December 30, 2014

College Student Barriers, Texting While Driving, Payday Loans: IowaWatch’s Most Read Stories of 2014

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The plan seemed sound – recruit heavily in Asia for college students who could bring bright young minds to campus but, also important, cultural diversity. Unfortunately for the University of Iowa it was not fully prepared to handle a huge influx of Chinese students in 2013-14, leaving the new visitors struggling to adjust to life in Iowa.

Lu Shen

Lu Shen

The Lu Shen story “After Recruiting Universities Unprepared to Help Chinese Students Adjust” was the most read 2014 IowaWatch on the website IowaWatch.org. You read it in Iowa and other parts of the United States but also in China, our analytics show us. Shen, a University of Iowa graduate, now works at CNN Beijing.

This was one of many new stories that helped IowaWatch.org grow its audience in 2014.

The other top five IowaWatch stories from 2014 are:


Source: National College Health Assessment. Spring 2013 survey data for UNI UI and National figures; Spring 2012 survey data for ISU.

Source: National College Health Assessment. Spring 2013 survey data for UNI UI and National figures; Spring 2012 survey data for ISU.

Depression In College: Students’ Struggles With Depression Add Barrier to Graduation – a series of stories about problems college students with depression face – from unknowing students, professors and even health care professionals who are supposed to be helping the students. By Linh Ta, who is a Des Moines Register reporter now, and Rana Moustafa.


TextingHorizontalIowa’s Texting-While-Driving-Ban Not Reducing Crashes, Hard to Enforce – an in-depth look into why Iowa’s law banning texting while driving is ineffective, and the personal losses Iowa families suffer when they lose someone because of this dangerous practice. By Sarah Hadley.


PaydayLoansLogoRoundedTintedFederal Action Against Payday Loans Is Picking Up – plus, other stories in a series that spells out in detail the financial dangers consumers need to be aware of if getting a payday loan. By Lauren Mills, with grant support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.


pic ethanol plant medium shotBioengineers Hope Turning Garbage Into Gas Opens a Green Frontier – a revealing story that shows how Iowa is attempting to lead the nation in cellulosic ethanol, or trashanol. By Gabriella Dunn, now a Willamette Week reporter.


Another IowaWatch.org post from 2014 got plenty of your attention, too. “Making The IowaWatch Documentary ‘Breaking the Cycle: Meth In the Heartland’ ” is a behind-the-scenes look at how former IowaWatch reporter Katie Kuntz spent more than a year creating a documentary about attempts women in two western Iowa families are making to recover from meth addiction.

Other IowaWatch stories published near the end of 2014 also attracted plenty of readers but were not available as long as those on our top five list:

Interestingly, the most read story at IowaWatch.org in 2014 is a Gabe Gao story from January 2012. “Stomach Tubes to Feed Elderly Often Unnecessary, May Be Harmful” remains relevant to families dealing with this situation and checking a series of reports. Gao since has left IowaWatch and is in medical school at Northwestern University.

graffiti17A couple of other stories from years past also are among IowaWatch’s most-read in 2014:

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