Dave Mistich Published

WVPB's Top Five Most Viewed Stories of 2015


From the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to a visit from President Barack Obama highlighting issues surrounding substance abuse and addiction, headlines about events from West Virginia in 2015 often pushed into the national spotlight.

But despite the national appeal of Blankenship and Obama, the metrics tell a different story as to the most popular stories on our website this year.

Here’s a look at the top five most viewed stories produced by our team this year:

1. Mysterious Morgantown Landmark Opens to the Public

With stunning images of Pietro’s Castle on Tyrone Road in Morgantown, this story from Jesse Wright was by far the most popular story on our website in 2015. The history is as stunning as the building itself. As Jesse reports:

Italian immigrant and stonemason Thoney Pietro earned his slice of the American Dream by building infrastructure across the region, from Mingo County to Pittsburgh. When he retired in 1928, he built a home for his family that reflected his strong Catholic faith, complete with a large cross sitting between two soaring parapets.

2. Data Viz: When Did West Virginia’s Heroin Problem Begin? Which Counties Are Hurting the Most?


Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting / via Tableau
via Tableau

Data visualizations were a big draw for our audience in 2015, but it was this piece that highlighted heroin overdose death rates from our radio/digital series The Needle and the Damage Done that captivated the state and those beyond. 

News organizations like NPR helped push this piece out via socials. Vox also highlighted our work on the series in their reporting on America’s struggle with painkiller and opioid addiction. 

In October, President Barack Obama visited Charleston to discuss the growing problem.

Given the depth of our reporting, the multimedia elements we offered and the reach we were able to achieve, we felt proud to lead the charge in shedding light on this issue.

3. Which West Virginia Counties Have Seen the Most Population Loss in Recent Years?

In 2015, everyone seemed to want to discuss what it will take to keep West Virginians from leaving. There were editorials and letters to the editor, podcasts and all other sorts of discussions on the matter. At the end of the day, though, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that West Virginia is losing population faster than any state in the country.

As I previously mentioned, 2015 was a huge step forward in West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s data and digital news efforts, this piece highlighting population change from 2010 to 2014 was another huge hit.

4. Five Things to Know About the Fayette County Train Derailment


Credit U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier

West Virginia is no stranger to industrial and environmental disasters and 2015 was no exception. In February, a CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Fayette County, sending fireballs hundreds of feet in the air and destroying one home. This listicle–one of our initial posts on the incident–became one of the most viewed of the year.

While similar (and deadly) incidents had recently occurred elsewhere in North America, the Federal Railroad Administration cited the Fayette County incident as a reason to push for more strict regulation on crude-by-rail transport.

(Environmental advocate Erin Brockovich referenced our work shared on Facebook, which also helped to spread the story to a wider audience.)

5. Jeffersonian Springs Resort in W.Va. Sells for $560,000


Credit Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia Commons

It’s not often a historical resort goes up for sale at auction but when the Sweet Springs Resort in Monroe County sold in November, our audience was all eyes and ears. 

Ashby Berkley purchased the property, which was built in 1791, for just over half a million dollars.

As Roxy Todd reported: 

[The Sweet Spring Resort] was  sold to the state of West Virginia in 1941. The state renovated it as a home for the elderly in 1945. The facility closed in 1991, and the property has stood empty since. Some attempts to renovate the property have so far have failed or stalled.

Bonus: Our Most Popular Podcast Episodes

Podcasts were another huge hit for us in 2015. From the growing success of Us & Them, Inside Appalachia and The Front Porch, West Virginia Public Broadcasting began attracting a wider audience with discussions about everything from what was on everyone’s minds in the area to culture wars looming across America.

Here’s two that scored big for us: