The Top 5: A Look Back At Our Most Popular Stories Of 2019

Dec 19, 2019

As we prepare to close the books on another year, we'd like to take a moment to look back at some of our most popular stories and interviews from 2019.

Below are the local and regional pieces from the past year that drew the most traffic to our website, with comments from our reporters as they reflect on the stories.

5. On The Front Lines Of The Youth Suicide Epidemic In The Mountain West – Ali Budner

Debbie Sell is a high school social worker in El Paso County, Colorado
Credit Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC

It’s widely reported now that depression and suicide are some of the biggest problems for young people in Colorado and throughout the Mountain West. I wanted to take a look at how this epidemic was impacting the experiences of mental health professionals who are perhaps some of the closest to this issue – school counselors and social workers. Finding the right voice, navigating the inherent sensitivity of the issue, along with maintaining privacy for these school-aged kids – all made the reporting for this piece a unique challenge.  But thanks to the willingness and professionalism of Debbie Sell, I was able to open a window into what she thinks about and deals with on a day-to-day basis.

This problem is getting worse and not better. A recent CDC report showed that Colorado’s youth suicide rate spiked 86% between 2007 and 2017. For comparison, the national youth suicide rate went up 56% during the same time period.  In the meantime, I’ve done more reporting on this issue and there are some causes for hope. One of Colorado’s native tribes, the Ute Mountain Ute, opened a behavioral health center on their reservation. And young people in Colorado’s mostly rural Chaffee County initiated a mental health care voucher system to help their peers.

4. Wolf Reintroduction – How Would It Work In Colorado? – Ali Budner

This explainer piece was actually first intended to be a side-bar to the longer feature I reported about the controversy over reintroducing gray wolves to Colorado. But in the end we felt it deserved its own post. Reporting for radio, I often find that so much interesting information gets left on the proverbial cutting room floor. So I’m glad that we were able to find a place to publish this account of how a wolf reintroduction might actually play out, according to wolf biologist and Montana State Senator, Mike Phillips, if the ballot measure were to pass. 

A grey wolf
Credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife

When I first reported the feature and this explainer piece, the ballot measure supporters still had not gathered the approximately 124 thousand voter signatures that were necessary to win Initiative 107 a place on the 2020 ballot. But just this month, more than 200,000 signatures were submitted. So it looks likely now that Colorado voters will be asked next year whether they support a plan to have Colorado Parks and Wildlife facilitate a reintroduction of gray wolves to public lands in western Colorado by 2023. The issue remains highly contentious in the state -- between conservationists, wolf biologists, hunters, and ranchers. 

3. Investigative Report Alleges 'Human Rights Abuses' At Colorado's Supermax Prison – Abigail Beckman

An article published in The Nation magazine alleges potential human rights violations have taken place at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. The investigation found inmates held in a certain unit there had been force-fed and barred from sharing their stories with the outside world.

This Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 file photo shows a guard tower looming over a federal prison complex which houses a Supermax facility outside Florence, in southern Colorado.
Credit Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

91.5 KRCC's Abigail Beckman spoke with the investigative journalist who wrote the piece, and reflecting back on it, she had this to share: It’s always fun to interview another journalist, especially when it’s someone who is passionate about what they have to share. I was really intrigued by the investigative work Aviva Stahl had done on this story. The following quote from Stahl helps to illustrate the power of her reporting: "In some circumstances and in some ways, there is greater transparency when it comes to the conditions at Guantanamo than when it comes to the conditions on H Unit at ADX which is an American prison, on American soil that holds American citizens."

2. Change In Amtrak Leadership Raises Questions About The Future Of The Southwest Chief – Andrea Chalfin

In this file photo, Amtrak's Southwest Chief pulls into the Raton, New Mexico station on an overcast day in May 2014.
Credit Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

91.5 KRCC has been following the fate of Amtrak's Southwest Chief long-distance rail line for a while, ever since its continuation through Southern Colorado was called into question. Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler heads the state commission tasked with preserving and possibly expanding the line, and this conversation that aired in the early days of 2019 takes a look at new leadership at Amtrak and how that could possibly affect the line.

A recent interview with NPR member station WBUR illustrates a continued battle between Congress and Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson over the future of the route.

Part of the mandate for the state commission also explores the possibility and feasibility of rail along Colorado's Front Range, which was also part of the conversation with Gaebler. To that end, efforts are ongoing.

1. Ansel Adams’ Little-Known Role In Envisioning The Air Force Academy Campus – Abigail Beckman

Renowned photographer Ansel Adams played a role in the development of the United States Air Force Academy in the 1950s. He was commissioned to take specific and large format landscape photographs of the area as part of its architectural design.

This story came to 91.5 KRCC in the way that many great stories appear—by accident.

Ansel Adams photographs were taken April 1955, one month prior to the initial design presentation/exhibit at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on Mary 14-15, 1955.

From reporter Abigail Beckman: This piece came together in a roundabout way. I was working on a report about the renovations at the Air Force Chapel when someone mentioned Ansel Adams’ role in the original plans for the Academy. It was an offhand remark, but I knew there was a story there. The photos were not a secret, nor were they lost in time, but Adams’ contribution wasn’t exactly common knowledge. It was really neat to finally open the email containing the digital versions of his photographs and see the land the way it was before the campus was built. 

As for the Academy Chapel, it is now closed for renovations.

Thank you to all who listen, appreciate, and support your local news here at 91.5 KRCC, public radio for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. May 2020 continue to bring such illuminating, engaging, and informational stories.