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One more look at our favorites from 2019

John Smalley | Wisconsin State Journal​ ​ ​

Dear State Journal members,

First, as always, thank you for your support of our journalism here at 1901 Fish Hatchery Road. Having a solid base of subscribers/members is what fuels our efforts and allows us to do the kind of work that we think readers need and enjoy.

So, please know your support is much appreciated, and that the thanks come from across our newsroom.

Now, onto the topic of this week's newsletter: favorites. Everyone has their favorites -- favorite team, favorite color, favorite car. And our journalists have favorite stories, too. In December, we asked our staff members to compile their own "Fave 5" from 2019, meaning their five favorite stories of the year. Not necessarily the most popular or high-profile, just their favorites, for whatever reason.

That exercise led to a wonderful collection of all the "Fave 5" lists from across the newsroom. So, as we charge ahead into 2020, here are a few samples to whet your appetite for our Fave 5 stories from 2019:

-- Among the favorites for reporter Emily Hamer was a story about a military veteran who served in Iraq receiving a pardon from Gov. Tony Evers for a long-ago offense; a tale of two churches, one white and one black, coming together for a joint service; and a fun read about the annual Fools' Flotilla, a costumed event whereby paddlers make their way along the Yahara River between lakes Mendota and Monona.

-- City editor Phil Brinkman even got the Fave 5 vibe, sharing a collection of highly visual stories that included plenty of video, shot both on the ground and from the air, thanks to Brinkman's expertise as our staff drone pilot. Among Brinkman's favorites: a tale about scuba divers recovering from the river bottom his old drone, with the recovery coming more than a year after the wayward drone took an unscheduled plunge and was lost in the depths of a raging Yahara River during an August flood. He also highlighted a video that captured the fun and frolic of Madison's annual Naked Bike Ride without, ahem, exposing too much; and a marvelous tale, again from the ground and from the air, about a popular corn maze in the region.

-- Reporter Barry Adams, our regional reporter who wanders much of Wisconsin looking for interesting stories to tell, went one better with his Fave 5 list, not only compiling his favorites but also talking about them in a video. Adams' favorites included a story from Jackson County about a creative new way to grow leafy greens in the middle of farm country; an update on the continuing transformation of Eau Claire into a business and cultural hub for Wisconsin; and a sweet story about a one-time Hmong refugee who recently opened his own barbershop in Madison.

Remember to check out the full collection of all of our Fave 5 lists, including work from our sportswriters, Capitol team and even cartoonist Phil Hands. We hope you enjoy our Fave 5 series as much as we enjoyed reviewing all the fine work that our staff produced in 2019.

Finally today, after looking back at 2019, we also have a brief look ahead at 2020, in the form of "predictions for 2020" from our team of government reporters as part of last week's State Journal political newsletter, Capital W. Some of the guesses for 2020 are, well, predictable and the others, not so much. We'll review a year from now to see how these predictions worked out.

Meanwhile, as this election year begins to heat up, don't forget to sign up for Capital W. It'll keep you in the know all year.

For now, here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year for us all.