Top 2015 stories

By on December 29, 2015

…as social media sites took hold

by Patrick Burns

SANTAThe Ephrata Review reported the big stories in the borough, township and surrounding area in 2015.

No surprise; it’s what we do.

But unlike ever before, our Facebook community, which topped 4,000 over the Thanksgiving weekend, helped connect our proverbial finger to the pulse of the Sphrecer Christmas lightscommunity we cover.


With that in mind, we found ourselves in December – a time when newspapers editors typically craft a list of the year’s top stories – subjectively grading the year’s newsworthiness.

But this year we’ve mixed our top 2015 newsworthy items with otherwise innocuous online posts which – for whatever reason – seized readers’ attention on social media.

For example, we learned through Facebook in 2014 – when the McDonald’s in the borough burned and a McDonald’s was built in the township – that the local social media is enthralled by local restaurants.

The anticipation of the Taco Bell restaurant instantly captivated The Ephrata Review Facebook community which devoured news, video, and other postings about the taco restaurant construction and opening during the first nine months of 2015.

More recently, Facebook lit up when Ephrata High School football coach Scott Shelley was fired (by the way, The Ephrata Review continues to follow this story and will report immediately on Facebook when a new coach is named – probably in early January).

The community interest always escalates during the Ephrata Fair when The Ephrata Review posts numerous snippets, pictures, and videos. For the second year in a row interest piqued over the Ephrata Pig Chase.

Here’s a look at some of the things that most interested Ephratians in 2015:

Murder in Ephrata

The Ephrata Review posted seven items on Facebook that included maps, photos, video and three print stories published about the first murder in Ephrata in 14 years.Murder in Ephrata

The killer of Monica L. Miller received swift justice as murderer Randall S. Shreiner was sentenced to life in prison on June 5.

Shreiner, 58, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting of Miller, a 44-year-old mother who was gunned down in the parking lot of her East Main Street apartment building on Feb. 18. Miller’s family said Shreiner took vengeance on Monica Miller shortly after she refused to see him again – because she discovered he was married.

Miller, 45, is a former clergyman who has worked for a Lititz painting contractor.

Coach Shelley Fired

Shelley FiredThe Nov. 16 story on the firing of Coach Shelley as the head Ephrata’s football program wasn’t the most viewed nor had the greatest reach. Its 13,400-reach was well below the 24,210 reach garnered by a video of the Ephrata Merchants Association’s Downtown Christmas tree lighting.

But the story generated significant reaction, in the form of 2,285 engagements of comments, likes, and shares.

The responses were mostly positive and supportive as Brody Simmons noted: “…There is a new spark in Ephrata starting at the youth football level. It will take some time, but they are moving in the right direction.”

New Restaurants

Most recently, five posts between June 16 and Dec. 10, updated and informed on the progress on the new Dunkin Donuts and Little Caesar’s &tstr; currently under construction near the Rothsville Road and State Street intersection.

Those posts grabbed a reach of more than 40,000 and engaged 3,400 in the likes, comments and shares categories.Jan. 28 Taco Bell 13,200

Ashlee Lutte perhaps summed up why it created attention stating: “Little Caesars? Why have I not heard this before now! I am so excited!”

Taco Bell

But the Dunkin response amounts to barely a whisper compared to the Taco Bell buzz. The 18 Ephrata Review posts about Taco Bell &tstr; between Jan. 28 and Sept. 14 when it opened &tstr; generated a reach of 127,000 and more than 15,000 engagements.

Facebook research concluded that a 30-second video on April 17 yielded 3,968 clicks associated with likes, comments, and shares from a 27,408 reach.

While many were positive posts from Taco Bell fans, some like Terri Renninger urged support for local bar, tavern, and restaurant owners. “We have many historical taverns in this area that have far better food,” wrote Renninger.

Dunkin DonutsKaren Velez hit on a recurring theme: “One drawback will be the traffic which seems worse in last couple years!”


The Ephrata Review tackled traffic and weather issues extensively which engaged about 50,000 from dozens of updates and videos that included current driving conditions, road closures and backups.

The most popular among those stories were videos of the snow, ice, and rain storms &tstr; especially a severe summer thunderstorm on June 23. Our four Facebook posts that day drew instant feedback and shares from an audience reach of 10,000 who responded to video, photos, and updates similar to this:

Lightning strikes reported. Trees down on roads and on at least one home. Fire companies scurrying around the area.

Route 272 Detour

Work on PennDOT’s long-planned replacement of the 71-year-old bridge that carries Route 272 over Cocalico Creek got underway May 4. The April 22 print story andTraffic Stories accompanying video noted the project “requires up to a 450-day detour along a busy stretch of Reading Road/Route 272 (and) is sure to tax drivers’ nerves and fluster affected business owners.”

Route 272 northbound will be closed to through traffic over Cocalico Creek beginning just after the intersection of Parkview Heights Road and Route 272. Until then, a detour which follows State Street and Old Mill Road will be in place. Route 272 southbound traffic will be maintained across the creek while the new bridge is constructed one half at a time.

“That bridge has been in bad shape for quite a long time,” said Mike Farrington, co-owner of Green Mountain Cyclery, located at 285 S. Reading Road, just north of the bridge.

Pig Chase Protester

Three posts among 10 items posted about the Ephrata Fair Pig Chase focused on an attempt to launch an organized protest and the subsequent arrest of a Berks County woman who ran into the festivities on Sept. 22.

The Ephrata Review was the first to report on and post pictures of the “Pig Chase Protester,” which went viral and even attracted the attention of the European press. The three updated posts of the actual event and arrest garnered a reach of about 32,000 and an engagement rate of more 18,000, according to Facebook data.PIGGGGGGGG

Pig Chase ProtestsAngry Facebook comments mixed from sympathy for the pig to deep resentment of outsiders objecting to the Ephrata Fair tradition.

Mitchell Hackman stated, “If a pig running is abuse, then poor fish get abused daily.”

“This is absolutely hysterical, the pig chase has been going on for years. It’s a staple at the Ephrata fair like funnel cake and toasted cheeseburgers,” Bill Kulp noted.

Kim Stähler of Pennside, wrote that her children “cried when they heard the pig screaming, not the family event we were expecting.”

Ephrata Fair in Multimedia

The 25 entries of videos, photos, and briefs posted from the Ephrata Fair were very popular among locals and especially applauded by those who’ve moved from the area. Facebook data shows a combined reach of about 78,000 from Ephrata Fair updates, stories, photos and videos.

Ephrata Fair 25 entriesEditor Andy Fasnacht described:

“Fair Weather” fans on a rainy late Monday night that “gave way to a beautiful Tuesday and set the scene for a big opening night for the 97th edition of The Ephrata Fair and the 50th anniversary of Tent City.”

Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting

Ephrata devoured our almost real-time postings of the Dec. 20 Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Our four Facebook SANTApostings from the event captured the packed crowd on an unusually balmy night where Santa and Belsnickle greeted the crowd. Coupled with our tremendously popular video previews for the event, eight Facebook postings attracted a reach of more than 44,000 and engaged over 3,000 on social media.

School Graffiti

It seems no school district was spared the 2015 phenomenon when a student (or students) decided posting threatening graffiti on the bathroom wall was a good idea. It happened in the Cocalico and Ephrata school districts. In our Facebook posting Sep. 13 at 11:33 a.m. we informed parents:

It’s unclear exactly what is going on but the Ephrata Police Department is currently investigating threatening graffiti at Ephrata High School. At 9:39 a.m. graffiti of a threatening nature was found in a restroom at Ephrata High School.

School District Administration immediately notified the Ephrata Police Department and are conducting a cooperative investigation. It was determined there was not an immediate threat to students and staff, and the school day is functioning as normal. District officials are continuing to implement the existing crisis plan to ensure the safety of students and staff.

Ephrata parents and students first read about the update from that single Facebook posting which reached 14,646, engaged 3,612, and netted an almost 25 percent engagement rate.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 721-4455.

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