Top 12 stories from the Twin Cities in 2013

Twin Cities
Top 12 stories from the Twin Cities in 2013
MPR News

Stadiums, a silent orchestra, an online health marketplace and the usual hullabaloo at the state Capitol dominated news in the Twin Cities this year. And we'll get to those in other lists, but first, let's pause to take a look at some stories about the people that make up the metro area.

1) Finding runaway girls key to sex trafficking fight

Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

In Ramsey County, police, prosecutors, advocates, and nurses are focusing on runaways as they take on the broader fight against juvenile prostitution.

"It was eye-opening for me to observe how law enforcement authorities and medical professionals were putting such a concerted effort into intervening in the lives of runaway girls. From the cops who chased them down to the nurses who helped them heal, the characters in this story helped put a face on the people who are doing their part to curb the sex trafficking of children," reporter Laura Yuen said of her January report.

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2) Reclaiming 'Wood from the Hood'

Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

"I enjoyed reporting this because I like doing stories about creative and enterprising business owners. Rick and Cindy Siewert started Wood from the Hood as an offshoot of their cabinet business. They take old trees that homeowners or cities remove and use the wood to make functional objects such as cabinet doors and cutting boards," reporter Matt Sepic said.

3) Finding refuge at a St. Paul Safe House

Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

In March, Tom Crann and Jayne Solinger of All Things Considered visited the Safe House in St. Paul. It's been a landing spot for young homeless people for more than 20 years.

4) Race shapes definition of 'urban'

Nikki Tundel / MPR News

What's does 'urban' mean to you? In March, Reporter Nikki Tundel asked a number of people about the word:

• "Like a 55-gallon oil drum on fire next to a chain link fence."

• "Black people must reside there."

• "Where you normally see guys drinking whiskey."

"The term "urban" has countless connotations and race plays a role in how it's used. I enjoy having conversations with people about everyday things -- in this case, a word -- because everyone can participate in the discussion. There is no one answer. It's the variety of answers that really tells the story," Tundel said.

5) Life in a homeless shelter, for a kid

Nikki Tundel / MPR News

Later in March, reporter Julie Siple met a bright young women staying with her family at the People Serving People shelter in downtown Minneapolis.

"For me, the best part of reporting is the people I get to meet. This is a story about a girl named Paris. She's funny and smart, and I haven't stopped thinking about her since reporter Nikki Tundel and I met her," Siple said.

6) Racial disparity in gun deaths

Brandt Williams / MPR News

In April, reporter Brandt Williams analyzed CDC data on gun homicides and suicides and found a stunning disparity shaped by race.

"This story was a bit jarring. I had suspected we would find that white Minnesotans are more likely than black Minnesotans to use guns to take their own lives and that African Americans were more likely to be killed by people with guns, than white Minnesotans. But I didn't foresee those disparities as being so large. I think the data helped shed a little light on why -- in nationwide public opinion polls -- African Americans tend to be so supportive of stricter gun laws," Williams said.

7) Decorated Army officer succumbs to cancer

Curtis Gilbert / MPR News

Lt. Col. Mark Weber of Rosemount was a rising star in the Army just three years ago, tapped by the top commander in Afghanistan to join the effort to turn around the war there in 2010. Two weeks later, he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in June.

"Lt. Col. Mark Weber lived a life of accomplishment; but it is in dying that he inspired and taught so many of us. His composure and sense of humor impressed me so much as he faced grueling health struggles and an early end to his life. Heroic," said All Things Considered host Tom Crann.

8) The recovery of the Twin Cities housing market

Annie Baxter / MPR News

Some homebuyers in the metro facing stiff competition for houses came up with a clever way to stand out from fellow bidders: write deeply personal letters to the sellers.

"I think it's nice to be able to show the emotional side of a business story -- in this case it's the emotions at stake in what is often the biggest transaction of a person's life. People get their hearts set on a particular house, and their declaration of love for it seems quite genuine," reporter Annie Baxter said.

9) Summer cooks up new heat records

Jim Mone / AP

Given the cold start to the 2013-2014 winter, it may be hard to recall that we had a stretch of record-breaking heat in late August.

"This could have been a run-of-the-mill story about the hot weather in August, but I used it as an opportunity to have some fun with the writing," reporter Matt Sepic said.

10) State Fair kids and their animals

Nikki Tundel / MPR News

Just after those blazing temps, kids from around the state descended on the State Fairgrounds for the cities' annual invasion of rural life.

"I like seeing children and teenagers in situations where they are the experts. In most areas of life, adults are deemed the authorities. That's not necessarily the case here. Many visitors to the fair have little to no knowledge of what goes into raising and caring for these types of animals. Being able to observe how comfortable, confident and skilled these kids are are -- especially with creatures many times their size -- is one of my favorite parts of the Minnesota State Fair," photographer Nikki Tundel said.

11) Covered-up abuse by Catholic clergy

Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

In September, MPR News broadcast the first of a series of investigative reports into the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The initial piece reported that diocesan leaders knew that Curtis Wehmeyer had a sex addiction but kept him in a parish and even promoted him.

News director Michael Edgerly said: "The story revealed that the decision to keep Wehmeyer's sexual behavior secret came at a time when the archdiocese was assuring its 800,000 parishioners it was doing all it could to protect children from abuse. The story also introduced our audience to Jennifer Haselberger, who for five years was canon lawyer at the archdiocese before she resigned in April. She warned her bosses about Wehmeyer and said everyone in the chancery bears responsibility for Wehmeyer and described it powerfully and eloquently for our audience:

'... As Catholics, thankfully, even if it doesn't happen in this life, we know it will in the next. There will be a reckoning.' "

12) Injury fears push kids away from football

In Edina and other Twin Cities suburbs, the number of players on youth football teams is dropping. Coaches, parents and players say this decline is due to increasing concerns regarding the sport's safety.

"I first pitched this story, after hearing that my son's 8th grade football team in Edina was one of only two this year, instead of the three Edina had the year before. I wondered if parents were pulling their kids out of football over concerns about concussions. Trisha Volpe, who reports for us and KARE 11, tackled the story, and found the reality was more complicated than that," editor Laura McCallum said.

More top news of 2013 lists:
Top 12 stories from Greater Minnesota in 2013
Top 11 Minnesota health and environment stories in 2013
Top 9 Minnesota arts stories in 2013
Top 9 Minnesota political stories from 2013