The Beat: 2010’s biggest hits

The word: Ashevilleans tweeted away in 2010. Here’s a graphic view of what the top topics were in Xpress’ moderated Twitter feed. Image created by Jason Shope via

The Mountain Xpress website can often appear to be a publication unto itself. In addition to showcasing much of the content that's published in our weekly print edition, the online outlet offers a plethora of exclusive breaking news, videos, reviews, slideshows, podcasts, personals, community forums, aggregated citizen reports and much more. In 2010, eyes and ears tuned into that world like never before, with Web visits up nearly 40 percent over 2009. Here's a look at some of the most visited areas of Xpress' online landscape.

News: Social services, social media and sustainability

As of mid-December, the news story with the most online views in 2010 was "Local Family Feels Vindicated by Breakthrough Research." The article, written by Xpress contributor Nelda Holder, was the third in a series of stories tracking a Black Mountain family's nightmarish experience after an unidentified source accused Lisa and Rodney Baldwin of medically neglecting Ryan, their only child. This installment included an interview with Ryan after he was diagnosed with XMRV, a rare neuro-immune disease.

Recounting his time in the custody of the Buncombe County Department of Social Services, Ryan explained that he “was put in homes that were not wheelchair-accessible, [where] I would be forced to climb steps. In addition, I was given physical and psychological treatments designed to either exercise my disabilities away or to convince me that they didn’t exist in the first place. … I definitely believe that changes need to be made in how social workers handle these sorts of situations."

Another most-viewed news story was "Social Media for Businesses: No Longer Just an Option,” by contributor Anne Fitten Glenn. The piece highlighted the growing importance of social-media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as small business survival tools.

And in a late-breaking update, Senior News Reporter David Forbes stirred up the most views of 2010 for his Dec. 22 investigative report “Bottled in Bond,” which details a Living Wage controversy.

Also in the top-viewed stories was Forbes’ “Sustainable for Whom,” which reported on Montford residents’ potential evictions for violating city occupancy rules, which stipulate that more than five unrelated people can’t live in the same house. But the owner of a Montford home, Bernard Carman, argued that sharing his residence with seven roommates provided much-needed affordable housing (he rented rooms for $400 per month).

A&E: Vaudeville, FANATICON and Feeling the Moog Spirit

Topping the list of popular arts-and-entertainment articles was "Vaudeville! Burlesque! Cabaret!" The cover story by contributor Steven Samuels took an in-depth look at Asheville's "fringe-y" theater community, profiling local movers and shakers such as Cookie LaRue and asking this question: "Will the scene explode into greater prominence, as it sometimes seems poised to do; remain mostly as it is — underground; or implode while trying to transition between the two?" We'll have to see how the predictions play out in 2011.

The runner-up was "A Non-Geeks Guide to FANATICON," which previewed Asheville's first-ever comic-book, sci-fi and fantasy convention. The creative feature by contributor Miles Britton went far beyond the who-what-when-and-where details of the event, offering readers everything from an in-depth analysis of zombies (they're "the Oldsmobiles of monsters," he wrote) to a list of "Five Things Not to do at FANATICON.” (An example: "Do not eat or drink anything from someone claiming to be a wizard.")

The last of the top three was "Feeling the Moog Spirit." The article by Staff Reporter Jake Frankel previewed a unique benefit for the Moog Foundation that brought renowned keyboard maestro Erik Norlander together with an orchestra of local musicians. Norlander trucked in his 400-pound analog modular synthesizer to the Orange Peel from California. His roadies coined the massive 6-by-7-foot musical monolith the "Wall of Doom."

Blasts in the blogosphere: Google, Haiti, the Obamas and Downtown After Five

In exclusively online content, Publisher Jeff Fobes' blog, "The FINAL HOURS: Asheville's Push for Google Fiber (via Twitter)," got the most overall hits. The post aggregated tweets that reported on local efforts to lobby Google to install an ultra-high-speed Internet cable in the area. Google plans to announce the winning city in early 2011.

The second most-viewed blog was "Helping Haiti: Ongoing Coverage, Links, Resources – With Twitter News Feed." The post (credited to Anonymous but featuring contributions by UNCA’s Lorin Mallorie) aggregates articles and information related to local support for Haitians in the wake of the earthquake that devastated their country last January.

Rounding out the top three was another experiment — "The Obamas Visit Asheville: Ongoing Twitter-Based Coverage." Fobes' post collected staff and citizen reports on the first couple's spring vacation, which included visits to 12 Bones Smokehouse, the Biltmore House and the Blue Ridge Parkway. After the trip, the president's staff told the Washington Post that "Obama kind of fell in love" with Asheville. But there's been no word of when they might come back.

The most-viewed A&E blog was "2010 Downtown After Five Lineup,"posted by Staff Reporter Alli Marshall. Last year the popular street parties featured performances by Stephaniesid, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Spam Allstars and many more. An Edgy Mama post about proper male toilet-seat etiquette ("Edgy Mama: Guys, If You Can't Put the Lid Down, Then Sit Down") and a blog revealing the Moogfest lineup ("Holy Moogerfoogers Batman! Moogfest Lineup Announced") by Managing A&E Editor Rebecca Sulock completed the top three.

Yule logs, anarchy in the Café, wind turbines and hot-air balloons

In Xpress' ongoing explorations of the local gastro-verse, Food and Features Coordinator Mackensy Lunsford had the two most popular food stories. Her article,"Small Bites: Holiday Boxes, Baskets and Bites," highlighted holiday treats ahead of Christmas, including the Hop Ice Cream Company's yule logs and Creme Patisserie's hot cross buns. And in "The Anarchist's Cookbook," Lunsford profiled Asheville's Firestorm Café, a business that its worker-owners called an "anarchist project. … This isn't just a business. We are, in fact, creating a new model for running something that is serving a community and manages to produce an active critique of the way that businesses are typically run, [by creating] reciprocal relationships within a community instead of [existing] strictly to enrich an individual or individuals," explained Emma Olivia.

Contributor Eric Crews scored the biggest hit on the environmental beat. In "Green Scene: Blowing in the Wind," he explored the debate over expanding wind-power facilities in the mountains.

"For some, the idea of a series of massive turbines silhouetted against the horizon is the epitome of green energy overstepping its purpose," Crews wrote. "But others argue that the alternative to wind energy is the continued reliance upon mountaintop-removal coal, of which North Carolina is the No. 1 consumer."

And in other wind-assisted reports, contributor Jerry Nelson had the most-viewed outdoors story with a first-person narrative of his mystical experience floating over Pisgah National Forest in a hot-air balloon. In "The View From Above," Nelson wrote that the ride felt like "being held in place by a giant, unseen hand as the earth dropped away from us. … The Creator (or whatever name you want to use) is like the wind, and we’re the balloon."

Runways, secrets and emcees

The most-viewed Xpress video was "Obama's Asheville Vacation Begins," which captured the moment when Air Force One touched down at the Asheville Regional Airport. "Fashion and Fun: Scenes from PUSH Asheville" got the second-most views, with its evocative imagery of local models strutting their stuff on the runway at the PUSH Asheville fashion show. Both videos were produced by Frankel.

Last year's most popular podcast was "Local Matters: From the Asheville 11 to Top-Secret Rosman." Listeners tuned in to hear contributor (and former managing editor) Jon Elliston discuss what the National Security Agency had been doing in Rosman decades ago. During the 16-minute dispatch, Forbes also primed listeners on the alleged "Asheville 11" vandals and Frankel discussed farmland conservation efforts around the region.

As for the most-viewed photo of the year , our Web stats seem to indicate a photo of longtime GFE emcee and local hip-hop DJ Adam Strange as he performed at the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival — but Anne Fitten Glenn, who gets photo credit online, says she didn’t take it. The image shows Strange wearing a Sen. John McCain T-shirt as he performs. What made the photo so popular? That’s a mystery we’ll carry into this new year.

— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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