Thestar.com’s most-read stories in 2015

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We said goodbye to Stephen and hello to Justin. We saw the photo of Alan Kurdi, 3, the lifeless boy on the beach whose drowning death galvanized us to take action on the refugee crisis. In Toronto, the Blue Jays made it to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years and we hosted the Pan Am Games.

But what were the stories that most gripped thestar.com readers? Here’s a clue: They all happened on home turf.

The following list of top 10 most-read stories of 2015 are listed according to page views. Multiple articles on the same topic are not included.

10.3-year-old Toronto boy dies after hours outside in frigid temperatures

Toronto mourned Elijah Marsh, the 3-year-old boy who died after wandering from his North York home one bitterly cold February morning dressed only in a T-shirt, a diaper and boots. “I think it will remind all of us to go home and hug our kids a little bit more,” said Bill Blair, who was police chief then. A crowdfunding campaign to pay for the funeral raised more than $130,000 in just one day.

Elijah Marsh's death on a bitterly cold February morning prompted then-police chief Bill Blair to comment, “I think it will remind all of us to go home and hug our kids a little bit more."

Elijah Marsh’s death on a bitterly cold February morning prompted then-police chief Bill Blair to comment, “I think it will remind all of us to go home and hug our kids a little bit more."

9. Fact-checking 10 claims made by parents against the Ontario sex-ed curriculum

When Ontarians found out they were getting a new sex-ed curriculum in public schools, rumours flew about what exactly kids would be learning. “In Grade 1 they will learn to touch the private area,” said an anonymous letter written in Arabic and circulated in Peel. “Grade 6 is about the promotion of self-discovery through masturbation,” it continued.

“The most interesting thing was finding the original source of the rumours, and seeing how they snowballed,” said reporter Robin Levinson-King. “I love a good fact check, and this story really demanded it.”

8. ’This my friends, is what positive politics can do,’ says Justin Trudeau in victory speech

The Liberals are in with a majority — and Stephen Harper is stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party. Our election night story with the key wins and losses and which party won in each riding had you hooked.

“Election results were flowing to our maps nearly every minute,” remembers lead data designer Paul Watson. “There was a moment early on when red dots covered Atlantic Canada and we got the first glimpse of what would become the Liberal majority.” Check out how our data viz. team prepared for the election here.

7. Disney vacation turns to nightmare for Mississauga family

Dr. Firas Al-Rawi and his family immigrated to Canada in 2006 from Iraq via Qatar. Even though they all hold Canadian passports, their dream trip to Disney World in February turned into a nightmare after they were held by U.S. customs at Pearson airport, denied entry and paraded in public before returning home.

“The story got a lot of attention from the Muslim community,” says author Nicholas Keung. “Many said they had similar unpleasant experiences.”

A week after the story ran, the family was contacted by U.S. customs officials to pick up their seized electronic devices. But to this day, they have not been told why they were stopped in the first place.

Dr. Firas Al-Rawi and his family; experiences like theirs are why many travellers continue to wonder if the U.S. border services system is dysfunctional or worse.

Dr. Firas Al-Rawi and his family; experiences like theirs are why many travellers continue to wonder if the U.S. border services system is dysfunctional or worse.

6. Accused in Vaughan crash Marco Muzzo has history of provincial offences

A family’s Sunday afternoon drive in the autumn sunshine ended in horror when an SUV crashed into their minivan in Vaughan. Police believe the collision that killed three children of the Neville-Lake family and their grandfather was caused by Marco Muzzo, who was born into a real estate empire in the GTA.

It turns out that Muzzo, who faces 18 charges, including four counts of impaired driving causing death, had a history of provincial offences involving alcohol and driving.

Last week, Jennifer Neville-Lake shared a holiday photo of her children on Facebook alongside a powerful plea as if written by the kids.

“This Sunday afternoon you can: Go to the park. Read a book. Play a board game. Help someone. Play dress up. Bake. Spend time with your loved ones. Please DON’T drink and drive! Love Harry, Milly and Daniel.”

5. Police return woman’s stolen car — with drugs, weapons added

Calgary woman Courtney Pickering says her stolen car was returned to her by police but they did a lousy job of searching it before giving it back to her. The thieves appeared to have left cocaine in the cup holder, a crack pipe on the rear seat, identification in the glovebox and weapons in the door and on the floor.

Pickering filed an official complaint, saying Calgary’s forensic unit should have “given it 10 minutes more than they did.”

4. CBC host Evan Solomon fired after Star investigation finds he took secret cut of art deals

The CBC severed ties with rising star Evan Solomon after a Star investigation found that he allegedly using his contacts to broker lucrative art deals and collect huge fees. Some of his notable buyers included BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie and the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.

Solomon has two gigs since leaving CBC — his own podcast, Everything is Political, and a column for Maclean’s. He also scored a year-end interview with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

3. Global TV anchor Leslie Roberts suspended

A Star investigation finds that Global news anchor Leslie Roberts is secretly the part owner of BuzzPR, a small public relations firm whose clients appeared on his show — and boom, he is suspended.

“I agree this doesn’t look very good,” Roberts told reporter Kevin Donovan. A week after the Star published this story, Roberts resigned.

Roberts has since reinvented himself — as a PR person. He is listed as a business development director of Liquid Communications, a new “full-service” firm that provides a roster of “experienced journalists, authors and creative writers” that will help companies and organizations get their message out.

Leslie Roberts, right, interviewing lawyer Sandra Zisckind when he was Global TV anchor.

Leslie Roberts, right, interviewing lawyer Sandra Zisckind when he was Global TV anchor.

2. Chris Hyndman’s mother believes he died sleepwalking

A local celebrity dies in mysterious circumstances: Chris Hyndman, one half of the CBC TV talk show duo Steven and Chris, was found without vital signs in a laneway below the sixth-floor Toronto apartment he shared with onscreen partner and husband Steven Sabados. How did he get there?

Chris’s mother believes her only child fell to his death while sleepwalking. “Christopher was a sleepwalker, and he did that a lot. He even ate in his sleep,” Glenda Hyndman said.

While Toronto police haven’t confirmed this, they do not suspect anything suspicious or criminal.

A memorial for TV celebrity Chris Hyndman who died under mysterious circumstances in August.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/ THE CANADIAN PRESS

A memorial for TV celebrity Chris Hyndman who died under mysterious circumstances in August.

1. Hydro One firing employee involved in vulgar incident at Toronto FC game

A crude on-camera confrontation between Toronto soccer fans and a reporter cost Shawn Simoes his six-figure Hydro One job.

In May, CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt confronted a group of men allegedly plotting to yell “F— her right in the p—-” into her microphone outside of a Toronto FC game. While a camera rolled, Simoes defended the FHRITP phrase to Hunt — although he didn’t actually say the offending words.

When Hunt asked Simoes on-camera how his mother would feel if she saw him talking like that, he responded, “Oh, my mom would die laughing, eventually.”

In November, after a third party arbitrator was brought in, Simoes was rehired at Hydro One.

Shawn Simoes, right, did not utter the vulgar phrase "f--- her right in the p----"  to reporter Shauna Hunt but he defended the the prank as "hilarious."

Shawn Simoes, right, did not utter the vulgar phrase "f— her right in the p—-" to reporter Shauna Hunt but he defended the the prank as "hilarious."

31/12/2015 07:01  By: TORONTO STAR

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