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The stories that most impacted EastIdahoNews.com reporters in 2020

From the Newsroom

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From top left, EastIdahoNews.com reporters Nate Eaton, Nate Sunderland, Eric Grossarth, Brittni Johnson, Rett Nelson and Silas Wright.

As difficult as 2020 has been, we’ve reported on triumphs as well as tragedies. Our reporters are looking back on this year and are sharing a few of the stories they covered that affected them the most.

(Click here to see our most-clicked stories of 2020 and here to see this year’s top news statewide.)

Brittni Johnson

Ririe teen who tried to take her own life wants others to know suicide isn’t the answer (June 23) and Former student-athlete dies by suicide; his family uses tragedy to help others (June 24)

Former Bonneville High School student-athlete Braydon Pugmire. | Courtesy Brad Barlow

I felt a personal responsibility to not only tell these mental health stories accurately, but to do it in a way that others who are struggling would know it’s okay to reach out for help. Writing these articles was a reminder to me, and hopefully the community, that sometimes what is portrayed on the outside doesn’t match how somebody is feeling on the inside. We need to always be aware of that. There are simple things we can do to help others, and I hope that’s something the community took away from both stories.

A look at how east Idahoans handled a pandemic a little over a century ago (Dec. 22)

This story was different from what I am used to writing, but I am glad I took the time to research so much information. From comments I read, people were fascinated to see that east Idahoans are handling COVID similar to how they handled the Spanish flu over 100 years ago. In a way, I think this gave east Idahoans peace of mind knowing that eventually, things do go back to “normal.”

Silas Wright

Teacher moved to tears as generations of students honor her with special music video (July 9)

Zola crying

Idaho Falls High School choir teacher Zola Jensen

This was a great, heartwarming story of generations of students wanting to honor a teacher that meant so much to them. The community got to see that even despite COVID-19 restrictions, they could use their talents (some of which students have turned into careers) to give credit back to one that inspired them. It was such a great experience being able to interview everyone and hearing their passion for music and their love for Ms. J, the teacher. I’ll always remember this story.

Eric Grossarth

Recovering addict says getting arrested was the best thing that ever happened to him (Aug. 7)

Logan Celner | Courtesy photo

Logan Celner’s story gave me a new perspective on addiction and the impacts it has on local east Idahoans’ lives. Celner spoke honestly and openly about his experience, arrest and the impacts on his life. It gave me a new way to look at crime reporting in eastern Idaho.

EXCLUSIVE: Chad and Lori Daybell served with search warrants in Hawaii (Jan. 30)

Eric Grossarth and Nate Eaton with Daybells in Hawaii  - Dateline

Eric Grossarth, left, and Nate Eaton as they try to get answers on the whereabouts of the missing children from Lori and Chad Daybell. Taken in January in Hawaii. | Dateline

I still remember sitting in the car hearing that 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan had disappeared. Little did I know that about a month later, Nate Eaton and I would be boarding a flight to Hawaii in hopes to speak with Chad and Lori Daybell. The trip turned out more eventful than planned and gave me experiences as a reporter I may never get again.

Nate Eaton

Nearly 1,000 Idahoans died alone and were buried in a forgotten cemetery. Here’s how you can help remember them (Sept. 21)

Tracey Sessions was appointed State Hospital South Administrator in 2008 and made the cemetery one of her key priorities. | Courtesy Jim Sessions

We don’t know when John, Mary or many of the others buried here were born. We don’t know anything about them. Then Tracey Sessions came along and started to research them. Since then she has passed away, but her husband has worked hard to make sure her project didn’t die with her.

She lost her limbs but never lost hope. How Rosalie Parker miraculously recovered after nearly dying (Nov. 16)

Rosalie Parker

Rosalie Parker. | Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

I spent a day with this incredible girl and her family. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. If you have a few minutes, watch the video in this story. I promise it will make your day better! Thanks, Rosalie, for letting me tell your story.

Rett Nelson

Hundreds gather to ‘Stand Together’ during unity walk in Idaho Falls (June 20)

protest

Demonstrators hold up signs prior to the George Floyd unity walk in Idaho Falls. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

The death of George Floyd in May sparked a series of riots and protests. This lead to a nationwide conversation about racism. While these events caused conflict elsewhere, this story about a Unity Walk showed eastern Idaho is different. During the demonstration, city leaders spoke about racial injustice and the effort to make sure everyone is needed and is treated equally. Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson’s statement that “black lives do matter” answers the question much of the nation was fighting about and is what really makes the story a good one in my book.

‘We just weren’t strong enough.’ Local business permanently closing due to COVID-19 (May 7) and New and old local restaurants are casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic (Sept. 29)

sorry we're closed sign

File photo from March 2020

COVID-19 put the economy and business front and center as the nation went into lockdown. Many businesses have weathered the storm, but some have not. The loss of one business is one too many, but it’s been inspiring to watch how the community has rallied around those who have struggled and to see how struggling business owners have handled the loss with grace and dignity and given us all an example worthy of emulation.

Nate Sunderland

A look at the religious circle surrounding Chad and Lori Daybell (Feb. 23)

Julie Rowe and Chad Daybell

Julie Rowe and Chad Daybell

This story took months of research with many anonymous sources. Every one we spoke with seem to take us down a new rabbit hole, and we never knew what we were going to find. In the end, we were able to paint a fairly clear picture of a “church within a church” here in eastern Idaho. It was astounding to see how many people had beliefs beyond those of conventional Latter-day Saints.

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