my 2020 in review
Thank you to everyone who sent me really thoughtful feedback earlier this month, it was very helpful! And I appreciated it. I hope you’re all getting some rest and recharging a bit. Seeing photos of people getting the vaccine this month has been one real bright spot for me. And surveys are finding COVID-19 vaccine acceptance is rising from what polls showed back in the summer. Which isn’t to say we’re in the clear and no longer have to worry about resistance + misinformation, but it’s an encouraging sign.
In light of making it another year around the sun as a full-time freelancer, I wanted to reflect briefly on the work I’ve done. This year I wrote 76 stories, across 19 different outlets. All journalists really became COVID reporters in 2020, and in addition to writing about vaccine production, I was also glad to cover the pandemic’s impact things ranging from schools and workers, to criminal justice and hurricane season. I also moderated two panels, and through a year-long effort with my union, the Freelance Solidarity Project, I helped raise standards for Intercept freelancers, via a strategy we hope can spread industry-wide.
In keeping with roundups I did in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015, I’m going to lift up a few stories I’m most proud of from this year.
1. The Intercept: Forced Assistance: Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, a Flawed Guardianship System Can Make it Impossible To Care for Relatives in Assisted Living Facilities
This investigation looked into how adult-legal guardianships are playing out during the pandemic, particularly for individuals trapped in unsafe nursing homes against their will. This story highlighted a subset of vulnerable residents who didn’t have to be in nursing homes, but their families were legally barred from bringing them home.
2. The American Prospect: Why Reopening Schools Has Become The Most Fraught Debate of the Pandemic
This story sought to lay out the existing research on reopening schools, the outsized influence of economist Emily Oster in the school reopening debate, and why some communities have landed so differently on the question of whether in-person learning is a tolerable risk or a dangerous gamble during the pandemic.
3. The Appeal: How the Largest Homeless Encampment in Minneapolis Came to Be
This story, which came out in July, looked at a massive homeless encampment that cropped up less than a mile from where George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, and at the same park where a veto-proof majority of the City Council pledged to dismantle the police department and rethink public safety.
4. Washington City Paper: Workers’ Compensation in D.C.: Separate and Unequal
With the help of an investigative reporting grant, I reported on a little-known disparity in workers’ compensation in D.C, where those in the public sector are entitled to fewer rights and benefits than their private-sector counterparts injured on the job. I did a follow up-piece on a hearing for a bill that would have addressed these inequities, but it unfortunately did not pass this session.
5. The Washington Monthly: How Trump Could Dismantle Workers’ Rights with Another Four Years
I participated in this smart package the Washington Monthly put together looking at what a second term for Trump could mean for a variety of different policy areas. It came out in April, and other essays looked at healthcare, immigration, civil liberties, civil rights, and the social safety net. I think it’s safe to say labor dodged a bullet.
6. Bloomberg Businessweek: National Service Has Rare Bipartisan Support But An Uncertain Future
I was glad to contribute two stories to Bloomberg Businessweek this year, and this one sought to answer a vexing question about how something can seem so popular and reasonable and cost-effective and yet still go nowhere in Congress. (Hope is not dead yet for expanded national service, but we’ll see.)
7.The Daily Beast: How The Hunt for a Coronavirus Vaccine Could Go Horribly Wrong
This came out in April, and while I’m feeling encouraged by where things stand with the vaccine, anti-vaxxers are still looking to capitalize on any relatively normal side effect as proof that vaccines can’t and shouldn’t be trusted. It’s not that we shouldn’t take side effects seriously, but how we react to them matters, as there’s an eager and organized movement waiting to delegitimize vaccination writ large.
8. New Republic: The Desperate Last Days of Local News
I wrote this essay on why, if we believe journalism is essential to democracy, like the founding leaders of our country did, then we need to help support it in areas where the free market won’t. Just like we do for universal mail delivery.
9. The Intercept: Elizabeth Warren’s Little-Known History In an Obscure but Influential Legal Organization
I know primary campaign reporting feels like something from another dimension at this point but I was glad to report this story on Warren’s previously unexplored time with the American Law Institute, an organization she was involved with for decades, including rising up its leadership ranks to VP.
10. The American Prospect: Progressives Help Progressives— Across City Lines
In this early January feature I profiled a network of left-leaning city council-members, involved in a national coalition called Local Progress. The group itself isn’t super well-known, but it’s behind some most of the high-profile local reforms you’ve probably heard about over the last five years, ranging from paid sick leave to fair scheduling. In terms of infrastructure-building for the progressive movement, Local Progress I think is quite valuable to understand.
Thank you so much for reading and supporting this work. I am hopeful that 2021 will be a better year, and I wish you all a very happy and safe end to this one!