Not sure if you heard, but the midterm elections were a pretty big deal in 2018. How do we know this? Well, because election stories took up half of WOSU’s most-viewed articles of the year. While 2018 will always be The Year Of The Kangaroo Sign in our hearts, politics dominated the headlines at WOSU, from the 12th District special election to the U.S. Senate race to Issue 1.
But that barely scratches the surface of WOSU’s reporting this year. In 2018, we kept readers updated on Ohio State’s investigation into alleged abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, the saga of head football coach Urban Meyer, and the aftermath of House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s resignation.
As part of our continued Chasing The Dream series, we explored how Ohio is expanding trade skill training, scrutinized the uneven development of Franklinton, and asked why Bexley is segregated from its surrounding neighborhoods.
Many of our favorite stories wouldn’t have been possible without our engaged followers. WOSU answered more than a dozen questions from readers and listeners for our Curious Cbus project, including “Why Does Columbus Have So Many LGBTQ People?” and “Why Is There An Abandoned Highway Downtown?” Sure, we caused a minor scandal when the city removed Clintonville’s iconic “Kangaroo Crossing” sign, but it got fixed eventually!
Below, find WOSU’s 10 most read stories of 2018.
With the governor’s office, every statewide position, a U.S. Senate seat and several U.S. House seats up for grabs – not to mention a controversial ballot issue – it’s no wonder Ohio’s elections captured national attention. During election week, audiences flocked to Gabe Rosenberg’s comprehensive voting guide, which ran down all the noteworthy races and provided information on how and where to vote.
Following the midterm elections, Ohio legislators entered a frenzied lame-duck session with many controversial bills up for debate. Among the items on the agenda was a total abortion ban, HB 565, which would allow criminal charges against both doctors and women seeking abortions. But according to Statehouse Bureau reporter Jo Ingles, the bill was not slated to pass this time around.
Although Ohio’s medical marijuana program was supposed to go into effect in September, delays and lawsuits kept the system far behind schedule. In the meantime, confusion is rampant about Ohio’s marijuana laws. In August, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy declared that CBD oil – a byproduct of hemp – is considered the same as marijuana under state law. Many local health stores continue to sell it anyway.
As part of WOSU’s Chasing The Dream series, Adora Namigadde investigated the trend of “rent-to-own” housing contracts. The agreements are common in low-income areas, and are advertised as a pathway to the American Dream. She found instead that tenants can be evicted for missing as much as a single payment, losing all the money they invested. Her story prompted an inquiry from the Franklin County Recorder.
Outside of the major offices up for grabs, Ohio voters in November also decided the fate of a constitutional amendment that would have changed sentencing laws for drug crimes. Ahead of the election, Statehouse Bureau reporter Andy Chow wrote this explainer on Issue 1, which drew attention and money from groups across the country. Voters ultimately rejected the proposal by a 2-to-1 margin.
Statehouse Bureau reporters Jo Ingles and Andy Chow teamed up on this rundown of the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Sherrod Brown and challenger Jim Renacci. Their story dove into where the candidates stand on issues like taxes, immigration and health care. In November, Brown went on to win his third term in the Senate.
Central Ohio was square in the national spotlight over the summer, even before the midterm elections. In August, the state saw a closely-contested special election to fill the remaining term of U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who retired at the end of last year. Ohio’s 12th congressional district race pitted Democrat Danny O’Connor against Republican Troy Balderson for a seat that’s been GOP-controlled for 40 years. The race was so close, it took election officials over two weeks to make the call. When Balderson eventually won, it was by a mere 1,680 votes.
In 2018, the Trump administration ratcheted up its trade fight with China. As the two countries started piling tariffs on tariffs, Ohio farmers found themselves caught in the middle. The industry for soybeans, Ohio’s largest agricultural export, especially suffered. Steve Brown discovered that after this autumn’s huge harvest, farmers ended up with nowhere to sell their crops.
It was one of the largest immigration stings in recent history. In June, about 100 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents carried out a sting of undocumented workers at two locations in Castalia and Sandusky. The operation, which was in the works since October 2017, came as the Trump administration amped up its crackdown on illegal immigration.
Most of the drama in August’s 12th district special election came after Election Day. Republican Troy Balderson saw his lead shrink, and then grow again, after counties audited and then certified their vote tallies. Though Danny O’Connor still lost, it was a small consolation that Democrats mounted their greatest challenge in decades.