The steady stream of news often feels like a raging river.
While news often forces us to react, year-end lists offer us precious time to reflect.
What will we choose to remember about the year 2018 and why will we remember it? We consider those questions as our latest revolution around the sun comes to a close.
These are the 10 stories that caught your attention most in 2018 (plus more that we think should have).
10. Eagle Creek Fire Perpetrator Punished
Last year’s top story finally came full circle this year: A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty in February to igniting the Eagle Creek Fire that scorched tens of thousands of acres in the Columbia River Gorge.
The fire gripped the region almost as soon as it started; the search for answers began not long after.
A witness told OPB a few days after the fire’s start that she saw teenagers giggle as one lobbed a firecracker into a bone-dry canyon; that story held true.
“I know I will have to live with my bad decision for the rest of my life,” the teenager said in court. “But I have learned from this experience and will work hard to help rebuild the community in any way I can.”
A judge ordered the teenager serve five years probation, complete 1,920 hours community service and pay $36.6 million restitution.
Several trails in the burn area have reopened this year as the Gorge continues its long road to recovery.
Reporters: Ericka Cruz Guevarra | Amelia Templeton
9. Bye, Bye, Boyd’s
We all know Portland is a coffee town. But early in 2018, one of the companies that made it such decided to shutter its Oregon operation and leave for Texas.
Boyd Coffee Company was once dubbed the oldest family-owned coffee company in the world.
P.D. Boyd started Boyd’s in 1900 and delivered coffee to customers in a red wagon. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported in 2013 that Boyd’s had made it to a fourth generation of family ownership — a rare feat.
Though Boyd’s has moved on, Portland coffee culture will be just fine. I mean, remember 2016 when even Seattle’s favorite coffee came from here?
Reporter: Ericka Cruz Guevarra
8. Why Are Bridges Green?
One of the state’s most beloved bridges, the St. Johns Bridge in North Portland, almost looked a lot different than it does today. When it was built, representatives of a nearby airfield worried pilots would crash into the bridge’s tall Gothic arches topped with copper spires if they couldn’t see them; they wanted the St. Johns striped black and yellow like a bumblebee.
But the bridge’s designer and Multnomah County ultimately went with something far less gaudy: green.
The ubiquitous “ODOT Green” color seen on bridges across Oregon and named for the state transportation agency came later when a botched illustration for an award submission showed the John McLoughlin Bridge as the wrong color.
The ascent of the ODOT Green story on our list shows sometimes the best stories are hidden in plain sight.
Reporter: Erin Ross
7. Close Wasn’t Close Enough For Oregon GOP
The midterm election was sure to be a major story as soon as the general election in 2016 was over. In Oregon, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, pitched himself as the only Republican with a chance to beat incumbent Kate Brown.
That, plus a heaping helping of campaign cash from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, made this year’s gubernatorial race the most competitive Oregon has seen in some time.
Brown, who was running for her first full term since replacing John Kitzhaber in 2015, was often defending her record throughout the campaign. Oregon schools have continued to slump. The state faces housing and pension crises.
Brown’s goal was to sell voters on her vision for the state and, ultimately, voters stuck with her.
She won 50 percent of the vote to Buehler’s 44. Democrats won supermajorities in both houses of the state Legislature. With no re-election campaign to run for the first time in her gubernatorial career, Kate Brown is poised to make hay.
Reporters: Lauren Dake | Dirk VanderHart | Jeff Mapes
6. All About The Ballot Measures
A host of hot ballot measures in Oregon this fall promised to say a lot about who the state wanted to be — and how it was governed.
Arguably the most contentious measure of all was 103, which sought to preemptively ban taxes on groceries. The measure seemed to create confusion from the outset.
Proponents of Measure 103 tried several tactics to win voter support, like attempting to align their measure with another that had no formal opposition. One of Measure 103’s chief petitioners even said he regretted his involvement in the campaign just days before the election.
Just one of the five statewide ballot measures passed: Measure 102, which made it easier for cities and counties to use their power to borrow money for affordable housing construction.
Reporters: Dirk VanderHart | Jeff Mapes | Conrad Wilson
5. Effects Of Family Separations Don’t Stop At The Border
Stories and images from the southern U.S. border engrossed the nation throughout 2018. The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy led to the separation of families, many of whom sought asylum in the United States.
Outrage over the policy revived a familiar protest movement in Portland: Occupy.
Following a vigil to protest the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, some demonstrators erected tents outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Southwest Portland. Occupy ICE PDX was born.
The encampment grew to dozens of tents and forced the facility to close for several days. The demonstration lasted more than a month before it was forced out.
Reporters: Conrad Wilson | Ericka Cruz Guevarra | Dirk VanderHart | Erica Morrison
4. The Monks Of The Columbia River Gorge
Many, many more people call the Pacific Northwest home these days. Ask anyone, whether they’ve lived here their entire life or transplanted from elsewhere, and they’ll likely say they were drawn to the natural wonders of the region.
Tucked away in the Columbia River Gorge, OPB found another group seeking the serenity of the Northwest’s lush forests: Buddhist monks.
The monks follow an obscure, forest-dwelling tradition that requires full support of the community to survive; if people don’t give, the monks don’t eat.
“It’s not just a game or an empty ritual,” said Ajahn Sudanto, abbot of the small monastery outside White Salmon, Washington. “In some sense, we’re walking our talk.”
The monks have built a symbiotic relationship with the White Salmon community allowing the monastery to carry on for nearly a decade.
Reporter: Bradley W. Parks
3. Where The Wildfires Are
Wildfires tore through Oregon wheat country clear down the West Coast into California, marking yet another gruesome fire year in the American West.
The Substation Fire east of The Dalles moved fast. The blaze tore through wheat fields, which make up some 90 percent of farmland in the area.
Farmers are often the first line of defense in fires such as Substation, risking their lives to save their livelihoods. A man died trying to save a neighboring property from burning. The Substation Fire also destroyed a historic Oregon landmark.
Wildfires can draw a lot of attention while they’re burning, but the story extends far beyond that time period.
Eagle Creek and Chetco Bar dominated West Coast and national headlines in 2017, later replaced by fires like Thompson and Carr. This year it was Substation and Klamathon, later Camp and Woolsey. Next year will likely bring more headline-grabbing fires by different names.
We know fire seasons are getting longer and hotter. OPB Science and Environment spent this summer explaining why.
Reporters: Molly Solomon | Ericka Cruz Guevarra | Tony Schick | Jes Burns | Aaron Scott | Ashley Ahearn | Eilís O’Neill | Courtney Flatt | Cassandra Profita | Jeff Mapes | Ian McCluskey | Emily Cureton | Amelia Templeton | Dirk VanderHart
2. Magical Measure Makes Move For 2020
An initiative petition to legalize psychedelic mushrooms in Oregon cleared a key procedural hurdle en route to the 2020 ballot and the internet promptly went bananas.
The measure would reduce criminal penalties for the manufacture, delivery and possession of psilocybin — the hallucinogen contained in psychedelic mushrooms. Petitioners have started collecting more than 100,000 signatures required to put it on the ballot in a year likely to set voter turnout records as the nation picks a president.
While this may seem like a pretty run-of-the-mill news story to place so high on the list, it could be the start of something much bigger (or maybe we’re just trying to make sense of its ranking).
Ashland hosts an annual psychedelics conference entering its sixth year in 2019. Author Ken Kesey, who famously embraced psychedelic drugs and the “new way to think” they brought, emerged from Oregon. The state was also one of the first to legalize recreational cannabis, which has become big business here.
Maybe Oregon will end up leading the next major legalization fight with psychedelic mushrooms. Or maybe this was just a viral internet flame fanned by an ex-“Fear Factor” host’s legions of followers.
We’ll let the clicks speak for themselves here.
P.S. OPB’s “Think Out Loud” interviewed author Michael Pollan about his new book on psychedelics, “How To Change Your Mind,” released this year.
Reporter: Kristian Foden-Vencil
1. Fatal Shooting Roils Debate On Portland State’s Campus
For many, the shooting death of Jason Washington at the hands of Portland State University police was a worst-case scenario come true.
Washington was an African-American, a father and a Navy veteran. He was armed at the time of his death and had a valid concealed carry permit. A woman who witnessed the shooting said Washington was “trying to be a good Samaritan” by breaking up a fight.
It was the first officer-involved shooting at PSU since the Board of Trustees decided to arm campus police officers four years ago. The decision was a controversial one. Many students, faculty and staff at PSU spoke out at the time against armament, arguing it did not make them feel safer on campus. The fatal shooting of Jason Washington, they argued, proved them right.
A grand jury cleared the two officers involved of wrongdoing. The Board of Trustees promised several public forums to discuss armament before deciding whether to reconsider its policy.
The Jason Washington shooting was just one among other high-profile shootings in Oregon this year. Such incidents will continue to raise questions over things like police training tactics and owning a gun while black.
Reporters: Ericka Cruz Guevarra | Amelia Templeton | Conrad Wilson | Jonathan Levinson | Erica Morrison
Oftentimes the clicks don’t give the whole picture. Here are more stories we told this year that we think you should read.
Clark College Culture: Longstanding equity issues alienate people of color at Clark College. — Molly Solomon
Heartache: OHSU’s heart transplant program shuts down, leaving patients in limbo. — Kristian Foden-Vencil
Sanctuary State?: Woodburn works against immigration rhetoric to build trust in police. — Conrad Wilson
Art Of Taking Up Space: Alex Chiu struggled to wrap his brain around why the seemingly innocent images in his mural made people so angry. — Ericka Cruz Guevarra
Walden’s World: Oregon’s lone Republican congressman navigates newfound power. — Jeff Mapes
Broken Street: How do you fix a broken street? — Anna Griffin
Kah-Nee-Ta Closes: A treasured gateway to the Warm Springs reservation shuts down. — Emily Cureton
Growing Group: Portland’s fastest-growing ethnic group looks to 2020 census for a chance to be counted. — Erica Morrison
Gun Control: Even in Washington state, gun control debates are emotional and intense. — Jonathan Levinson
Feeble Flower: Endangered lily still faces challenges on Oregon’s South Coast. — Jes Burns
Whale Watching: Researchers use drones to learn how whales respond to noise pollution. — Cassandra Profita
Solar Spending: This solar startup spent big, then left customers in limbo. — Tony Schick
Atchoo!: Why do we have allergies? — MacGregor Campbell
Governor Who Couldn’t Vote: Why history forgot Oregon’s first female governor. — Bryan M. Vance
Worlds Without Pain: Virtual reality gives Oregon patients an alternative to opioids. — Arya Surowidjojo
Rare Bond: Oregon mushers and their sled dogs share a relationship with thousands of years of history. — Bradley W. Parks
Marvelous Map: See beauty through the eyes of Oregon’s master cartographer. — John Rosman
Humongous Fungus: A story from 2015 that continues to stand the test of time. — Vince Patton