COVID’s most-viewed local news stories from 2021 may not be the ones you’d expect

A cursed summer camp, a Dorchester doughnut shop, an unfortunate 'Jeopardy!' contestant, and a local coffee lawsuit were among the unusual viral topics this year.

Boston 25's Sara Underwood, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, "Jeopardy!" contestant Kelly Donohue, and former Mayor Marty Walsh all figured into viral stories in 2021. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe; AP Photo/Patrick Semansky; Screenshot; Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP

Say what you want about 2021, it’s been anything but a slow news year here in Boston. We of course had the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and all that entailed: the vaccine rollout, the on-again, off-again mask advisories, the rise of the variants

Plus we had a historic mayoral election after Marty Walsh departed for D.C.; a much-debated promotion for Rachael Rollins; some disturbing examples of racism and antisemitism in our public schools; the usual MBTA troubles (and some unusual ones); oh, and an armed highway standoff.

But the funny thing about the internet is that you never know which stories will resonate the most with the general public on any given day. Hence the below list, featuring the 10 most-viewed local news stories on in 2021, in order of actual views by readers. Remember, there’s no accounting for taste.


1) “New Hampshire summer camp sends children home after 6 unruly days” In retrospect, Mia McCarthy’s viral story about a New Hampshire summer camp from this past July acts as sort of a microcosm for the not-quite-post-pandemic world at large: Hampered by staff shortages and supply chain issues, a bad time was had by all. “We have been in tears, bored, and devastated,” one camper wrote home. You and us both, kid. 

Looking Back:

2) “What to know about the COVID-19 vaccination effort in Mass. this week” Information on how to get yourself vaccinated in Massachusetts was coming so fast and furious this past spring that wound up providing a series of live updates for readers seeking the jab. Eventually, of course, it became as easy as walking into your neighborhood CVS to heed science’s call, if you believe in that sort of thing.

3) “Boston 25 News anchor Sara Underwood is stepping away from her job” It seems like Boston’s media landscape is ever-shifting, but this move, reported by Kevin Slane in August, seemed to strike a particular nerve with readers — perhaps because Underwood was making the choice to leave Boston 25 to spend more quality time with family, something bound to resonate in these pandemic-addled times.


4) “Here’s what we know about the former UMass Memorial Health Care employee who was reportedly in D.C. before the Capitol siege” One of several local stories to stem from last January’s violence at the Capitol in Washington, this one featured a viral family squabble involving a “liberal lesbian” daughter calling out her conservative mom who got caught up in the D.C. fracas.

5) “Marty Walsh name-dropped a Boston donut shop during his D.C. hearing. Its owner couldn’t care less.” What was even better than then-Mayor Marty Walsh mentioning Doughboy Donuts & Deli during the Senate hearing on his nomination for U.S. secretary of labor last February was the bemused reaction of the shop’s owner, Phyllis Fandel, which was just so Boston. 

6) “A Massachusetts man thinks Market Basket’s coffee is grounds for a lawsuit” Any story that lets writer Nik DeCosta-Klipa use the line, “Market Basket says it’s the lawsuit, as opposed to their coffee, that lacks grounds,” is OK in our book. And apparently readers agreed.

7) “Panic buttons in Ayanna Pressley’s office had been ‘torn out’ before the Capitol riot, chief of staff says” This still-unsolved mystery about vandalism in Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s D.C. office prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection was the second of three Capitol riot-related stories on our list. 


8) “Winthrop man denies making racist hand gesture on ‘Jeopardy!’ after 500-plus former contestants sign open letter” It appears likely that it was entirely accidental when Kelly Donohue  flashed an apparent white supremacist gesture while a contestant on “Jeopardy!” last April, but that didn’t stop the incident from generating an online kerfuffle involving actual former contestants. 

9) “BU professor dies after falling through staircase across from JFK/UMass MBTA station” The tragic death of David K. Jones of Milton, as reported by’s Arianna MacNeill last September, led to the eventual dismantling of the faulty staircase, and questions about exactly who is responsible for maintaining such structures.

10) “A Cape Cod restaurant owner was at the Trump riot and called it ‘kind of fun.’ Then he apologized.” Oops. (In his defense, it took a while for it to become clear how serious the events of the day were — some people still don’t seem to have figured it out.)

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