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2019's Top Stories Shed Light On Tragic Events And Complex Issues

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After a white Fort Worth police officer fatally shot a black woman through the window of her home, North Texans wanted information and answers. 

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called police to do a welfare check at her home. Officers' presence in her yard late at night may have frightened her. She went to a window. Seeing a figure inside a room, officer Aaron Dean shot Jefferson. Her nephew was in the room when it happened.

Body camera footage of a Fort Worth police officer one second before firing into a window, killing Atatiana Jefferson.
Fort Worth Police Department

The article about this October 12 tragedy was KERA News' most-read story of 2019.

In April, reporter Stella Chávez was the first to break law enforcement news of a different kind: the largest U.S. worksite ICE raid in 10 years. That story became our second most-read of the year

Chávez received a tip on Twitter about Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents outside a building in Plano. By the time she arrived, they were on the way to Allen, but she didn't know exactly where. She followed a helicopter in her car, hoping it would lead her to their destination. It did.

Family of employees inside CVE Technology Group in Allen gathered outside, waiting for word about their relatives during the ICE operation.
Stella Chávez / KERA

ICE agents raided a technology repair company, arresting 284 employees on charges of working in the U.S. illegally.

The other stories that round out the year's 10 most-read show our community's hunger for information after tragedy, guidance on civic processes and context for complex issues.

No. 3 — America's mass shooting count
Gun Violence Archive's map of mass shootings in 2019.

Just about every news outlet in the country reported on the El Paso shootings. What was different about our third most-read story, "The El Paso Shooting Is The 249th Mass Shooting Of 2019" by the Guns & America reporting initiative, was that it helped readers understand how to situate this particular tragedy among the many. 

RELATED | View coverage about the El Paso shootings or other El Paso stories

No. 4 — November voter guide
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Associated Press

In November, Texans cast votes for a slew of county and local political races and initiatives — and 10 state constitutional amendments. Casting a vote itself isn't hard. It's thoroughly understanding what the choices mean that takes time — along with remembering logistics like where to go and what to bring.

We hope our fourth most-read article of the year, a voter guide to the November 2019 elections, helped. 

RELATED | See political coverage

No. 5 — A TexRail guide
TexRail
Trinity Metro

Speaking of guides, our No. 5 article was an explainer on how TexRail works, plus what the cars are like, where the stations are, where to park and the cost of fare.

The new commuter train, which runs from Fort Worth to DFW Airport, opened in January. 

No. 6 — New Texas gun laws
A gun store employee in Spring, Texas, carries a gun on her hip while working the counter in 2016.
Associated Press

Eight new gun laws went into effect in Texas on Sept. 1. Guns & America offered a rundown of those laws, which include allowing Texans to carry guns in places of worship, unless otherwise banned by those places with signage, and carry guns without a license during a state of disaster.

The laws also detail several new prohibitions — not against carrying or owning a firearm, but against making it more difficult to do so. For instance, landlords can't ban renters and their guests from carrying guns in lease agreements. 

No. 7 — How to define 'mass shooting'
Mourners gather at a makeshift memorial outside Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 6, 2019, two days after a gunman killed nine people and wounded over two dozen others.
Associated Press

It's difficult to emotionally process one tragic event after another. That's made even more challenging when there is no official, shared definition around the mass violence phenomenon in the U.S.

Our No. 7 story, "What Is A Mass Shooting? Why We Struggle To Agree On How Many There Were This Year" from the Guns & America initiative, sought to at least help readers understand why there's often such a lack of clarity on the tragic topic. 

RELATED | Why Some Shootings Are Called Mass Shootings And Others Are Ignored 

No. 8 — How to find therapists of color
Dr. Stacia' Alexander and Lakeita Roberts are licensed professional counselors practicing in Dallas. They're two of the counselors listed in the Therapy for Black Girls online directory.
Syeda Hasan / KERA

“‘I just want to confirm, are you African American?’” Clients will sometimes ask Dr. Stacia’ Alexander that over the phone in their quest to find a black therapist.

The licensed professional counselor in Dallas was one of the people who informed our February story, "How More People Of Color Are Finding Therapists Who Look Like Them." It highlighted the Therapy for Black Girls online directory and the deep reasons it's important to a lot of clients that the mental health professional sitting across from them looks like them. 

RELATED | Meet 'Black Girl Magic,' The 19 African-American Women Elected As Judges In Texas

Also: Explore more mental health coverage

No. 9 — Fatal crane crash

Eric Ridenhour poses with a photo he took of his fiance, Kiersten Smith. Smith was killed June 9 when a crane collapsed onto their apartment.
Associated Press

In June, Kiersten Smith and her fiance Eric Ridenhour were enjoying a relaxing Sunday in their second floor apartment on the northeast cusp of downtown Dallas. She was watching Grey's Anatomy and he was making grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was a stormy, windy day.

Then a crane crashed through their apartment, killing Smith and injuring several other people at Elan City Lights apartments.

She and Ridenhour were to be married this past September. "She was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life," he said.

No. 10 — Dallas mayoral candidates guide
Eric Johnson, a former state representative, won the Dallas mayoral runoff in June.
Courtesy @JohnsonForDallas Facebook page

Dallas had nine — nine — candidates for the May 4 mayoral election. There were 13 declared candidates at one point.

Our Dallas mayoral candidate guide was the tenth most-read article of 2019 and, hopefully, it offered on-the-fence Dallas voters the information they needed to feel confident about their choice. 

The election whittled the number down to two — Texas Rep. Eric Johnson and Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs — with Johnson winning the runoff election in June.

Thank you

We couldn't have covered these stories without the support of our fellow North Texans. Thank you for listening to, reading and trusting the work of KERA.