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Contagion and avoiding it held center-stage this year, as befits a world-changing event. But other news was made in Santa Barbara County out of the struggles of politics, fossil fuels, and even journalism.

The Palminteri Push Heard Around the World was catnip for us all, while News-Press Editor and Owner Part Ways captured the latest implosion in a slowly accreting debacle. Nonetheless, the schadenfreude over harassed journalists couldn’t hold a candle to the Death of Newborn Giraffe, which absorbed the attention of 750,000 readers.

The One-Two Punch that hit ExxonMobil’s trucking plans was a climate-change story that started in San Francisco and landed in Santa Barbara without ever uttering the words “global warming.” The political climate in Santa Barbara this year included the movements triggered by the murder of George Floyd and the meaning embedded in “Taking a Knee” — movements, for good or ill, that contributor Osaama Saifi likened to a Civil War. The potential continuation of Trump’s administration brought out voters in record numbers, highlights of the elections in March and November. In the courts, though many insist on his innocence, Sad Boy Loko, aka Mario Hernandez-Pacheco, pled an attempted-murder rap down to felony assault in January.

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Death by illness hung over our heads after March, but it was the hit-and-run that claimed the lives of Adolfo and Mary Jane Corral in February that brought crowds of mourners for the respected educators.

Undeniably, the elephant in the newsroom for almost a year has been COVID-19 —from cruise ships to Santa Barbara’s first case to the inevitable spread of disease and then super-spread, and the city’s reaction to the economic depletion with a pedestrian mall only to be confronted with further shutdowns.

Restaurants and bars closed and opened their doors during the shutdowns, a confusing, frustrating, expensive, potentially bankrupting process. Restaurant and Bar Owners Reacted to the earliest information coming out on how California was going to avoid the viral spread. Inevitably, restaurants fell, among them Chucks Waterfront Grill and the Paradise Café.

Even from the pandemic’s earliest days, the emotional impact that lay ahead could be felt. Contributor Alex Ward described it well in Fear and Longing in Santa Barbara, in a spirit and with a hope that lives on today.

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