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Online readers pick yearís top stories
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A few stories stood out from the crowd in 2010, according to online readers at www.TBNweekly.com.

Using Google Analyticsí, we searched for the most popular stories posted from Jan. 1-Dec. 31 to get an overview of what interested people this year.

By far the most-viewed stories were about the oil spill. Visitors from around the world joined the local crowd in scouring the Internet for the latest news about the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Rig located off the coast of Louisiana. The damaged rig sank into the sea on April 22.

For the next few months, Tampa Bay Newspapers followed the story as locals prepared for an emergency that never happened. Tourism officials scrambled to control the damage from media reports of oil on beaches throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Wildlife organizations mobilized to help wherever they were needed. A number of lawsuits were filed to recoup damages to the countyís tourism and fishing industries.

The well was killed in September. Not a single drop of oil from Deepwater Horizon was ever reported on Pinellas County beaches.

The November elections made up the second most popular group of stories. Pinellas County voters went against the grain in the races for state senate and Florida governor, showing a preference for Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, and Alex Sink over Rick Scott. Long-time Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris was defeated Nov. 2 by Norm Roche. Harrisí defeat was attributed to the ousting of democrats from public office throughout the nation.

Online readers like good news, such as the ahead-of-schedule opening of the new Johnís Pass Bridge. A story published in May said the $77 million project, which began in January 2006, might be finished in late June - eight months ahead of schedule.

The June completion date proved a bit optimistic; however, the work was done in September - still earlier than originally planned. A Dec. 11 ribbon cutting signaled the official end of construction of the new bridge, which features dual 12-foot lanes in each direction, 8-foot sidewalks on each side, four observation decks, improved lighting, and a new bridge tender house. The bridge is 8 feet higher above the pass and the channel underneath will be 40 feet wider.

Stories on hurricane season probably arenít popular because people like them. They do get a number of reads as people educate themselves on hurricane preparedness or get the expertsí predictions for the season. Others like to track the storms. This year, hurricane season was another good news story. Despite an above-average year, the storms stayed away from Pinellas.

Stories about foreclosures and shrinking ad valorem tax revenue for local governments due to plummeting property values made the list of most-viewed stories. According to the Clerk of the Courtís Office, more than 15,000 foreclosures were filed in Pinellas County in 2009, and in 2010, an average of 1,000 came in each month.

The increase in activity led to a decision by Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court Ken Burke to take advantage of recent changes in state law that allow clerks of the court to hold electronic sales. Pinellas County contracted with Realauction of Fort Lauderdale to conduct sales through two separate websites, www.pinellas.realforeclose.com for foreclosure sales, and www.pinellas.realtaxdeed.com for tax deed sales.

Pinellas Countyís efforts to curb problems associated with prescription drug abuse and unscrupulous pain management clinics made the news a number of times and TBNís online readers followed those stories. The county formed a task force to study the problem and approved a moratorium that prevents new clinics from opening. Clinics also must register and follow a number of rules aimed at reducing the abuse.

Senate Bill 6, which in the end was vetoed by former Gov. Charlie Crist, also made the list of most-read as educators fought legislation they said was unfair. Most were upset because their views were not sought before the law was written.

A decision by the Tampa Bay Rays to leave Tropicana Field in the future brought people to the website, but more came to read about an offer by a local Pinellas Park man. Hardy Huntley, who owns 180 acres of property along Gandy Boulevard and U.S. 19, confirmed in mid-July that he had sent a proposal to Rays' management. As far as we know, the Rays never took Huntley up on his offer.

The continuing saga surrounding the fate of the Belleview Biltmore was another story followed by locals and out-of-towners, as well. Floridians welcomed the return of the back-to-school sales tax holiday and flocked to TBNweekly.com to get the details.

Stories about holiday events always prove popular. This year more people visited the website looking for Halloween activities, followed by Fourth of July happenings and winter holiday fun.

Ribfest was the most popular entertainment story in 2010, followed by Treasure Islandís Beach Blast and the Bright House 2010 Clearwater Super Boat National Championship Festival.
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