Smile Politely

Most visited articles of the decade: 2010-2019

We (with your help) have published tens of thousands of articles over the course of Smile Politely’s existence. Publishing is an interesting process, and not typically the same from article to article. Some posts end up getting published as full articles, some as quick SPlogs, it really just depends on the type of content we’re presenting. Since we’re not a newspaper, there are different rules. We’re a magazine, but publish only online, as most do these days. Our process is a little bit different than most outlets since our platform is relatively unique as community magazine, wherein anyone can write for us, just as long as you are an engaged community member and want to participate.

While the two co-exist within the structure of the magazine, we’re considering both articles and SPlogs here as we roll out our final end of decade feature. Most often, when we’re publishing “breaking news” stories, it might not appear like other forms of breaking news you see. Breaking news to us can be a scoop about a restaurant closing, or a weird viral video that’s worth talking about, or any number of other things. We often get questions about what type of story does best, and truth be told, it depends on a variety of factors: subject, author, publishing timing, social media positioning, and beyond.

You’ll see a wide variety of articles and SPlogs below that have racked up the most views over the course of the last decade. This feature only includes articles that were published between 2010 and 2019, so while some articles had to be weeded out that were published prior, this is a pretty solid indication of the most viewed articles of all time on Smile Politely. However, we wanted to be transparent about that point.

We’ve included links to each, plus the date, time, and byline for each. As always, thanks so much for reading, and for being a part of Smile Politely.

— Patrick Singer, Executive Editor

50. The Art Theater has announced it is closing October 31st

► Published October 25, 2019 / 1:42pm / Patrick Singer

We were alerted that the Art Theater was closing suddenly by way of an announcement via their email list, and we ended up writing about how we felt about the closure and what happens next after that happened. (PS)

49. Suburban Express owner Dennis Toeppen literally went to China

► Published January 4, 2018 / 11:51pm / Patrick Singer

Oh my god. I thought I wasn’t going to have to talk about Dennis Toeppen again! What the hell. Here I am doing it again as we recount articles from the decade. So, for that, I am keeping this short. (PS)

48. Courier Cafe and Silvercreek going up for sale 

► Published July 17, 2016 / 9:11am / Patrick Singer

Owner Allen Strong made it clear that he didn’t want to manage restaurants for the rest of his life (which of course is a reasonable thing, he’s been doing it for a very long time), but in the end, the news about Courier Cafe and Silvercreek being up for sale is somewhat misleading. I’m not sure if Strong ever intended to say they were up for sale, or rather, he would perhaps be willing to sell them if someone wanted to buy them from him? It is still pretty confusing, honestly, but the restaurants still remain to this day which is a good thing. (PS)

47. There are no words for how offensive and idiotic this is, News-Gazette

► Published July 31, 2015 / 12:45pm / Seth Fein

This is just one of many examples of The News-Gazette’s disgusting expression of white patriarchal misogyny and racism. It’s worth noting how banal and iditoic these expressions are, and the ways in which people excuse and dismiss these expressions because they are so fucking dumb. (JH)

46. Maize officially opening Downtown Champaign location May 12th

► Published May 11, 2017 / 4:07pm / Patrick Singer

This felt like the longest wait ever, and I think I speak for the community when I say that we are so happy to have Maize’s second location up and running. (JH)

45. Holy moly — allegedly, George Papadopoulos went to grade school at South Side in Champaign

► Published October 31, 2017 / 7:03pm / Seth Fein

How many fuckers from Impeached President Trump’s inner circle and campaign have been arrested and convicted on various charges? I don’t have the energy to count them all up honestly, but this one has local ties. Apparently, the young Trump advisor went to grade school here, and that was enough to give this little story some fire for a bit there. (SF)

44. Farren’s moving to space previously occupied by Radio Maria

► Published February 28, 2019 / 8:30am / Patrick Singer

This was such a fun announcement to make, given the history of Farren’s in the community, and what it meant to have it move into such an awesome space in Downtown Champaign previously occupied by Radio Maria. The expansion is an awesome idea in our estimation, and Farren’s will hopefully continue to grow and sling those awesome burgs. (PS)

43. On race and Wednesday’s incident at Canopy Club

► Published April 2, 2015 / 2:00pm / Tom Pauly

This article was written in response to local authorities and media stereotyping the crowd and an incident that occurred in Urbana surrounding a show. This installment in The Pauly Report, which featured a variety of excellent stories from Tom Pauly, discussed how this event followed a much broader issue of violence towards African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.  (PS)

42. Here is a better photo of Professor Jay Rosenstein, who wasn’t charged with any crime last night

► Published January 23, 2018 / 10:58am / Seth Fein

Rosenstein shouldn’t have gone into the bathroom, that much is clear. But only because of the chorus of idiots who used it to admonish his brave work. Don’t feed the trolls, so to speak. This situation was emblematic as anything ever has been about this issue that just will not go away. That’s on the administration of UIUC of past and present, more than anything. They need to tell Ivan Dozier and his little band of misfits to hit the fucking road. Maybe the next decade will showcase some progress. (SF)

41. This sign is almost as bad as your barbecue, Bobo’s

► Published October 15, 2016 / 12:00pm / Patrick Singer

How is Bobo’s still open? Does anyone even eat that food? (JH)

40. This is a very accurate News-Gazette headline about Trump

► Published January 17, 2018 / 4:32pm / Patrick Singer

Still holds up, still makes me giggle. (JM)

39. Memphis on Main is closing November 1st

► Published October 30, 2018 / 6:30pm / Patrick Singer

The sudden closure of Memphis on Main in Downtown Champaign was really just one part of the domino effect that took place as 51 Main, Memphis on Main, and Derailed were closing their doors. This was pretty monster news that we broke with a statement made from partial Rod Sickler providing details about their efforts in negotiation with the landlords. (PS)

38. Presidential candidate and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) used to live in Champaign-Urbana

► Published January 21, 2019 / 8:29am / Seth Fein

Unfortunately, we will not be able to claim that the next President of the United States has C-U roots, as Harris had to drop out of the race just this month. I blame Seth “And frankly, she is the frontrunner now, despite what anyone says” Fein for that. Just kidding, I blame the extraordinary amount of money it takes to run a presidential campaign, allowing a rich white dude like Tom Steyer to still be in the running and another rich white dude to jump on in after not doing any of the work the rest of the candidates have been doing this entire year. But, I digress. 

However, we can still claim that a badass U.S. Senator and possible V.P. (?) candidate was a resident here for a short period of time, and that’s pretty cool. (JM)

37. Radio Maria allegedly now closed forever

► Published December 26, 2018 / 4:13pm / Seth Fein

Radio Maria was a long time staple of Downtown Chamapign’s dining scene, and its loss is felt greatly. (JH)

36. Pour it out: These Unofficial shirts are skunky 

► Published February 11, 2015 / 1:54pm / Tom Pauly

Some kids showcased their ignorance by printing Chief-themed Unofficial shirts. It was not a good idea. (PS)

35. NAYA officially opens on Monday, and here’s your first look

► Published March 3, 2019 / 1:30pm / Jessica Hammie

NAYA is among the best restaurants to open this decade, as we have pointed out. If you haven’t been, go. (JH)

34. Chester Street Bar has closed

► Published June 23, 2017 / 8:39am / Boswell Hutson

Chester Street Bar was an institution in Champaign-Urbana. Established in the early 80’s as the AIDS epidemic was on the rise and the stigma faced by the queer community was fierce, it was a safe haven. In the years before it closed it had become much more mainstream, less of an exclusively LGBTQ space, but it’s loss is felt nonetheless. You can read more about its history and importance to the community here. (JM)

33. A stroll through the lane

► Published January 4, 2013 / 12:01am / Rob McColley

Early on, Smile Politely had the best and most comprehensive Illini basketball reporting you could ever imagine. It was the work of just one man, with the occasional friend snapping photos from the sideline. Rob McColley’s irreverent reporting and dedication got him a press pass, and he’s still doing that work today through his site Why this particular story about a game against Purdue, while both teams were middling Big Ten teams is anyone’s guess. But it somehow struck a nerve, and got posted into enough message boards and twitter feeds to earn it tons of views. (SF)

32. Allegedly, Smash Mouth’s frontman “was too drunk or had a heart attack”, carried off stage at USF

► Published August 28, 2016 / 12:23pm / Patrick Singer

This was such a weird situation all around. While we weren’t attempting to sound too insensitive to the fact that the lead singer of Smash Mouth had to be carried off stage when the band performed at Urbana’s Sweetcorn Festival that year, it was a pretty easy target in the end. He ended up being OK, so that’s a good thing, but the reddit trolls commenting about the situation was too good to pass up. (PS)

31. WCIA’s Maggie Hockenberry is the most awkward reporter in town

► Published August 22, 2014 / 8:15pm / Seth Fein

Something to note: there was a time where Smile Politely, and its news of the weird had a direct pipeline to Gawker, the now shuttered blog with seemingly endless verticals and sister sites. Tommy Craggs, who grew up in Urbana, was first Editor in Chief of Deadspin, a revolutionary sports blog/magazine founded by UIUC grad and Mattoon native Will Leitch. Then, he graduated to Executive Editor for all of Gawker Media. As such, we’d tip them off whenever something odd happened that we’d published, and at times, they’d post it and H/T us. 

In this case, another friend of mine happened to cell phone record this story on the opening of Sweetcorn Festival by WCIA and posted it to Facebook. I saw it and instantly converted to YouTube video, and posted it with their permission. The SPlog went viral on its own here locally, for good reasons — it is worthy of a belly laugh every time. But after Deadspin reposted, it went viral nationally, to the point where the producers at Jimmy Kimmel got a hold of it, and made it a feature on his monologue about a week later. In that piece, he dissected it piece by piece, and it was pretty memorable. 

Ms. Hockenberry was on her first assignment. This is not easy work. Her own news reporter colleagues at the desk sort of laughed at her during the segment because it was just that awkward. But this did not deter Ms. Hockenberry. In fact, she went to the National Sweetcorn Festival in Hoopeston a week later to do her job yet again, and did it admirably. Tenacity and preservation win the day: she’s now one of the most experienced reporters at WCIA, and has done a great job growing into the role. (SF)

30. Miscommunication, or mismanagement?

► Published June 17, 2013 / 12:00am / Tracy Nectoux

This was written in conjunction with Tracy Nectoux’s work surrounding the Urbana Free Library weeding story, which you can read about at number three. (PS)

29. Watch this pro-Trump “rally” from this past weekend in Champaign

► Published May 7, 2019 / 2:40pm / Patrick Singer

This was such a sad rally that we didn’t even want to refer to it as a rally because it was literally two Trump supporters. It kind of blew up for obvious reasons. (PS)

28. Custard Cup is now (kind of) owned by Bruce Weber, Ron Turner, more 

► Published May 1, 2016 / 4:56pm / Patrick Singer

While this isn’t directly tied to the best local GIF of the decade, at the time, it was a nice way to tie in former Illinois Basketball coach Bruce Weber’s love for Custard Cup in here. (PS)

27. WCIA’s Dave Benton to undergo brain surgery 

► Published November 21, 2013 / 1:29pm / Patrick Singer

This was the beginning of the end for the longtime WCIA news anchor. Within the year, he would announce the terminal nature of the cancer, and he passed away in April of 2015. What a tragic loss for our community. (JM)

26. Last call at Mike N Molly’s 

► Published March 11, 2016 / 3:00pm / Patrick Singer

If there was ever a closing of a bar that truly stamped the end of an era this past decade, it was the sale of Mike N Molly’s. Many people have derided the change, many people have celebrated it, because Seven Saints is legitimately a wonderful place and its expansion has improved upon it. Of course it is always hard to lose a space that so many people consider to be a second home. But if you were present for its opening through its closure, you also knew it was probably time. Not everything lasts a lifetime. Sometimes a generation is the perfect amount of time to stamp a time and place and feeling. (SF)

25. Watch Adrian Belew perform “Heroes” with David Bowie

► Published January 11, 2016 / 5:43am / Seth Fein

When Bowie passed, I couldn’t help but attach the history of Champaign-Urbana’s music scene to one of its most famous former residents in legendary guitarist Adrian Belew. He lived here and assigned this city his home for much of his early career, one that included a stint in Bowie’s band. We posted a video of him performing the adored song “Heroes” and Adrian himself shared it to his mass of fans, and that’s why it got so many looks in one shot. (SF)

24. City of Champaign unveils mixed-use development for Downtown

► Published November 6, 2015 / 8:49am / Patrick Singer

This was the first iteration of what is now a project called “The Yards.” It will be the biggest development in the history of Downtown Champaign, assuming it works out, which it appears it will, according to rumor and solid reporting from The News-Gazette. What we’ve learned: when you post well-designed renderings of what might come to pass, landscape changing projects and the like, people will share that content, and discuss it. At length. (SF)

23. Look here at Watson’s Shack and Rail menu

► Published February 1, 2016 / 10:40am / Seth Fein

Watson’s opening was much anticipated, and we were all eager to see what would be on the menu. Surprise! It was fried chicken (and other yummies). (JH)

22. Tweedy’s performance does not disappoint, but the audience does

► Published April 19, 2019 / 1:00pm / Bridgette Moen

What an absolute embarrassment. Regardless of what happened between our hometown hero, Jay Bennett, and his former band, Wilco, heckling is never OK at a stage performance. That it touched on potentially unresolved issues between the performer and his now-deceased former songwriting partner was despicable. No one ever learned the identity of the culprit, but whoever they are, I hope they feel bad for what they did. What a shame. (SF)

21. Here’s the full menu for Hamilton Walker’s Steakhouse in Downtown Champaign

► Published August 20, 2016 / 3:14pm / Patrick Singer

Hamilton Walker’s probably takes the cake on most talked about restaurant opening over the past decade. Its sign is memorable enough, but the way it stumbled out of the gate was just as much. The good news is that it has improved in so many ways. The bar program is sublime, and that burger was as highly ranked by us for good reason. I like to eat there. When we posted the menu, it was clear that out city was clamoring for a restaurant of this kind for a long while. (SF)

20. 53-year-old shooting victim’s drug charges are all that matter to The News-Gazette

► Published August 4, 2017 / 12:05pm / Boswell Hutson

Surprising to no one, The News-Gazette included unnecessary details about a shooting victim’s previous criminal history in order to perpetuate their agenda. They later removed the information after the uproar. (PS)

19. Common Ground announces new location in Downtown Champaign

► Published March 18, 2015 / 10:10pm / Smile Politely Editors

I remember when Common Ground was working on their expansion, and although the Downtown Champaign location never ended up happening (for a variety of reasons which I don’t have space to discuss here), it was big news at the time. Thankfully, we still have the Urbana location for Common Ground, and all is well over there across town. While we won’t ever know what could’ve happened had they moved forward with the plan, in a way, it is probably for the best and continued sustainability of a co-op grocery store like we have now. (PS)

18. Espresso Royale on Daniel closing May 17th

► Published May 2, 2019 / 4:00pm / Patrick Singer

Espresso Royale’s beloved Daniel Street location’s closure was delivered alongside the news that KAM’s was moving, further snowballing into a discussion about this block in Campustown. This location for Espresso had been there since 1991, and while there’s hope that it will go back into the block as a part of the new development, that remains to be seen at this point in time. (PS)

17. We have the menu and first look at Papa Del’s Pizza Factory

► Published February 29, 2016 / 6:59am / Patrick Singer

Legendary local pizza joint takes over historic building with a legacy of failed ventures. That could have been the headline here, because it’s so precise. But everyone knew that this was going to work from the moment it announced, and it has. Our readership responded to the pictures and the menu in big ways, for obvious reasons. (SF)

16. Of course Suburban Express sent out a super racist promotional email

► Published December 2, 2017 / 4:38pm / Seth Fein

Damn we wasted a lot of energy on this asshole. (JM)

15. A culture of complacency

► Published January 27, 2014 / 11:13am / Caleb Curtiss

Following an announcement made by then-U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise wherein she did not cancel classes because of a snowstorm, there was an uproar of awful, racist tweets that were just entirely out of bounds. (PS)

14. PhD candidate arrested for suspected kidnapping of missing student

► Published June 30, 2017 / 8:02pm / Seth Fein

It’s horrific and exceptionally sad for a story like this to come out of our community. While we usually don’t act as a breaking news type source, this was something we couldn’t ignore. (JM)

13. News-Gazette surprises no one by publishing gross cartoon

Published September 25, 2018 / 9:51am / Jessica Hammie

You know what’s not funny? Making jokes about sexual assault. (JH)

12. Bob Dylan said Champaign, Illinois — Twice 

► Published October 19, 2010 / 5:59am / John Steinbacher

This article made its way to Rhett Miller and forced him to respond by claiming his version is not anti-Champaign (even though it clearly is). In my two year (maybe less?) stint as one of the Music Editors at Smile Politely, I managed to annoy a lot of people in and outside of the local musical scene, but irritating Rhett Miller was probably my highest achievement (followed in a close second by all the Joe Pug lovers). Anyway, I learned a lot of cool things about Bob Dylan and the people who study him when I wrote this. I’m delighted it’s the kind of article people still probably randomly find informative from time to time. (JS)

11. End of the line, News-Gazette

► Published May 3, 2015 / 8:00am / Seth Fein

I probably got too emotional on this one, because a friend of mine had recently passed in a similar way. But the the way The News-Gazette handled this story remains one of the most disgusting displays of local reporting I can remember. Just because you can ask a question, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can write a report on something, doesn’t mean it is fit to be published. In this case, the editorial board just made horrible choices, the reporter should be ashamed of herself, the whole thing fucking sucked, top to bottom. It still makes me angry. How dare you come after the bereaved for such an insignificant piece of news? (SF)

10. Confirmed: Bernie Sanders to visit the ARC tomorrow

► Published March 11, 2016 / 10:12am / Boswell Hutson

During the 2016 presidential election cycle, Sen. Bernie Sanders paid a visit to the ARC, which ended up causing quite a commotion in C-U. The lines were around the block to get in, and Carol Ammons delivered some opening remarks, as Sanders was on the campaign trail for the Democratic nomination a few years back. (PS)

Photo by AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

9. Shame on you, Drew’s Pizzeria

► Published September 10, 2013 / 8:00am / Tom Pauly

Ah yes, another story that ended up making its way onto Deadspin, which propels any story we put out there into the next level of internet sharing. The story of Drew’s Pizzeria on Green Street giving away free pizza to women that lifted up their shirts, and the fact that they were also tweeting about it on top of doing what they were doing, made this an easy target to point out as being a pretty poor way to sling not very good ‘za. (PS)

Photo from Drew’s Pizzeria’s Facebook page (words drawn on by Tom Pauly)

8. Central history teacher claims Nazi gas chambers were not “used for killing”

► Published April 3, 2015 / 3:15pm / Tom Pauly

This one broke our collective hearts. We were away in Iowa City at Mission Creek Festival when we got the details on it, and instead of soaking up a gorgeous day with friends watching shows and readings, we got to work to get the facts straight and post it before 5 p.m. The outcome was optimal; the reaction from the public and the district was swift, and defined. But it was a stark reminder to anyone paying attention that this sort of thing exists, and in some ways, was a foreshadowing of what was to come in this nation. (SF)

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

7. Here’s what the new KAM’s allegedly looks like

► Published January 22, 2019 / 11:24am / Patrick Singer

When you mix nostalgia, food and drink news, and breaking news into one, there’s an explosiveness about publishing a SPlog like this one. When word came out that KAM’s was not only leaving their location on Daniel Street in Campustown, combined with some early-on renderings of the space and its new location, that’s just big news all around to be shared over and over again. (PS)

Photos from Illini Barstool

6. Aioli, Mayonnaise — What’s the difference?

► Published March 16, 2010 / 12:00pm / Anna Barnes

I’m still not really sure, but I know I like aioli and hate mayo. (JH)

Photo by Anna Barnes

5. 10 things to know about Mac DeMarco

► Published October 29, 2014 / 8:00am / Maddie Rehayem

As an early Mac DeMarco fan, I wanted to make sure that Smile Politely’s preview coverage of his Foellinger Auditorium appearance did him justice. So, I momentarily shed my J-school standards and went for a Buzzfeed-style listicle — the best way, I thought, to capture DeMarco’s goofy and crass personality. While his internet persona has mellowed out over the years, I was pleased to find upon revisiting this article that the video of Mac closing out a set by singing (nay, drunkenly screaming) U2’s “Beautiful Day” in the nude is still going strong on YouTube. (MR)

Photo from Captured Tracks

4. Farmer City sign sparks outrage

► Published August 13, 2015 / 8:48am / Boswell Hutson

It’s a different world just outside of the C-U bubble, friends, and this is Exhibit A. At least he’s blatant about his racism and being just an all around terrible person. It’s good to know these things outright. (JM)

Photo from The News-Gazette

3. Do you ever read any of the books you [weed]?

► Published June 13, 2013 / 10:59pm / Tracy Nectoux

I don’t think that any of us at Smile Politely knew the extent of the aggressive weeding at the Urbana Free Library until JP Goguen contacted us about it. When I read his email, I was shocked, angry, and I knew that I had to inform everyone. What was happening at UFL went against everything I believed in as a librarian, a reader, a citizen. I remember telling Seth [Fein, Smile Politely’s Publisher] that I didn’t think that any other journalist was covering the story, so we had to, and he didn’t hesitate to sign off on it. Borrowing extensively from Goguen’s notes, I wrote the article, and we published at midnight. The next day, we all watched as librarians all over the country reacted to what was happening in our town. But, more importantly, we watched as our community joined together and fought for our library.

We didn’t publish this article to punish Deb Lissak or to get her fired, but rather to stop her from harming the library’s collection any further. Unfortunately, Ms. Lissak’s obdurate response after publication only resulted in highlighting an alarmingly hostile work environment under her leadership: poor managing skills; mistreatment, disrespect, and belittling of employees; loss of morale among staff; and a Strategic Plan that promised to make things even worse. So we covered that as well, and the outcome was unfortunate, but inevitable.

I have a superstitious belief in karma, so a public hearing and subsequent firing of a person is something of which I’ve never wanted to be a part (no matter how badly she needed to go). When I think back on this time, I remember Lissak, and I feel sorry that she had to leave her job so publicly and under so much anger. But, I also remember those empty shelves, the thousands of lost books, Maggie Taylor bravely standing up for her colleagues, and our community coming together to defend not only its library, but also those who worked there. It made me proud to live in Champaign-Urbana. (TN)

Photo by JP Gougen

2. Foreskin stories: Pt. 1

► Published February 10, 2010 / 5:00am / emma reaux

Of course, I will not tell you emma reaux’s real name, and frankly, that is the reason this story should have never been published. We don’t do “anonymous” at Smile Politely. Not anymore, anyhow. This was the final straw. Early on, we allowed a few people to bend the rules because we hadn’t yet sorted through the kind of magazine we wanted to be, or what standards we wanted to keep. This ended up causing a small internal fight, but in the end, it was decided: no bullshit bylines. If you have something to say, you have to stand by it. 

Naturally, this got a ton of looks, and continues to get tons of looks. I mean, you don’t think that the word “foreskin” isn’t a Googled a ton? The SEO here is why it’s what it is. 

That said, it’s an interesting read, nonetheless. (SF)

Photo by emma reaux

1. UPDATED: Jimmy John is a big man. With the photos to prove it.

► Published June 10, 2011 / 3:29pm / Robert Hirschfeld

We haven’t done much commenting on this since it first published. If you know about our history, you know this is the most widely discussed post we’ve ever made; it was international news within days, spawned boycotts that reached millions, and is still a discussion once every year or so, because of the viral nature of social media. It is defined that we “broke” this story, and in some ways, broke a few of relationships here in town because of it. 

Would we have posted it in 2019 in the same manner that we did back in 2011? Would we have even posted it at all? It’s a question that we discuss often. We’ve passed on some pretty gnarly shit over the course of 13 years. But we didn’t pass on this, and still stand behind it, for a lot of reasons. It is by far the most viewed article we’ve posted, by 1000%, give or take. (SF)

Photo from Johan Calitz Safaris

Seth Fein, Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Tracy Nectoux, Maddie Rehayem, and Patrick Singer contributed to this article.

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