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KVPR’s most-read stories of 2023

The sun sets over a flooded farm on Tulare Lake, in Kings County, California.
Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado
The sun sets over a flooded farm on Tulare Lake, in Kings County, California.

FRESNO, Calif. – 2023 started off on a wet note – and seems likely to end on one, too.

The KVPR newsroom was consumed with flood coverage as a series of storms hit California earlier this year and dumped historic amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada, washed out homes in small communities and brought back an ancient lake in the middle of Kings County.

So it’s no surprise our top story this year was reported from the city of Corcoran, which sits just near the shore of Tulare Lake. It came close to facing a flood disaster if not for levee reinforcement and a bit of engineering to move water away from the city.

You can revisit Joshua Yeager’s story here.

All the talk of water begged the question: where does it all come from? Well, aside from the obvious answer (the sky – right?), reporter Kerry Klein put together a smart explainer that really tells us how water moves in the San Joaquin Valley.

Did you know most of the rivers in the southern part of the Valley do not flow to the ocean? Instead, most drain right here in the Valley, but the water goes through many different steps after it starts flowing down the mountains.

You can read up more on this here.

Moving from water to politics, this was a long year for Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. He began the year rallying colleagues to vote him House Speaker – and after 15 ballots, he finally succeeded. Just imagine that, someone from the Valley second in line to the presidency of the United States.

But after just nine months on the job, McCarthy was booted from the speakership. This month, he resigned his seat, ending a 17-year career in Congress.

With McCarthy out, the race to replace him is in full swing. Reporter Joshua Yeager and Esther Quintanilla documented the reaction from the day McCarthy announced he would step down.

You can see that story here.

One of McCarthy’s last acts in Congress included releasing a report into an illegal biolab discovered in the small city of Reedley, in Fresno County. McCarthy sits on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party – which launched an investigation into the lab because its owner was a Chinese citizen whose companies were “affiliated with” the Chinese government.

There were various diseases and chemicals inside the lab and questionable amounts of money flowing to the company, the committee found.

This is one of the wilder stories of the year – and that’s why we summed it up in a timeline to understand just how exactly this all began.

You can see that timeline here.

From an illegal biolab to a legitimate hospital – that nobody could access.

That was the reality this year for residents in Madera County who went all year without a hospital because leaders could no longer keep its doors open for financial reasons. Last December, a deal to purchase the hospital fell through and the hospital soon filed for bankruptcy.

It’s unclear what 2024 has in store for Madera Community Hospital, but a new deal – the second one since closing – was announced to potentially reopen the hospital and bring much-needed care to the rural county.

Our final most-read piece this year was a story from Soreath Hok, who went inside the hospital this spring as it sat empty and closed. We heard straight from the hospital’s CEO about what the closure means.

Listen to that story here.

And these were the five most-read stories of 2023 from KVPR. There are many more stories that drove the conversation this year, and you can find those here. We hope you follow us into the new year, here, on social media and on-air.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is KVPR's News Director. Prior to joining the station's news department in 2022, he was a reporter for PBS NewsHour and The Fresno Bee.