By the numbers: Super 7 videos of the year

Daily Show’s mention of the world’s largest strawberry takes top honors

Editor’s note: This is the first of a seven-part series to close out 2014 looking back on the top stories and events of 2014.

By Kevin Spradlin

For at least one day, Richmond County went Hollywood. Actually, New York.

In August, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart  used “the world’s largest strawberry,” owned by Lee and Amy Berry at The Berry Patch in Ellerbe, as part of his monologue about Rand Paul’s chances in the 2016 president election.

The Berry Patch in Ellerbe received a national spike in conversation and a local increase in business when it was mentioned as home of the world's largest strawberry on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Berry Patch in Ellerbe received a national spike in conversation and a local increase in business when it was mentioned as home of the world’s largest strawberry on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Paul led to Strawberry Point in Iowa. Strawberry Point went to “the world’s largest lady” — the Statue of Liberty — and then to a fact check. Strawberry Point’s manufactured berry is a mere 15 feet tall. The Berry Patch is housed in a 24-foot berry that took five months to build and, because of the ongoing Department of Transportation project to upgrade Highway 220 to an interstate, the family was forced to move the berry up the road a ways.

The Pee Dee Post was the first media outlet to report the mention, part of Stewart’s four-minute and 34-second introductory speech. Included in the coverage was a quick video clip, which was quickly uploaded to the Post’s YouTube channel and shared with readers.

As it turns out, it is the most-watched Post video of 2014. Through Tuesday, nearly 1,500 people — 1,497 to be exact — had seen the clip. Video was used sparingly in the first months of the Post, which launched on April 28, but with the success of these videos, readers can be assured of additional video coverage in 2015. Both on the news and advertising side of the digital newspaper operations, it simply makes sense.

This is the first of a seven-part series to close out the year, looking back on the top videos, news and sporting events of 2014. The remaining schedule includes:

Dec. 24 — By the numbers: Top videos of the year
Dec. 25 —  By the numbers: Top Sports/Outdoor stories
Dec. 26 —  By the numbers: Top News stories
Dec. 27 —  Super 7 Business stories
Dec. 27 — Fantastic 15 Photos of the Year
Dec. 28 — Super 7 Feel-good stories
Dec. 29 — Super 7 Sports stories
Dec. 30 — Super 7 Stories of the Year – final

While the “By the Numbers” series goes solely by statistics, the Super 7 stories to be published Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 include the results of a two-hour discussion and voting by a five-person panel of avid readers. The focus of the discussion was the impact of each story on the Richmond County area. The panel included Post columnist Howard Richardson, sports writer Nick Beggs, Jackie McAuley and John Hutchinson, local historian, Rockingham city councilman and financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors.

Video No. 2 — Fugitive John Adam Rillo captured

The Asheboro Courier-Tribune was the first to report law enforcement’s search for John Adam Rillo, but the Post handled day-to-day coverage like no other area media outlet. The Post was first to report that deputies had him — temporarily — at his parents’ home before he escaped through a dog pen full of aggressive animals and into the woods.

That escape, on July 11, started a 13-day manhunt for the fugitive, originally wanted on federal drug warrants. The Post had the exclusive update the following morning, and again when Rillo, who covered the Norman countryside, broke into and spent the night in a Norman church.

Rillo was caught on July 24 — the Post was the first to report that, too. On July 25, Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. was proud to share the credit, along with the men and women of his office, with: the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Rockingham Police Department, North Caorlina Department of Public Safety, North Carolina Highway Patrol, Candor Police Department, Troy Police Department, Mount Gilead Police Department, North Carolina Air National Guard, Biscoe Police Department, North Carolina Emergency Management in both Richmond and Montgomery counties, East Rockingham Fire Department, Mountain Creek Fire Department, Candor Fire Department, Derby Fire Department and the town of Norman.

The Post recorded the entire news conference, broken up into segment one and two. Both clips made the Super 7, with the first segment generating 1,027 views, but the second was moved aside to accommodate another area of public safety coverage.

Video No 3 — Rockingham Middle School at cheer camp

There have been times when an event promoter attempts to sell the event so much that it’s impossible to meet expectations on event day. That’s not the case with Raiders cheer coach Meredith Hood and her assistants.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

On July 17, the Post was the only media outlet to cover the Richmond Raiders Cheer Camp inside the gymnasium at Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham. During the final day of the week-long camp, cheerleaders of all ages throughout the county performed before an audience of several hundred people.

The event was so much fun to cover it hardly felt like work — until, that is, the camera battery ran low for the final performances, including the Ninth Grade Academy, the JV squad and the varsity squad. The low battery power did not dampen the spirit with which the cheerleaders jumped, leapt and inspired those who want to follow in their footsteps.

Of the 11 video clips published that day, the performance of the Rockingham Middle School squad garnered the most views (1,019) and landed third on the list of top videos of 2014. It also could have been a foreshadowing of things to come. As the cheerleaders’ video took the No. 1 spot from camp, the Rockets they supported in football won the conference championship in the fall semester.

Video No. 4 — Graham Bridge Road head-on collision

It’s as breaking news at its finest — the Post brings you the news, good or bad, as quickly as possible without any bias in what you see. In this case, it was bad.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

At about 3 p.m. on Sept. 29, two vehicles were involved in a head-on collision on Graham Bridge Road in the Ledbetter community. A video from the scene, that showed rescue personnel working to free one of the drivers, garnered 705 views.

Witnesses said Brooke Deegan’s purple Chrysler PT Cruiser was headed north along the 300 block of Graham Bridge Road when the Cruiser collided with a southbound burgundy Ford Expedition driven by Edwin Davis. Deegan could not open her door and crawled out the back of the vehicle.

Personnel from Richmond County Rescue Squad used tools to extricate the man from the vehicle. Firefighters from Northside Volunteer Fire Department then aided personnel from FirstHealth EMS and Richmond County Rescue Squad in getting Davis onto the gurney and into the back of a FirstHealth ambulance. Deegan had climbed out the back of her PT Cruiser and was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

Video No. 5 — Linda and Tiffany Swinson marriage

Whether or not Richmond County residents were ready for it, Linda Samol and Tiffany Swinson were married by Richmond County Magistrate Cleve Baxley on Oct. 13 in downtown Rockingham, making them the first Richmond County couple to receive a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

The marriage was made possible on the previous Friday, when a federal judge in North Carolina’s Western District issued an order permanently prohibiting defendants in a United Church of Christ lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT amendment from enforcing the ban. U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. also denied Republican state leaders’ motion to intervene in the case.

The video of the brief ceremony attracted 696 viewers, and a tremendous number of comments on social media both positive and negative.

Video No. 6 — Hamlet Middle School at cheer camp

This video serves as a great reason people shouldn’t ignore the quality of people behind those who choose cheerleading as an extracurricular activity. In short, people care and enjoy rooting for them.

The performance by the Hamlet Red Rams in the Richmond Raiders Cheer Camp showcase was the second-most viewed of 11 video clips published that day with 696.

Video No. 7 —  Flea Market fire on US 220

While a second video clip from the John Adam Rillo news conference actually took the No. 7 spot, it was decided not to double up and instead “share the love” to include another aspect of public safety of the hard work put in by area firefighters, both paid and volunteer.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

On Sept. 2, smoke from a storage building at the Flea Market a few miles north of Rockingham along U.S. Route 220 could be seen for miles.

Initially, firefighters from Northside Volunteer Fire Department responded. The fire became more than a single department could handle and before long firefighters from Cordova, Ellerbe, East Rockingham and Rockingham also responded. There was even someone from Hamlet, though that person’s presence was unofficial.

Two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation on scene. The structure fire was one of too many this year that show the dedication and determination of firefighters and other first-responders have in addressing our emergency needs at little to no consideration of their own family lives, safety or welfare.

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