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Our top 10 stories of 2021

By Bob Conrad

The ongoing pandemic challenged our collective soul in 2021—however, with vaccines unveiled in the early part of the year, many wanted a return to normalcy. Our reader data show this to be the case: Only one of our top stories in ‘21 was directly related to the pandemic.

Indirectly, all of our news coverage was impacted by COVID-19, its emerging variants and the more than 1,000 deaths in Washoe County that continue to mark a somber tone for the countless who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Our top headlines of ‘21 show, however, other topical issues grabbed reader attention. In order, here are our top stories for the past year.

The Dixie fire burns July 24, 2021 in northern California, casting wildfire smoke across the Western U.S.
The Dixie fire burns July 24, 2021 in northern California, casting wildfire smoke across the Western U.S. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

1. Dixie Fire: “The most dangerous wildfire I’ve ever seen” 

Startling imagery of the Dixie Fire was captured by photojournalist Ty O’Neil, who called it the most dangerous wildfire he’s ever seen. It was California’s largest wildfire in the state’s history, and it decimated the town of Greenville. The Dixie and Caldor fires blanketed Reno with so much smoke that Washoe County declared the region’s air quality the worst on record one day last summer. View O’Neil’s incredible images from the Dixie Fire here, many of which were republished in numerous publications around the world as California wildfires dominated headlines. 

2. “The Harder They Fall” and the real James Beckwourth

Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall” brought back to life Black historical characters of the Old West. The James Beckwourth movie version was unlike the real Beckwourth who earned regional renown – Beckwourth Pass and the town of Beckwourth, California – for his immense contributions as a pioneer in the greater Reno area. “The Harder They Fall” was an opportunity to shine a light on contributions to the region not always recognized in the same way as Beckwourth’s contemporaries. Read about the real James Beckwourth and his legacy in the region here, an article that drew tens of thousands of readers to This Is Reno from around the globe. 

Protesters gathered outside the WCSD Administration Building May 25, 2021 in Reno, Nev. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

3. Mask mandates return to Washoe County

People with no qualms about wearing underwear are still upset by having to cover their disease-spreading snot holes. The same contingent believes, erroneously (source, source, source, source, source), masks don’t work, and the irony is, until the spread of COVID diminishes to a certain point based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers, mask requirements will remain in place. We note it’s rarely enforced anymore – nevertheless, when it was announced in July the continued transmission of COVID prompted a renewal of the mask mandate, readers took note.

4. Reno police want This Is Reno to fuck off 

Reno Police commander Joe Robinson wants This Is Reno to Fuck Off so hard he even created a new hashtag: #FuckOffThisIsReno. He also told city officials all about it, which was so funny, until they realized Commander Fuck Off This Is Reno (as one insider dubbed him) was being livestreamed announcing his new hashtag

We did, in fact, Fuck Off by creating a new line of Fuck Off This Is Reno merchandise. Sales proceeds of said merchandise – nearly $200 worth – were donated to a local nonprofit. One RPD officer was really upset we outed our FuckOffery so publicly that he said we should be sued on some mysterious grounds. We weren’t. So we will continue to Fuck Off whenever and however we feel like it. Fuck Off with us by buying a T-shirt or a mousepad

5. Lawsuit filed after NHP confiscates man’s life savings during traffic stop

“You’re taking food out of my kids’ mouths.” That’s what Stephen Lara, a Marine veteran, told Nevada Highway Patrol officers after they confiscated his life savings–$87,000 in cash–from his vehicle during a traffic stop outside of Reno in February. That story went national after the Institute for Justice released the body-cam footage of the stop, which many are calling a case of highway robbery. Lara finally got his money back after filing a lawsuit, but a second lawsuit over the seizure is pending. Lara’s case is a startling repeat of Nevada’s civil asset forfeiture practices that continue to be mocked nationally.

6. Man formed with synchronized drones at unofficial Burning Man gathering

You have to watch the videos. The burn was again unofficial this year, and many who attended said they wanted to keep it that way. No fire was allowed at the unofficial burn, so synchronized drones instead rose to the occasion. 

7. Woman hit with arrest warrant after filming police, filing a complaint against Reno officer

Nikki Middleton witnessed a Reno police officer “body slam” a man downtown in June and said another officer assaulted her to prevent her from videotaping the encounter. She stuck around to complain about the officers’ behavior and the violent takedown. She said she, and others on scene, were attempting to prevent another George Floyd incident. She further filed a complaint with RPD’s internal affairs and said she received no response. Instead, she found there was a warrant issued for her arrest months after the fact by the Reno City Attorney’s office. Seems legit.

8. Reno’s newest gaming restaurant and bar

The new Old Southwest Social House drew a lot of readers when Nora Tarte announced it had opened in the Village Shopping Center on California Avenue, the former home of Truckee River Bar & Grill. Read all about it.

Reno Police officers talked to members of the Teamsters Local 533 after private security called regarding trespassing at RTC's Fourth Street bus station.
Reno Police officers talked to members of the Teamsters Local 533 after private security called regarding trespassing at RTC’s Fourth Street bus station. Image: Jeri Chadwell / This Is Reno

9. Reno police called on striking bus drivers 

We’ll be happy to never again have to write about the battle between bus drivers and their parent company Keolis North America. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be in ‘21 as Teamsters battled the France-based transit company and its exclusive deal to operate buses in the Truckee Meadows. The Teamsters launched three worker strikes against Keolis and repeatedly told RTC Washoe to “fire Keolis.” RTC said no, and the battle raged for months and months. Here was just another day in the heated dispute when strikers were told to move their protest off private property.

10. Fewer people moving to Reno-Sparks likely because of high cost of living

Fewer people are moving to Washoe County, a trend revealed in the latest Census and home-sales data. It’s most likely due to Reno’s increasingly high cost of living. Two local experts confirmed what we’ve been suspecting for quite some time: “We’re seeing less of a migration because of our cost of living,” one said. People are leaving the area too. Sad.

Happy New Year.

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