Slate Fare

The Most Popular Slate Stories of 2017

The best part: It’s not too late to read them.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by iStock.

Slate has published more than 11,000 articles in 2017. Determining the 10 most popular wasn’t easy. When we do this roundup every year, we inevitably debate the same question: What’s the best way to determine popularity? We measure our traffic in many ways. We look at how many visitors and page views each story gets and how readers are finding our stories (Facebook or Google? Twitter or our home page?). But the main metric we look at these days is engaged time. Just clicking to a story doesn’t mean quite as much as it used to. We’re more concerned with what stories keep your attention.


In that spirit, we decided to base our most popular list this year on average engaged time, which is simply how long readers (on average) stayed active on the article. These stories mostly weren’t viral hits on Facebook. But they were stories that hundreds of thousands of people clicked on and couldn’t stop reading.


We never could get too far away from the news cycle this year, and this list reflects it. Some of our most popular stories were about sexual harassment, immigration, and the Women’s March. But readers also were drawn to stories about ESP, airline jobs, and a murder in Alabama. We hope you’ll take this as a chance to catch up on some of the best writing you may have missed during a busy year.


1. “I Always Felt Weird Around Him After That”
Fifty-six people shared stories of the “gray area” sexual encounters they can’t forget—and grappled with what harassment means to them.
By Christina Cauterucci, Nov. 17

2. Daryl Bem Proved ESP Is Real
Which means science is broken.
By Daniel Engber, May 17

3. Who Gets to Live in Fremont, Nebraska?
A new Costco plant could save the town—by bringing hundreds of immigrants to the only place in America that passed a law to keep them out.
By Henry Grabar, Dec. 6

4. America’s Gun Fantasy
Three percent of the nation owns half the firearms—to prepare for an ultraviolent showdown that exists only in their imagination.
By Kurt Andersen, Oct. 5


5. The Best, Nastiest Signs From the Women’s March on Washington
Thousands descended on the capital the day after President Trump’s inauguration, and they came armed with clever signs.
By Forrest Wickman, Jan. 21

6. James Bailey Is a Liar. Is He a Murderer?
A mysterious cache of documents could prove that a man serving a life sentence for homicide was framed by corrupt Alabama authorities—if the documents, and the man, can be believed.
By Leon Neyfakh, Feb. 7

7. The Daily Show
Every day, millions of Americans tune in to see Sean Spicer and the White House press corps face off. What are we hoping to see?
By Seth Stevenson, April 10


8. What Needs to Change so That Women Don’t Feel Crappy About Sex They Have in College
An interview with Vanessa Grigoriadis on her new book.
By Isaac Chotiner, Sept. 5


9. Death on the Hippie Trail
A young man’s mysterious disappearance in the Himalayas.
By Ariel Sophia Bardi, Jan. 2

10. How We Ruined Airline Jobs
Working in aviation has lost its glamor. It happened because the law gave carriers every advantage over their workforces—and because we demanded lower airfare.
By Jeff Friedrich, Sept. 7


Honorable Mentions

The Price of Admission
Asians shouldn’t have to hide their heritage when applying to college. I did—and I’ll always regret it.
By Aaron Mak, Dec. 5

Springtime for the Confederacy
At Dolly Parton’s Civil War–themed dinner theater, audiences root for the North or the South. I saw it twice, because you gotta see both sides.
By Aisha Harris, Aug. 24


Could Father Mychal Judge Be the First Gay Saint?
Inside the fractious campaign to canonize the 9/11 icon.
By Ruth Graham, Sept. 11

Every Single Sex Scene on Girls, Ranked by How Girls It Was
A highly intensive, very scientific project.
By Heather Schwedel, Feb. 16

He Made Us All Victims and Accomplices
For 20 years, I’ve felt it was too early to speak up about Judge Alex Kozinski. Now I fear it’s too late.
By Dahlia Lithwick, Dec. 13

Fox News Is Losing Its Grip
The network is desperately downplaying the biggest political drama of our time—and viewers are tuning out.
By Will Oremus, May 25

The Week the World Almost Ended
In 1983, the U.S. simulated a nuclear war with Russia—and narrowly avoided starting a real one. We might not be so lucky next time.
By Nate Jones and J. Peter Scoblic, April 13