Opinion

These 10 Kansas Reflector columns dazzled the most readers in 2022. Did your favorite make it?

December 29, 2022 3:33 am

Kansas Reflector published hundreds of opinion columns in 2022. But which ones attracted the most readers? Today, we're listing the Top 10 for 2022. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Every morning of 2022, Kansas Reflector published an opinion column. Some of these pieces resonated with thousands upon thousands of readers.

Others, um, didn’t.

But as we wrap up the year with twine and prepare to store it in the basement along with the rest of recorded history, let’s seize the moment to look back. These 10 columns were the year’s most read, as measured by Reflector website metrics. Other columns may have seen huge readership when published elsewhere, or generated titanic engagement on social media. Still others may have been my personal favorites or shared by our national partners.

They can take care of themselves.

From 10th place to first, here are the year’s most-read opinion pieces. Unless otherwise noted, I wrote them.

 

Sheriff Calvin Hayden speaks into a microphone he's holding while standing on a stage next to a lectern
Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden speaks during a June 20, 2022, forum on election security in Olathe. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

10: In Johnson County and Emporia, a sheriff and college president unravel the fabric of Kansas (Sept. 19)

Watching Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden from afar, I can’t shake the suspicion that he’s actually a 19-year-old anarchist from Lawrence — coated in old-age makeup and destroying a law enforcement agency from within.

 

Hayden’s pronouncements on voter fraud and law enforcement this year caught the eye of Reflector readers in our news and opinion columns. So, for that matter, did the decisions of Emporia State University President Ken Hush. Combine them into one piece and you have this year’s 10th-place entry.

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in April 2020 at the White House with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to his left. Pompeo is a potential candidate for president in 2024. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in April 2020 at the White House with President Donald Trump (center) and Vice President Mike Pence. (White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

9: Former Kansas congressman Pompeo quick to heap praise on Russia’s ruthless Putin (Feb. 23)

Following Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the past few years, many words come to mind. Strongman. Ruthless. Megalomaniacal.

If you’re former secretary of state and Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, though, those words are “talented,” “savvy,” and “capable statesman.”

 

I decided against running many pieces on the Russia-Ukrainian war. National outlets offered extensive coverage and analysis, and I thought Reflector resources should go elsewhere. Taking all that into account, however, Mike Pompeo’s ill-timed praise warranted special mention.

 

Family members of fallen soldiers prepare to decorate graves in May of 1899. (Library of Congress)
Family members of fallen soldiers prepare to decorate graves in May of 1899. (Library of Congress)

8: The forgotten history of Memorial Day grew up in aftermath of Civil War (May 30, by Richard Gardiner)

In the years following the bitter Civil War, a former Union general took a holiday originated by former Confederates and helped spread it across the entire country.

 

I often run pieces from The Conversation, a national clearinghouse of academic opinion pieces, on Saturdays or holidays. I dug up this column from 2018 to run on Memorial Day, and a surprising number of readers clicked through.

 

An unenforceable Kansas law criminalizes sex between gay people. Although a bill currently in committee would change that, some lawmakers still seem resistant. (Getty Images)

7: This Kansas law makes being gay illegal. Legislators could fix it, but homophobia runs deep. (Feb. 3)

State law makes it illegal to be gay in Kansas.

That’s a moral outrage, and state legislators can fix the problem by immediately passing a bill in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Thankfully, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2003 makes the law unenforceable. But as long as it remains on the books, the LGBTQ community in Kansas has a giant target on their backs, painted there by state leaders

 

Kansas’ sorry history with sodomy laws has annoyed and disgusted me since my college days. Writing about it at the start of the 2022 session felt a bit like yelling in the wilderness, but I was surprised to see this column show up in the year’s most-read list. I suppose the unconstitutional law annoys and disgusts others as well.

 

Kansas Senate leadership huddles around a clock in the Kansas Legislature. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

6: Permanent daylight saving time sounds great for Kansas and U.S., but careful what you wish for (March 21)

Bipartisan hope springs eternal in the breast of a red state opinion editor.

That’s why I was delighted to see last week that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to stop changing our clocks back and forth twice a year, by making daylight saving time permanent. The only downside was the vote happened while I took a few days off, although that time was useful in adjusting my own increasingly creaky body to the gruesome realities of springing forward for the spring.

 

Everyone hates moving their clocks forward and back. I don’t write columns with the sole goal of generating website traffic, but I suspected many would appreciate hearing about a U.S. Senate vote to axe standard time. What’s more, a Kansas legislator had advocated for the same change. The readership numbers don’t lie: Folks want to end time changes.

 

As a Kansas abortion amendment is debated, lies about what it does and doesn't do are obscuring commonsense debate on the topic. (Getty Images)
As a Kansas abortion amendment was debated over the summer, lies about what it did and didn’t do obscured commonsense debate on the topic. (Getty Images)

5: In Kansas abortion amendment debate, three big lies prevent honest exchanges (July 25)

For a group of people presumably interested in the guidance of the Lord Almighty, backers of the “Value Them Both” amendment have a lot of problems with the Ninth Commandment.

They’re lying an awful lot.

 

As we crash into the top half of the most-read list, our first abortion amendment column appears. I didn’t plan to write this piece when campaigning began, but the blizzard of falsehoods surrounding the “Value Them Both” amendment over the summer drove me to it. As the column notes, opinions on abortion rights vary. But we should have a common understanding of the facts first. Thankfully, voters saw through the untruths and rejected the amendment by nearly 20 percentage points.

 

All medications, including over-the-counter ones, carry risk of adverse events, writes Greg Burger. That means pharmacists have a critical role to play in the health care system. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

4: For this Kansas pharmacist, one word changes everything (Feb. 21, by Gregory Burger)

“I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.”

That line is part of the solemn oath I took as a pharmacist more than 30 years ago. I chose pharmacy while still in high school, after a long hospital stay where I witnessed firsthand how health care professionals truly change lives.

 

If you told me at the beginning of 2022 that only one of the year’s 10 most-read opinion columns would be even indirectly about COVID-19, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here we are, with a contributed piece about legislation that would have required pharmacists to dispense ineffective remedies for the virus. Does this mean the pandemic has ended? Somehow I suspect not.

 

Attendees of the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom watch party celebrate after primary election results verify Kansans voted to keep abortion a constitutional right on Tuesday. (Lily O'Shea Becker/Kansas Reflector)
Attendees of the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom watch party celebrate after primary election results verify Kansans voted to keep abortion a constitutional right. (Lily O’Shea Becker/Kansas Reflector)

3: These four dumb responses totally misread the stunning Kansas abortion rights vote (August 8)

You could tell that no one was prepared for the nearly 20-point victory by abortion rights forces in Kansas by the incredibly dumb takes that soon followed.

 

I’m not sure why this column about the abortion amendment vote made the Top 10 list instead of my initial reactions from five days before. Perhaps readers noticed the word “dumb” in the headline. Perhaps they enjoyed direct quotes from anti-choice advocates desperate to spin the result. Perhaps they simply wanted some homespun Kansas analysis of a surprise national story.

 

Voting booths stand side by side on July 29, 2022, at the Shawnee County Elections Office. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

2: Two more Kansas constitutional amendment votes loom. Here’s what they do, and what they mean. (August 31)

Kansans might think they’re done with state constitutional amendments. Unfortunately, the state constitutional amendments aren’t done with them.

 

This simple piece, which outlined two state constitutional amendments on the November ballot, was my most read of the year. I wish that was because of my pointed prose, but I suspect it was because would-be voters wanted to know more about the danged amendments. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

 

The American Association of University Professors urges Emporia State University to rescind dismissal notices issued to as many as 33 faculty in wake of the personnel shakeup ordered by ESU president Ken Hush. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)
The American Association of University Professors has urged Emporia State University to rescind dismissal notices issued to as many as 33 faculty in wake of the personnel shakeup ordered by ESU president Ken Hush. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)

1: Emporia State University is about to suspend tenure. Here’s why you should care. (Sept. 13, by Max McCoy)

I may be fired for writing this.

It would be an improper firing, a violation of my First Amendment rights as a university professor, an infringement of the ability to pursue my discipline and state the truth as I see it in the marketplace of ideas. The given reason might be restructuring, a need for change, a response to a crisis, or even “conduct.” But I fear the underlying reason for my firing, and that of my colleagues, would be that it’s a political maneuver to end tenure.

 

Author, journalist and professor Max McCoy wrote weekly columns for the Reflector through early March. He then transitioned to writing occasionally, but I doubt he expected that he would be the subject of this unforgettable piece from September. The attack on tenure and subsequent firings at Emporia State hit home across Kansas and the nation. No one put the situation into words better than Max.

This list only covers the barest handful of columns — less than 3% of those the Reflector ran in 2022.

I want to thank everyone who contributed this year, those dozens upon dozens of Kansans who made their voices. You may have written weekly or only once or twice, but you contributed to the civic dialogue. Thanks to everyone who read, and to everyone who sent emails or commented on social media.

This virtual town square meant the world to me over the past 12 months. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Clay spent 2017 to 2021 at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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