2023 in Harrisonburg: Here’s what people were reading

Readers in 2023 really wanted to know about Harrisonburg’s new high school — and can you blame them? It seems like it’s been in the works for ages. 

Beyond that, stories about JMU (especially when ESPN came to town) and second-hand clothes generated a lot of views in 2023. And council member Chris Jones also generated headlines this year, although probably not in the way he wanted. 

As is our annual New Year’s Eve tradition at The Citizen, here’s the top 10 most-read stories from the last year: 

The new logo shows off sharp angles that goes with the dinosaur mascot. (Courtesy of HCPS)

1. In one of the most tangible signs that the era of Rocktown High School is nigh, the school adopted its logo and mascot imagery (featuring a raptor). The Harrisonburg School Board unveiled the new branding at a meeting in October, which ended up being the most-read article in 2023. As contributor Haley Thomas reported, the logo and imagery came about thanks to work from a JMU Media Arts and Design professor and her students, as well as some preliminary work from Harrisonburg High School students. 

2. Yes, “At least the NCAA can’t be a wet blanket about College GameDay,” as the headline on publisher Bridget Manley’s Nov. 14 article declares. Bridget’s guide to preparing for the ESPN invasion was widely shared. (And as it turned out, all that anger against the NCAA for potentially forcing JMU to sit out the postseason because of switching conferences was for naught. JMU ended up in a bowl game after all.) 

3. Police arrested council member Chris Jones in May on a charge of driving while intoxicated after finding him asleep in his car, which was stopped on Maryland Avenue. Bridget Manley covered that story and the August court appearance in which Jones pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of improper driving. 

Two women working in a cluttered store room
Diann Beach examines a shirt in Gift and Thrift’s back processing area. (Photo by Ciara Brennan)

4. Readers of The Citizen are quite interested in thrifting. The fourth-most read story of 2023 was contributor Ciara Brennan’s first piece on her “Secondhand in the City” series about the burgeoning market for used clothes. That story explored how thrift stores like Mercy House, Goodwill and others sift through the tons of clothes they receive. Her second story in the series, which The Citizen just published Dec. 22, finished just outside the Top 10 at No. 11. It focuses on resale stores like Dart, Plato’s Closet and Style Encore

Students at Harrisonburg High School form a circle after walking out to honor Calour Fields, who was killed in a shooting. (Photo by Bridget Manley)

5. After the killing of 17-year-old Calour Fields, Harrisonburg High School students staged a walkout to honor him and to call attention to gun violence. Fields was a football player and one of two people killed in an April shooting in Harrisonburg. And, as Bridget Manley reported, both students and school officials reacted with sadness and frustration.   

6. In other city school-related news, the former school board chair had an eventful year after leaving Harrisonburg to lead a college in his native state of Idaho. He has been caught in the middle of a political and legal saga, which Bridget Manley outlined in a comprehensive article in May

Members of the city council and school board meet Friday, Jan. 27, to debate the effects the Bluestone Town Center development will have on the student population. (Photo by Bridget Manley)

7. Council member Chris Jones again found himself in the middle of controversy after an exchange with school officials. Once again, The Citizen turned to publisher Bridget Manley to report and explain the context and nuance of the situation. And, as she reported, the situation exposed “difficulties of city power dynamics, as well as an issue of parental privacy rights and ethical questions regarding the conduct of elected officials.”

As Tamara Mines is introduced as the first principal of Rocktown High School, those attending Tuesday’s school board meeting applaud her. (Photo by Bridget Manley)

8. In another major Rocktown High School milestone in early May, the Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ board introduced the new principal for the school: Tamara Mines. 

9. Bridget also delved into a different thorny issue within higher education as she reported on a disagreement between faculty and staff members and the provost at JMU regarding a Holocaust remembrance program in January

Black Sheep left its longtime home at the Ice House over the summer and moved to East Market Street. (Photo by Eric Gorton)

10. And we love our coffee in Harrisonburg — especially our local coffee shops. And Eric Gorton was the first to report in June about Black Sheep’s move from the Ice House to its new location on East Market Street. 

Thanks again for reading The Citizen in 2023, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed in 2024. Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading  The Citizen, which won the Virginia Press Association’s 2022 News Sweepstakes award as the top online news site in Virginia. We’re independent. We’re local. We pay our contributors, and the money you give goes directly to the reporting. No overhead. No printing costs. Just facts, stories and context. We value your support.

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