2021 is Over

Remembering 2021 with Eugene Weekly’s most read stories of the year

The year 2021 had one hell of a start with the Jan. 6 insurrection that left us wondering whether 2020 would have competition for the most news-filled year.

With only a few days left in the year, we’re hoping that despite that Capitol riot, a record heatwave in the PNW and Delta and Omicron, maybe it’s safe to say that 2021 was not as bad as 2020? (If something catastrophic happens, we’ll all know who jinxed it.) Still, there was a lot of news breaking and important discussion in the media, so let’s take a look at which stories you, the readers, read the most on EugeneWeekly.com in 2021.

10. Eugene Police Block 11th and Jefferson

Back in July, Eugene police brought out a ton of equipment, blocking two major streets: 11th Avenue and Jefferson. And it was one of the first incidents where police utilized a phone alert, recommending residents nearby to shelter in place — including the EW newsroom. Sadly, the incident — which began as a police call regarding menacing with a weapon — ended in a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

9. Breasts Still Obscene in Eugene

Ah, the Viewpoint column heard ‘round town. A local resident penned an opinion piece that aroused quite a bit of controversy and resulted in a segment by KEZI. The yoga-practicing Eugenean told the story of her time going topless at a local yoga studio. It didn’t go well, and she opined in EW’s pages that there was a double standard in yoga where men could be topless but women couldn’t.

8. Homeless Camp Sweep at Westmoreland Park

Since the start of the pandemic, the city of Eugene kept changing its regulations on homeless camping, often resulting in increased closing and sweeping of sites. Reporter Taylor Perse spoke with homeless advocates, who told her that they were feeling frustrated with the city — especially since the CDC was recommending cities not conduct homeless camp sweeps.

7. A Hidden Death

In March 2020, Landon Payne was panicked, paranoid and high on meth after having been clean. He needed help. His wife called the Eugene Police Department, who had helped Payne in the past. But this time, an EPD officer insisted on taking him to Lane County Jail, setting off a chain of events that resulted in his death that previously went unreported by the police and sheriff’s office.

This story, reported and written by Ardeshir Tabrizian, was part of the Catalyst Journalism Project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication along with EW, and told the tragic story of Payne, who died two days after deputies knelt on his back while processing him at Lane County Jail.

6. Springfield Memory Care Workers to go on Strike

This Springfield memory care worker strike was one of the first worker rights actions to happen in Lane County during 2021, which is likely going to be remembered as a labor movement year.

Employees at The Rawlin at Riverbend Memory Care first demanded immediate recognition of the union on Monday, Feb. 1, in response to an active COVID-19 outbreak among residents with 47 cases and six deaths. When management refused to acknowledge the union, workers went on strike.

5. Eugene Without a City Hall is Declared ‘Homeless’ by Federal Government

Sometimes satire is so good that it sounds real. The city of Eugene has gone years without a physical city hall. So what happens when a city doesn’t have a home? It gets declared “homeless.”

4. Roseburg Doctor Prescribes Ivermectin to COVID-19 Patients

At its pandemic heyday, ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment was backed by big names like podcaster Joe Rogan and NFL Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And add to that list a Roseburg doctor who was prescribing the horse dewormer to COVID-19 patients. Dr. Tim Powell of Evergreen Family Medicine defended his stance by saying it kept patients out of the hospital in Douglas County, which was at the time one of the least vaccinated populations in the state and had a hospital bed shortage.

Just in case you need a reminder: Ivermectin is great for a lot of things, but it is not a safe treatment for COVID-19.

3. 2021 special election endorsements

Education seats aren’t the sexiest of elections. But the elections are incredibly important, especially as we see school boards in places like Newberg that are making decisions about students wearing Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ attire — and have even fired its superintendent. And you readers cared and read about school board candidates enough to put EW’s endorsements into our top three most-read pieces on our website.

2. Best of Eugene, 2021

Who doesn’t love Best Of season? This year’s reader’s poll saw new winners for new categories — such as Paul Biondi as “Best Instrumentalist” and Books with Pictures as “Best Comic book store” and old favorites maintaining their win streaks — Rep. Peter DeFazio as “Best Politician” and Brail’s as “Best Hangover Breakfast” — and fresh blood to familiar categories — Sarah Northrop as “Best Photographer” and EW’s Henry Houston as “Best Journalist.”

Of course, we also had our staff picks, where our very vocal newsroom made the case for their local favorite people and places.

1. Ivory Irene McCuen

Ivory Irene McCuen was the first obituary EW wrote about for its series of remembering the lives of those who died while homeless during 2021. McCuen, 30, died Jan. 24 and was found in a severely hypothermic state at a parking lot near W. 17th Avenue and Chambers.

After McCuen, EW wrote a dozen more obituaries, a small fraction of how many lives were lost on the streets of Eugene.

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