Revealed: 2020’s most social local news stories in the UK

It’s been a year like no other — how many times you seen that written (or written it yourself) in recent weeks? But there was one constant from previous years, which reassures and concerns in equal measure.

Social media platforms once again provided a way for journalists to get their news to large numbers of people, and also empowered people to share news which mattered to them widely, too.

As we know, it’s not as Utopian as it sounds — online abuse of journalists, especially on social media, is a huge issue which publishers are battling to combat, and which requires far greater support from the social media networks who continue to tolerate such abuse on their platforms.

Misinformation can also spread like wildfire via social media — and 2020 demonstrated time and again that there are plenty of people on social media platforms who believe if they shout at journalists loud enough, then everyone really will believe that black is white, or that the loser of the US elections actually won it.

But social media platforms, particularly Facebook, remain an essential source of news for millions of people in the UK. And they also provide a way for local news to reach large audiences, and find new, engaged readers.

Today, Behind Local News presents the 2020 ‘Most social from local’ — a list of 30 stories which generated the highest number of interactions across social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Reddit and Pinterest.

We’ve used multiple sources to collate this list, and analysed more than 100 regional publications across the UK.

For a year which was dominated by Coronavirus, it’s fascinating to see which stories about lockdowns really resonated with readers — and the sheer number of popular stories which had nothing to do with the virus at all…

30. Acid attack pony treated in Yorkshire named Rescue Animal of the Year — YorkshireLive (153k interactions) (December 14)

A pony horrifically disfigured in a suspected acid attack has been named as Rescue Animal of the Year after receiving a “world first” operation to heal its burnt face.

Cinders was eight months old when she was found in 2018 wandering in agony in Chesterfield with horrific burns to her face that made her unable to open her eyes.

She was treated for at Rainbow Equine Hospital in Malton, North Yorkshire, and had pioneering surgery using fish skin in Wakefield.

29. Edinburgh Castle lit up to mark end of homosexual ban in armed forces — EdinburghLive (155k interactions) (January 13)

Edinburgh Castle joined military landmarks around the country as they were lit up to mark 20 years since the ban on gay troops serving in the armed forces was lifted.

Until 12 January 2000, lesbian, gay and bisexual people were not allowed to serve in the British Army, RAF, or the Royal Navy.

While many still signed up, they faced an investigation and dishonourable discharge if the military found out.

28. 14-year-old girl who went viral in her fight against cancer has died — EssexLive (166k interactions) (February 16)

Lily Wythe, the 14-year-old girl who went viral in her fight against brain cancer, has sadly died.

Lily was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour last September (2019).

A campaign was set up by her best friend at school, also called Lillie, and her parents called One Pound Warriors in an attempt to raise money to get Lily to the US for potentially life-saving treatment.

27. Shorter hairstyles will help stop spread of Covid, say hairdressers — WalesOnline (166k interactions) (June 14)

Hairdressers need to revive the “hygienic-yet-trendy” bob cut and ditch blow drys to survive coronavirus restrictions threatening to decimate the sector, say industry leaders.

Covid-19 is reviving the iconic precision bob cut as the “safe” alternative to “lengthy” blow drys for longer locks, according to Tim Hartley, a former director at Vidal Sassoon.

The world-renowned hairdresser fears that the coronavirus is more likely to spread in long, wavy hair.

26. Man with rucksack of cannabis tells police ‘I’m buying in bulk due to lockdown’ — NottinghamshireLive (169 interactions) (April 4)

Police swoop in on a suspicious man with a green rucksack strapped to the front of his body.

CCTV has picked him up and the Covid-19 team are deployed to Gritley Mews in The Meadows to get a closer look.

He is stopped and his bag is searched, where a large amount of cannabis is discovered in a plastic sack.

He tells officers: “I’m buying in bulk because you can’t get out because of the lockdown.”

25. ‘We will arrest your kids’: Yorkshire police warning over groups of ASB youths ignoring coronavirus advice — Yorkshire Evening Post (169k interactions) (March 21)

North Yorkshire Police on Friday night had reports of a group of ’30 to 40' kids causing antisocial behaviour.

The force pleaded with parents to ‘act responsibly’ and enforce government advice on social distancing, adding ‘NPT will arrest your kids’.

24. Surge in people dumping their pets over coronavirus worries — Manchester Evening News (171k interactions) (March 10)

A pet shop manager says a surge in the number of animals dumped on their doorstep is down to people worried their pets could give them coronavirus.

Over the last week, seven rabbits have been left at Viper and Vine, based on Bury New Road, Prestwich , along with a snake and two geckos.

The most recent addition was a tiny bunny — thought to be just weeks old — which was left at the front door during mid-morning while the shop was open.

23. Six month old baby with coronavirus fights for her life at Alder Hey — Liverpool Echo (171k interactions) (April 13)

A ‘miracle baby’ is currently on an oxygen machine as she battles coronavirus.

Six-month-old Erin Bates, who was born with with a heart condition and weighed only 5lbs 4oz, is now fighting for her life, once again.

After previously undergoing open heart surgery and enduring problems with her windpipe, it looked like little Erin stood a good chance of recovery.

22. Dominic Cummings’ lockdown cottage IS liable for council tax, but charges worth over — £30,000 will NOT be backdated — Northern Echo (172k interaction) (October 13)

DOMINIC Cummings and his family ARE liable to pay council tax on a further two properties at their North-East farm, but charges will NOT be backdated to when they were built. It means that years of unpaid taxes, potentially between £30,000 and £50,000, on two homes built in breach of planning laws will be written off.

21. Robert the Bruce statue at Bannockburn daubed with Black Lives Matter graffiti — The Scotsman (175k interactions) (June 12)

The statue of King Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn has been graffitied with messages calling for the monument to be removed.

Writing sprayed onto the stone rotunda at the site near Stirling reads: “Robert was a racist, bring down the statue.”

20. Kent Spitfire flypast offered to heroic Captain Tom Moore — KentLive (185k interactions) (April 16)

Captain Tom Moore has had a busy week raising more than £14 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden.

And there are now calls for the 99-year-old to have a 100th birthday Spitfire flypast on April 30.

The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar has taken to Facebook to thank Captain Tom for his services and extend an invitation for the Second World War veteran to visit the site and have a ride in a Spitfir

19. Having sex with someone you don’t live with is illegal from today — Manchester Evening News (192k interactions) (June 1)

Thanks to new lockdown rules, from today, anybody caught having sex at home with somebody who doesn’t live there could land themselves with a criminal record.

18. Parents can now be arrested if kids break Covid lockdown rules — Liverpool Echo (208k interactions) (March 23)

People breaking coronavirus lockdown laws in the UK can now be hit with £60 fines or arrested.

17. Man went to capture Snowdon’s first sunrise of 2020 and caught rare sight — WalesOnline (223k interactions) (January 3)

Hikers who scaled Snowdon hoping to watch the first sunrise of 2020 were treated to a rare and “majestical” phenomenon on Wednesday.

Rhys Pleming, of Gwynedd, and his friend Dale, woke up around 5am to scale Wales’ highest peak and snap a few pictures of the first morning of the decade.

16. Holes drilled in tyres as six ambulances attacked — KentOnline (231k interactions) (March 22)

Paramedics on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus arrived at work to find holes drilled in the tyres of six ambulances.

15. Spiders ‘the size of your hand’ set to invade homes over next few weeks — LincolnshireLive (244k interactions) (August 28)

People across the UK are being warned not to panic as spiders across the country get set to find their way into homes in the coming weeks. Male house spiders, which can grow to have a leg span of 10cm, will be a lot more noticeable in people’s homes over the next month or so.

14. Meet Trevor — the 77-year-old who fought off an armed robber — WalesOnline (247k interactions) (February 19)

This is the pensioner who went viral after CCTV footage emerged of him bravely fighting off an armed mugger who tried to rob him at a supermarket cash point. Former Cardiff bus driver Trevor Weston, 77, had made an early morning stop at the Sainsbury’s store on Colchester Avenue on Monday to get money for his daily newspapers when he was approached from behind by a man wearing a hi-vis jacket and a baseball cap.

13. McDonald’s given the green light to reopen drive-thrus in the UK — Manchester Evening News (254k interactions) (May 11)

With McDonald's set to reopen fifteen of its stores for delivery on Wednesday, a government minister has now confirmed that could be "well possible" for the fast food chain to open its drive thrus.

12. Bristol dad sets up Dudes & Dogs walking group to help men open up — BristolLive (267k interactions) (January 12)

A Bristol dad has set up a dog walking group to help men open up about their emotions. Rob Osman has in the past struggled with anxiety and depression and set up Dudes & Dogs to create a space where men could relax and talk about how they feel.

11. Gravesend Gurdwara and Khalsa Aid delivers hundreds of curries to lorries stranded in Kent — KentOnline (268k interactions) (December 22)

The Sikh community has rallied together to make sure truckers, currently stuck due to the border closure, don’t go hungry. More than 800 free hot meals were made this afternoon by the Gravesend Gurdwara who turned around the massive order in just under three hours.

10. David Walliams releases 30 free audio stories for school children — Manchester Evening News (292k interactions) (March 24)

David Walliams

David Walliams has announced that he will be releasing 30 free audio stories to help entertain school children during the coronavirus crisis.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge tweeted to his followers that one story a day will be available every day for the next 30 days for free.

9. ‘Fit and healthy’ staff nurse fighting for life with coronavirus — BirminghamLive (304k interactions) (March 22)

A ‘fit and healthy’ Walsall staff nurse is fighting for her life in hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus, her devastated family has said.

Areema Nasreen, a mum-of-three, tested positive for the virus after developing a soaring temperature, body aches and a cough.

8. Cops vow to report parents to social services for letting kids out in lockdown — BirminghamLive (306k interactions) (March 26)

Police have warned parents over letting their children roam free outside of school amid the coronavirus lockdown.

7. Special plea to find foster home keeping 4 siblings together — LancsLive (327k interactions) (August 3)

A special plea has been made to find a loving foster home keeping three brothers and their sister together. Lancashire County Council has launched the appeal to keep brothers Harry aged 15, Arlo aged 12, Flynn aged eight and their sister Lilly aged six together.

6. Baby graves destroyed by ‘disgusting’ vandals in Plymouth — PlymouthLive (408k interactions) (May 4)

A number of graves belonging to babies and young children have reportedly been targeted by mindless vandals over the weekend. Those responsible allegedly entered Ford Park Cemetery in Plymouth and destroyed ornaments, written thoughts and prayer and flowers on the baby graves

5. CCTV released after swans with eggs shot and killed in Leeds lake — Yorkshire Evening Post (433k interactions) (June 11)

Police have released CCTV of men they want to speak to after two swans with five eggs were shot and killed in a Leeds lake.

4. Hundreds gather in Hyde Park in mass protest against the lockdown — MyLondon (480k interactions) (May 16)

Protestors gather in Hyde Park

Hundreds of people have gathered in Hyde Park in a mass protest against the coronavirus lockdown.

3. Urgent warning for those with coronavirus symptoms NOT to take ibuprofen — Manchester Evening News (486k interactions) (March 16)

People suffering with coronavirus are being warned not to take ibuprofen to treat symptoms.

2. Edinburgh Pride: Scotland to become first nation in the world to put LGBTQ history on curriculum — EdinburghLive (June 16)

Every year June is marked as Pride month across the world — millions take part in the celebrations, which usually involves musical performances and special events, along with marches in cities such as here in Edinburgh.Due to the pandemic things will be looking a little bit different this year — but there’s still good news out there.

Next year Scotland will become the first nation IN THE WORLD to teach LGBTQ history in schools.

  1. Edinburgh shop goes viral giving elderly free ‘coronavirus packs’ — EdinburghLive (2.1m interactions) (March 14)

A convenience store in Edinburgh has gone viral after giving away “coronavirus packs” to the elderly for free.

Thanks very much for reading, and here’s to an equally successful 2021!

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The stories behind the stories, from the regional press in the UK

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