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Oklahoma Gazette's 30 stories that generated most feedback

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"The truth about gerbils"
By Mike Easterling
Nov. 22, 1989

Oklahoma City attorney Eric Groves approached Oklahoma Gazette to debunk a certain unfounded rumor about a TV anchor. Through painstaking research, Groves showed how other public figures had been victimized by the same urban legend as his client. Editor Mike Easterling still received calls from readers claiming knowledge of the alleged incident, but none could provide any hard evidence.

"The mystery solved"
By Ben Fenwick
May 23, 1990

Ben Fenwick retold the chilling tale of the mysterious disappearance of Warr Acres resident Margery Elston and her disabled daughter, Melinda Strain. In true crime style, the article left readers suspended for details and wanting the answers.

"Life without clothes"
By Mike Brake
June 12, 1991

Mike Brake surrounded himself with bosoms, buttocks and dangling genitalia for his 1991 tour at Red Landing, a nudists' retreat in Lincoln County. Brake even went "the full monty" himself "for 10 minutes or so, until it started to rain, and it was time to leave."

"Fear and loathing on the North Canadian: A not-so-savage journey to the heart of Oklahoma City"
By Mike Easterling
July 9, 1992

Before the Oklahoma River even existed, Easterling took a pre-MAPS voyage to travel 17 miles from the Lake Overholser dam to the N.E. 23rd Street Bridge. In a 1999 synopsis of the article, the river was described as "a dumping ground, a haven for the homeless and source of genuine shame for anyone who tried to take pride in this city."

"A crack in time"
By Gazette staff
April 27, 1995

"As I recall, our paper had just hit the streets the day of the bombing and we were faced with the practical question of how do we cover something so large and multifaceted for the next week when there would already be so much daily coverage," former staff writer Jonathan Nicholson said. "Mike's choice to have us gather as much material as possible and then weave as much as possible together in a more impressionistic style was a smart one."

"All the rage"
By Phil Bacharach
Dec. 7, 1995

Phil Bacharach's cover story detailed the beginnings of anger and frustration that stemmed from the federal building bombing.

"To my knowledge, it was the first to really distill some of the fragmenting in post-bombing Oklahoma," Bacharach said.

"Welcome to Elohim City"
By George Lang
March 18, 1996

Former Staff Writer George Lang spent a day at the white separatist community Elohim City (literal translation from Hebrew: "God's City") nearly a year after the Oklahoma City bombing. "I remember George was invited to attend a church service where they supposedly had armed guards inside the door," said photographer Mark Hancock, who received a personal tour from the Rev. Robert Millar.

"'Six Women,' seven guys and one man's life"
By Pam Fleischaker
June 20, 1996

Associate Editor Pam Fleischaker remembered the late Mark Houston, a playwright, musical composer and political activist. "If I don't get answers, then I don't," Houston told Fleischaker a few days before he died. "I have learned that life is much more about the trying and the doing than it is about the accomplishment."

"Gays & God"
By Emily Graham
July 11, 1996

Staff Writer Emily Graham examined the rift between homosexuality and Christianity in her cover story. "It seemed to have caused a stir at the time, and is still a big issue today," she said.

"Tragedies entwined"
By Phil Bacharach
April 10, 1997

In 1999, Editor Mike Easterling said Bacharach's reportage about the letter he received from Timothy McVeigh attracted more attention than anything in Gazette history. During jury selection in the McVeigh trial, Bacharach did the story on the letter McVeigh had written him that mentioned the deadly Branch Davidian fire in Waco, Texas, in 1993. "Recently, I was walking through the Newseum here in Washington, and as part of an exhibit, they had a copy of McVeigh's letter to Phil on display," said Holly Bailey, a former co-worker. "The credit was to 'Phil Bacharach/Oklahoma Gazette.' Very cool."

"Dead in his cell"
By Phil Bacharach
Aug. 7, 1997

Bacharach's cover story examined the death of Kenneth Trentadue, a federal prisoner who died under mysterious circumstances at Oklahoma City's Federal Transfer Center. "That's an example of an important case that no one was paying attention to, but Phil kept reporting and reporting," Bailey said.

"Busted: How 'The Tin Drum' was declared a dirty movie " and what happened afterward"
By Holly Bailey
Oct. 16, 1997

"Holly by far did the most exhaustive coverage on the Oklahoma City Police Department's seizure of 'The Tin Drum' videotapes at video rental outlets and private residences after a district judge determined the Oscar-winning film to be pornographic," Bacharach said.

"Still an outcast: Smithsonian's Guthrie exhibition finds no home in Oklahoma"
By Elizabeth Lowry
May 13, 1998

"I wrote about how the National Cowboy Hall of Fame refused to host the Smithsonian's exhibit of Woody Guthrie because " as a board member believed, but isn't true " Woody was a Communist," Lowry said.

"In MAPS we trust?"
By Holly Bailey
Nov. 18, 1998

"Holly Bailey proved indispensable when it came to covering city news and MAPS," said former co-worker Heidi Rambo Centrella.

"Unapologetically Christian, unapologetically liberal"
By Heidi Rambo Centrella
March 10, 1999

"That resulted in (Robin Meyers) becoming a regular columnist who received more letters to the editor than any other columnist in OKG history," Centrella said.

"Basstown"
By Melissa Beggs
May 30, 2002

"Our coverage and demand for full disclosure from The Oklahoman, City Council and Bass Pro resulted in a short-lived boycott of Gazette by some Bricktown merchants, among other things," said Susan Grossman, former managing editor.

"On different tracks"
By Brian Brus
Nov. 27, 2003

Penned by former staff writer Brian Brus, this cover story earned first place in Society of Professional Journalists' Political/Governmental-Reporting category. "(The coverage) helped change the perception on the viability of this proposal which, had we acted earlier, would be much cheaper than it will be now with MAPS 3," Grossman said.

"Becoming 'ungay'"
By Greg Horton
Feb. 5, 2004

Contributing writer Greg Horton examined the pros and cons of conversion therapy. "Overall, it was considered fairly well-balanced and honest," Horton said. The cover, by art director Chris Street and photographer Shannon Cornman, helped win the cover design category nationally at the 2005 Alternative Newsweekly Awards.

"Portrait of a populist"
By Rob Collins
June 2, 2004

The SPJ-winning cover story from Editor Rob Collins helped spearhead an effort to install artist Charles Banks Wilson's portrait of Woody Guthrie at the state Capitol. Gazette Publisher Bill Bleakley initiated a populist fund-raising drive to cover the costs of the artist's commission, framing and eventual hanging of the portrait.

"Footloose: The OKG True Hollywood Story"
By Rod Lott
Dec. 1, 2004

On the 20th anniversary of the film "Footloose," writer Rod Lott looked at the real-life events that inspired it, in the small Oklahoma town of Elmore City. The article won that year's award for Best Feature Writing from the Oklahoma SPJ.

"CrossTook"
By Ben Fenwick
Feb. 15, 2006

Fenwick's investigation showed how Oklahoma City paid thousands to a lobbyist, who in turn gave thousands to U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook. The piece won first in Investigative/Individual Reporting from Oklahoma SPJ.

"Pay to play"
By Scott Cooper
March 29, 2006

The state's political world was buzzing before this story hit the stands. For months, rumors floated about a scheme where lobbyists were forced to contribute to Republican campaigns in order to push legislation.

"Water fights and water rights"
By Carol Cole-Frowe
April 19, 2006

This cover story was published shortly before the Legislature passed a law requiring the state develop a comprehensive water plan. The article won first place for Environmental, Science and Health Reporting from Oklahoma SPJ. 

"Heart of a martyr"
By Rob Collins
July 12, 2006

This SPJ winner chronicled the life and martyrdom of Stanley Rother, an Okarche priest. After this story was published, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City formally began Rother's journey to sainthood by officially opening the canonization process. 

"Changing Lane"
By Ben Fenwick
Aug. 23, 2006

Then-District Attorney Wes Lane said sharing critical police information in an alleged child trafficking case wasn't unusual. Then he said it was. Ben Fenwick got to the bottom of this story. 

"Dirty little secret"
By Scott Cooper and Preston Jones
Feb. 8, 2006

Cooper and Jones uncovered (no jokes please) Oklahoma's hotbed (again, no jokes) of adult entertainment talent. Who knew porn star Jesse Jane made her home in the metro? "I'm a country girl," Jane said. "I moved to L.A. and L.A.'s fun, but everybody's so fake there. Nobody knows what muddin' is, and I like the lake and just hanging out, and I like to have land."  

"Presumed guilty?"
By Scott Cooper
Feb. 28, 2007

After more than two decades on death row, Curtis Edward McCarty became a free man in 2007 when a judge dismissed the case. Oklahoma Gazette was on top of this story for two years, pointing out the faulty work of former forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist.

"Hating Hinder?"
By Joe Wertz
Sept. 19, 2007

An in-depth examination of the metro's biggest band since The All-American Rejects deconstructed Hinder's history, ascension and the arguments of its very vocal local detractors. The story resonated both with readers and the band, most notably its headbanded bassist, who angrily paid the Gazette offices a confrontational visit backed by a two-man entourage.  

"Oklahoma, we have a problem"
By Scott Cooper and Ben Fenwick
July 15, 2009

Gazette writers Cooper and Fenwick were the only two reporters in the state pointing out the flaws in letting a space tourism company receive $18 million in state tax credits. For four years, Cooper and Fenwick tracked the movement of Rocketplane, which eventually fled the state without an actual launch in Oklahoma.  

"Chesa-peek"
By Grant Slater
Aug. 5, 2009

Contributing writer Grant Slater offered an insightful profile of Aubrey McClendon and his Oklahoma City-based company, Chesapeake Energy Corp. "If anything defines my career, to the outside looking in, it at oftentimes looks like there's great risk in making the decisions we made," McClendon said. "Oftentimes, in our opinion, there was greater risk in not making those decisions." 

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