyler man charged with continuous sexual abuse for allegedly molesting child for years; Oklahoma nun opens homes for seniors to join new ‘family’; Anna Grace Hallmark to serve as queen of the Texas Rose Festival; That’s the ticket: Mahomes’ college coach Kingsbury delivers surprise to Adam Cook, his high school coach; 19-year-old Tyler native creates perfume line; Earl Campbell enjoys LSU-Clemson title game with some of the greatest ever, honored at halftime on ESPN