Well, 2022 happened
Some reflections, some thanks, and a look at what's next. Plus some recommendations.
On the evening of December 30, almost one year ago, I got a phone call from an editor at The Washington Post. These calls are rarely a welcome surprise. They come when there’s a tragedy nearby. That day, extreme winds carried a fire through Boulder County, destroying over 1000 homes and businesses. It was the most destructive blaze in Colorado’s history.
My first story of the year was on A1 on January 1, co-reported with Jennifer Oldham, Marisa Iati, and Emmanuel Felton. I always have mixed feelings when my byline is on the front page. I’m proud of the work, but I’ve never had a happy story on A1, and all have been close to home. It’s difficult to witness something so devastating in my community. No deaths were reported when we went to press on New Year’s. But, unfortunately, two people had died. And one year later, many families are still struggling to move forward.
I worked on a lot of challenging stories this year. I won’t bother sharing all of them, but I’d like to mention a few of the most memorable pieces here.
I spent half of 2021 corresponding with a man allegedly mixed up with his identical twin in a murder investigation. Finally, after almost two decades behind bars, he was freed in late January, pending a new trial. I published a feature about the case in The Guardian a few days after his release. Much gratitude to my editor Jessica Reed, who gracefully managed my too-long draft.
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Published in the spring was my first feature for Mountain Gazette (issue 197) about outdoor influencers and some of their fiercest critics. My work for MG, including the cover story for issue 198, was a meaningful step forward for my writing. It’s hard to find an editor willing to trust a young writer with these kinds of in-depth narratives. Thanks to editor Mike Rogge for giving me several opportunities to write longform this year with lots of freedom to do it my way.
Sadly, I was back in the field for The Post a few weeks ago, writing live feeds following the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. It was hard. But I was inspired by how Colorado Springs and the LGBTQ community came together.
“We make space for our grief, for our pain, for togetherness,” said Rabbi Iah Pillsbury in Colorado Springs. “Even as we mourn and acknowledge violence and hatred and death, we also choose life, and we choose each other.”
Deputy America editor Amanda Erickson deserves a shout-out for her constant juggling of feeds coming in from Colorado on a short-staffed Thanksgiving week.
It doesn’t feel right to do a 2022 recap without mentioning all the work that resulted in nothing. This year I did some reporting for 19 story ideas that will never be published. Most I never even pitched anywhere. That’s just how the process works. A lot of trial goes into finding good stories. Writers aren’t always transparent about that. Although I think we should be, for the benefit of newer writers and in the interest of demystifying journalism.
I’m excited to eventually share what I have lined up for next year.
Last week, I filed a draft of my investigation into an alleged sexual assault. This story has taken up most of my time these past few months. It’s a case that exposes flaws in the justice system that enable law-savvy attackers to avoid consequences for intimate partner violence.
On a vastly different note…
I’m working on a fun feature for Mountain Gazette 199 about youth rodeo. Do I know anyone else going to the National Western Stock Show in a couple of weeks?
And for Mountain Gazette 200, I plan on writing about … algae. It’s a little early to spoil that one, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Thank you for following along. It keeps me motivated, and it’s so appreciated.
Enough about me
I like to share some of my favorite reads at each year’s end. I saved so many great articles this year; I don’t think I can narrow the long list down to a true top 10 of 2022, but I tried to offer a bit of variety here. Feel free to email me if you would like more reading recommendations.
The Night Raids by Lynzy Billing in ProPublica
The Beautiful, Brutal World of Bonsai by Robert Moor in The New Yorker
How Do I Date Sober? by Madeleine Aggeler in The Small Bow
Letters to Jeb Bush by Adam Dalva in The New Yorker
The Making of a Monster by Dan Schwartz in Bicycling
Alone at the Edge of the World by Cassidy Randall in The Atavist
The Matador and Me: Coming to Terms with My Famously Ugly Lookalike by Jon Mooallem in The New York Times Magazine
The Caregivers by Kelly Loudenberg in The Atavist
The death spiral of an American family by Eli Saslow in The Washington Post
The man who paid for America’s fear by Jason Fagone in the San Francisco Chronicle