People think that we here at the Rhino Times are rivals of the News & Record, and sometimes, on some things, I guess you could say we are.

But, now, as 2016 is winding down and the time of Christmas cheer is upon us all, I decided to do something magnanimous for our loyal competition: I decided that Christmastime was the right time to honor the N&R for another year of its fantastic journalism, by selecting the top five News & Record stories of 2016.

It may surprise some people to see me doing this, but the truth is that I’m a huge fan of the N&R and each morning one of the first things I do is eagerly go out and grab the paper from the driveway and start my morning by reading it to find out what’s going on in Greensboro and around the world.

Now, first of all, before we get to the top five stories of the year, I want to say that, given the extreme excellence exhibited day after day in the News & Record this year, it was very, very difficult to pick just five stories as the best ones; however, as painful as it was, I did.

Also, let me say to all the N&R stories that did not win this year that, in a way, you’re all winners just for making it into the fine News & Record. Also, should, for any reason, the winning story not be able to serve its duties as story of the year, the runner-up story of the year will fill in as the winner – if it comes to light, for instance, that the winning article featured nude photos when it was published.

OK, now with no further to do, start the drum roll please. Coming in fifth for the top N&R story of the year is …

Thanksgiving travel expected to be heavy.” This first story is one that just blew me away when I read it, and I still remember very well the morning I opened the N&R and saw it. I will not do it justice describing it here – you should go back and read the whole thing – but basically, in this story, which came out just before Thanksgiving, the N&R reported that there would be a lot of people on the road that holiday. My jaw about dropped when I read this: It turns out that, at Thanksgiving this year, a lot of people drove and flew to different places to visit their families. The News & Record was exactly right and how they knew that before it happened I have no idea.

This story had everything. If you had travel plans and you read this article, this article could have even changed your plans because it drove home its point so well that if you read it you might have left a day earlier because you knew the roads were going to be crowded.

As I read it, I kept thinking about all those sorry souls who don’t get the News & Record who happily piled in their cars the day before Thanksgiving and found themselves stuck in heavy traffic.

As fantastic as that story was, there were still four others that came in ahead of it on the list, including …

Many in NC plan to celebrate Halloween, HPU Poll Indicates.” This highly enlightening story came out near the end of October after the News & Record got its hands on some amazing results from a High Point University poll that discovered a lot of people in this state planned to celebrate Halloween. And sure enough, when Oct. 31 rolled around, everywhere I went I saw people celebrating Halloween. There were people dressed up in costumes and going around to houses asking for candy – all of which was predicted to a T in the N&R article.

It turned out that the paper was dead on and, with uncanny accuracy, they were essentially, once again, able to report the news before it happened.

This N&R article is included partially because it was just so amazingly helpful. For instance, if you were one of the lucky ones who read this piece when it came out, you would have known to go to the store and buy some candy to keep on hand for Halloween so you would have some for the kids when they came by to ask for it.

My only (minor) complaint about this article is that I wish it had even more information in it on this fascinating topic. It focused on people in North Carolina but it didn’t say if it is just in North Carolina where people intended to celebrate Halloween or whether it would be happening in other places too.

When I began selecting the winning stories for this year, I didn’t plan to have two High Point University poll-related stories in the top five N&R stories, but after seeing how great this next one was, there was just no way I could not include it …

HPU/N&R Poll: Voters hate tolls, increased gas taxes.” This article revealed that people do not like either toll roads or higher gas taxes. It also found that your political party didn’t make a difference; it said the majority of both Democrats and Republicans don’t like tolls or higher gas taxes.

The N&R did this story with their newsgathering partners at High Point University and I was just stunned when I read this. It was kind of unbelievable to me because I always like it when I’m on a trip and I have to pay a toll because it helps break up the drive and it also gives you a chance to speak briefly to the person making the change. The only thing I don’t like about tollbooths is that I never know how much to tip the tollbooth operator but usually they always seem pleased with the tip I hand them no matter how much it is.

And, as for people not liking higher gas taxes, that kind of blew me away too. You know, all the time I fill up my car with other drivers standing nearby at the gas islands but I never ever hear the people there complain about the gas tax. I mean, who in the world hates gas taxes? “Uh, hello!? How do you think we pay for the roads?”

Now, this next story, the runner up for story of the year, is an example of excellent journalism and investigative reporting that blew the lid off of something that has apparently been going on in secret in our area for some time right under our noses. I was stunned when I read this was going on …

Strip club workers face drug charges.” Now, I knew that drugs are a big problem in our society before I read this, but I never thought in a million years that the problem had even made its way into strip clubs. I still remember the day I opened the paper and I saw that drugs have gotten in the strip clubs. This was really surprising because I know most of those young ladies are industrious students working their way through college. Sometimes they will even show up at work in their school uniforms. And this was not just at one strip club, but several of them. So, anyway, kudos to you N&R for breaking this story.

Now those were some great articles, but the best was this one …

Man buns: Love them or leave them, the trend is going strong.” The research, the detail, the writing, the sheer gravitas – where do I begin? I have no idea in the world how they didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize for this piece but I can only assume that the Pulitzer selection process is somehow rigged against the News & Record.

There is so much to love about this story: For one thing, every other news outlet, when they do news stories on hairstyles, does them about women’s hairstyles – but one of the brilliant things about this article is that it comes from a completely different angle since it’s about men’s hairstyles.

Also, it is topical, yet historical. Did you know, for instance, that the history of man buns goes back thousands of years? Neither did I until I read this. It states, “Men have been putting their long hair up in buns at least since Buddha’s time.”

Another point they make is that you don’t have to have a lot of hair to have a man bun because men can buy fake hair extensions or even buy fake man buns. I had no idea about any of that!

I mean, this one article was worth the cost of the paper all year. I don’t want to spoil it for you – once again you have to read it for yourself – but trust me, it was a wealth of information about man buns. It would not surprise me if an expanded version of this article ended up being a best-selling book.

Anyway, so that’s it for the very best of the News & Record this year. N&R, keep up the great work, and I know that I am one reader, for one, who can’t wait to see what revelations you have in store for us for 2017.

Parisian Promenade at Bicentennial Garden