The top stories readers helped us tell in 2020

Some of the most important stories we published this year started with a question from you.

Four photos: A man wearing a mask, a woman sorting ballots, downtown Seattle and a murder hornet.

In 2020, reader questions helped our reporters chase the topics and shape the coverage of our newsroom. (Clockwise from top left: Ted S. Warren/AP; Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut; Ted S. Warren/AP; Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

It doesn’t feel quite right to call them “favorites,” but among the stories our newsroom thought were most important in 2020 were the ones you asked us to tell.

At the end of the day, that’s what good journalism is — a service for you and your communities. 

Below are a few of the top reader-driven stories we published this year. Of course, many of them were about navigating the coronavirus pandemic. While the early questions may seem outdated now, it’s interesting to see how our concerns evolved throughout the year. 

As always, we’ll be here in the new year to answer your questions.

Staying at home, staying safe

It was March 2020, which feels simultaneously like yesterday and 10 years ago, when we published our first FAQ on coronavirus arriving in Washington state. The most immediate questions were very practical: How many test kits are available? What are early symptoms? When will testing be available? What about schools? The same was true when the first stay-at-home order was announced.

At Crosscut, many of us had the same questions as our neighbors. Reporting and finding the answers were a good way to calm our own fears and help our readers, too. 

As time went on and our new reality set in, readers grew more curious. One story that seems silly knowing what we know now: Events of 250-plus people are banned. Why 250? I don’t know about you, but that number seems absurd considering even one unfamiliar person near me induces anxiety these days. 

Another question I loved seeing multiple times: How can I help people in need right now? Readers were eager to share their money, time and supplies with others, and we were eager to point them in the right direction. These answers are still relevant nine months into the pandemic, as are the do’s and don’ts of wearing your mask (remember, it’s above the nose).

Navigating the apocalypse

This section is still about the virus, but it marks a shift in our coverage. When we saw a pattern of readers asking more personal, specific questions about how COVID-19 was affecting their lives, we decided an advice column for the end times was fitting. That’s how Apocalypse: Now What? was born. 

Here’s a small selection of the pandemic advice columns we’ve published:

In need of advice? You can send us your own questions here

The election that wouldn’t end

Don’t worry, the election did in fact end. It took a while, but we got there. Along the way, we had lots of reader questions to get through.

How safe are Washington state’s ballot drop boxes? We answered that one. How do I register to vote? When will I get my ballot? What if I just moved here? We answered all those, too. How about attempts to mislead or confuse voters? We broke those down as well

If you didn’t get your fill of election stories this year (LOL) make sure to stick with us in 2021 for the Seattle mayoral race

A bonus jolt of fear

Because the pandemic wasn’t scary enough, we had to make sure some terrified readers had the information they needed about murder hornets. You don’t have to click on that link, though.

Help drive our reporting in the new year

What do you want to see covered in 2021? Vote here or submit your own question below.

About the Authors & Contributors

Mohammed Kloub

Mohammed Kloub (or Moh to most people) is the audience engagement editor at Crosscut.