As another year winds down, btw takes a look at the national news stories that dominated headlines in 2016.
Of course, the main national story this year was the presidential election in November. btw and Election Central were with you every step of the contentious election season, from ongoing disagreements over voting rights to the FBI investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails and video footage of Republican candidate Donald Trump making sexually aggressive comments.
On Election Night, we tracked developments hour-by-hour as news unfolded of Trump’s surprising victory. Since then, btw has examined new issues that have come into play, such as the nationwide protests that immediately followed the election, President-elect Trump’s conflicts of interest, Trump’s new cabinet, and allegations of Russian hacking into the election.
While the election was full of its share of drama, other important controversies arose in 2016 as well. We began the year with the story of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who (along with several dozen followers) led an armed standoff against the federal government at an Oregon wildlife refuge that lasted for several weeks. This summer, a silverback gorilla named Harambe was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a four-year-old child fell into his enclosure, setting off widespread debate. And hundreds of thousands of residents of Flint, Michigan continue to face unthinkable conditions: a lack of safe drinking water and high risk of lead poisoning.
Perhaps no controversy inspired more anger on both sides this year than the continuing debate over gun control. Following a mass shooting at a night club in Orlando, Florida, Congressional Democrats staged a literal sit-in to enact stricter gun control safety laws. This year also saw a wave of shooting deaths of African American men by white police officers who had taken them into custody. After the deaths of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers one day apart, a gunman opened fire on police officers at a #blacklivesmatter rally in Dallas. Protests over the killing of African American suspects by white police officers took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Though the Department of Justice staged an investigation into racism in the Ferguson, Missouri police department, a Ferguson officer was still acquitted in last year’s shooting of Freddie Gray, an unarmed African American teenager.
Mother Nature also had a hand in making 2016 a particularly dramatic and memorable year. In January, Winter Storm Jonas killed at least fifteen people and was ranked the single biggest snowstorm in history for many areas of the East Coast. Later in the year, the East Coast was slammed again: this time, by Hurricane Matthew, which claimed at least 33 lives and left over a million people without power.
Farther west, a tropical storm caused devastating flooding throughout huge portions of Louisiana. And two juveniles began a fire in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that destroyed over 2,400 buildings and killed at least 14 people.
However, throughout the difficulties of 2016, one bright spot remained: the improving economy. btw took a city-by-city look at economic revival and reported regularly on the steadily improving job market. Despite these positive economic indicators, the controversy over the economic hardships of the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”) continued and became an important factor in November’s presidential election.