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Column: The biggest news stories of 2021, with a spotlight on the good ones
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Numbers don’t lie. That’s what they say anyway. Here at The Times, we’ve got a lot of numbers. In 2021, we can cut reader data all kinds of different ways — it still tells us that bad news sells. They don’t say “if it bleeds, it leads” for nothing — and while the newspaper industry has been turned upside down in myriad ways — some things never change. 

In today’s world of digital news, bad news sells digital subscriptions — the nitrogen leak at Foundation Food Group, the trial of Deputy Blane Dixon’s killer, sex charges against school personnel, a fatal plane crash and COVID — all of these topics are valuable to our readers, at least according to the numbers.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself that you wish there was more good news. There is good news. It’s just that fewer people read it. But if you’re one of those clamoring for more good news, you’re in luck. I’ve scrolled through all the dark and tragic top stories of 2021 and curated this list of good news only. I can’t promise you 2022 will be all rainbows and sunshine, but we can look back even at 2021 and find a few bright spots.

  1. A big-time TV series is filming in Hall County at an estate that sold for $15.5 million. The sale was actually the most clicked story of 2021 for readers in Northeast Georgia. “Monarch” is set to debut in late January. I don’t know if it will make my watch list yet, but maybe.
  2. It’s not exactly breaking news, but it’s news you can use: Battle of the Biscuits. We taste tested biscuits at several local shops and wrote about it. And even if no one else found this piece useful, the new folks in our newsroom did. We’ve got a few newbies with Southern roots who had been working in places with markedly fewer biscuits. Rest assured, they now know where to get the best big ol’ sausage biscuit.
  3. In a more recent story, some kids from East Hall saved a crossing guard’s life. If you missed this one, it’s definitely worth the read.
  4. A young Braselton couple has big plans to sail the world. Their appetite for adventure is inspiring, even if you don’t plan on learning to sail any time soon.
  5. A woman turning 23 inside the hospital early this year got a cheery surprise when her co-workers came to celebrate her. It can be hard to look at the bright side sometimes, but it helps when other people pitch in to make things brighter.
  6. Gillsville’s claim to fame is its pottery, and earlier this year one of those potters celebrated 50 years in the business. Billy Joe Craven’s story is a unique one.
  7. Phil Bonelli’s family farm might be one of the more heartwarming pictures of 2021 — kids holding chicks, dogs saying hello and Bonelli telling our reporter about how he’s somehow balancing work and family and a cattle farm. I also prefer grass-fed beef, and it’s got that going for it, too.
  8. A woman who escaped domestic violence, was later evicted and then found help from local nonprofit Family Promise bought a house this year. When people ask for good news, this is the kind of story I think about — and I wish more people would read.
  9. The Braves won the World Series. Let’s not forget that. No matter what a mess 2021 was, it’s always going to be the year the Braves were back on top and won the World Series. We talked with local fans who were able to enjoy the series in person.
  10. There are plenty more stories where these came from, but we’ll end the list with a 10-year-old who flies airplanes, because why not. This kid from North Hall has dreams, and his parents are helping him make them happen.

Maybe you can make some dreams come true in 2022, or just brighten someone else’s day.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident