We’re more than halfway through our project of reading 366 feature stories in 366 days in 2020. It’s been a helluva ride so far — through a pandemic, protests, Mike Gundy. But, here’s to better days ahead.
Now, on to our July stories… Best reads get a ⭐.
⭐190.) You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams in The New York Times
“I have rape-colored skin.”
That’s the opening sentence of this powerful essay, and it might be one of the most important works of the current societal moment. An amazing read.
191.) Why We Need ‘Hamilton’ Now More Than Ever by Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone
Watched “Hamilton” for the first time over the weekend and it belongs in that pantheon of things that were so hyped in advance that there seemed no way for them to live up to the billing, and yet somehow they managed to exceed expectations. Everything in this piece is true — but there’ve been about a million “Hamilton” think pieces in the past week and there could be a million more. There’s just so much to unpack.
192.) The Republican Choice by Clare Malone for FiveThirtyEight
Solid accounting of how the Republican party evolved over generations to what it is now.
193.) The Mysterious Deaths of 6 Historical Figures by Bess Lovejoy for Mental Floss
194.) How Dollar Stores Became Magnets for Crime and Killing by Alec MacGillis for ProPublica
⭐195.) The Cursed Platoon by Greg Jaffe in The Washington Post
Horrifying. This is terrifically reported, and like another of Jaffe’s recent pieces I highlighted, it’s impossible not to be caught up emotionally in the story. Jaffe is this year’s journalism MVP frontrunner at the moment.
196.) The Master Thief by Zeke Faux in Bloomberg
Nothing will ever be more Boston than this story.
197.) Airplane! Is Considered One of the Best Comedies of All Time. But 40 Years Ago No One Saw it Coming. by Chris Nashawaty for Esquire
⭐198.) The Hero of Goodall Park: Inside a true-crime drama 50 years in the making by Tom Junod for ESPN.com
There’s a reason Tom Junod is one of the best writers alive. This piece is so damn good, with so many twists and turns, a genuinely human story to the very core. Just terrific.
199.) The Remaking of Comedy Central by Josef Adalian for Vulture
200.) The Day the Dinosaurs Died by Douglas Preston for The New Yorker
There are sections that feel like a bit of a slog here if you’re not super into the subject matter, but the big-picture takeaway is riveting and highly worth the read.
201.) Trump’s America Is Slipping Away by Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic
202.) As Mayor of Minneapolis, I Saw How White Liberals Block Change by Betsy Hodges in The New York Times
203.) How rich are the rich? If only you knew. by Gil B. Manzon Jr. for BBC
204.) It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like? by David Leonhardt in The New York Times
205.) ‘We Are the World’: Inside Pop Music’s Most Famous All-Nighterby Ryan D’Agostino for Esquire
⭐206.) What Happened In Bethel, Ohio? by Anne Helen Petersen for Buzz Feed
This is a terrific piece because, while it clearly asks you to sympathize with one side of the argument, it gives legitimate weight to understanding the other side, too. The reporting is fantastic, too. Tons of sources always equates to a better piece.
207.) Trump, Twitter, Facebook, and the future of online speech by Anna Wiener in The New Yorker
Social media feels a lot like Covid — everyone agrees it’s bad, everyone agrees a fix is needed, and no one has any real idea of what happens next.
208.) Portland Place couple who confronted protesters have a long history of not backing down by Jeremy Kohler in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
⭐209.) The man in the iron lung by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie in The Guardian
Loved this story. My only real awareness of iron lungs was from Big Lebowski. This was a terrific, personal story. Highly recommend.
210.) Pure Moods, Vol. 1 by Mina Tavakoli for Pitchfork
What should be a trite, nostalgic album review has some real depth to it. Worth the read – if not a listen.
211.) The Anti-Semitism We Didn’t Seeby Jamele Hill in The Atlantic
212.) The bill is coming due for those who sold their souls to Trump by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post
213.) A New Understanding of Herd Immunity by James Hamblin in The Atlantic
214.) Alex Trebek Is Still in the Game by Alexandra Alter for The New York Times
215.) The Last Reporter in Town Had One Big Question for His Rich Bossby Dan Barry for The New York Times
216.) Cristin Milioti Is Ready for Her Reset by David Fear in Rolling Stone
Celebrity profilers are at a real loss during the pandemic. Doing interviews via Zoom means you can’t write any of the usual tropes about where you had lunch with the celeb for the interview. I like Cristin Milioti and I enjoyed “Palm Springs” but this interview feels like taking a 20 minute Zoom call — probably Milioti’s 10th in a row — and extrapolating a life’s story from it.
217.) The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism by Osita Nwanevu for The New Republic
When people who hate liberals think of liberalism, this is what they think about. I’m not sure I blame them. Which leads to our next story…
218.) They wanted to hear their readers’ opinions. Then the proslavery guy wrote a letter to the editor. by Elahe Izadi in The Washington Post
This debate about cancel culture and free speech and where to draw the line… it feels to me like we’re making it so much more difficult than it needs to be. Should Tom Cotton’s editorial have run in the New York Times? I say sure, he’s a powerful figure whose views impact the world — whether we hear them or not. It’s a form of transparency, and as we’ve seen the federal government essentially do exactly what Cotton recommended in Portland, Oregon this week, aren’t we better off having been aware of the idea’s genesis? Meanwhile, when an obvious troll who has no public standing writes a letter to the editor to argue in favor of slavery… yeah, you can go ahead and ignore that. You’re not “showing all points of view.” You’re legitimizing a lunatic. Which brings us to our next story…
219.) How a Famous Harvard Professor Became a Target Over His Tweets by Michael Powell in The New York Times
I’m incredibly ambivalent about cancel culture. There are things that are said that warrant a firm and decisive rebuke. The First Amendment guarantees your right to speak, but it does not protect you from the repercussions of that speech. On the other hand, shouting down anyone who offers a legitimately fair alternative viewpoint is a massive disservice to dialogue in this country. Arguing in good faith is at the heart of our democracy, but we’ve started conflating bad-faith trolling and legitimately worthwhile alternative viewpoints. Aren’t we smart enough to decipher between the two?
220.) How Trump Closed Down the Schools by David A. Graham in The Atlantic
221.) How Sesame Street’s Mr. Noodle Teaches Kids, Annoys Grown-ups by Claire Zulkey in New York Magazine
Damn you, Mr. Noodle!
222.) Space Oddity by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson in The Washington Post
This is a really fun piece about a really strange bit of Americana.
223.) What matters most to Dabo Swinney? Black Clemson players, past and future, want to know. by Kent Babb in The Washington Post
Perhaps I’m not the demo this story was aimed at, since I obviously followed the story closely already. But there was nothing new in here. This needed, in my opinion, a lot more sourcing. It suffers from the same thing too many stories do, what amounts to the “Man on the Street” problem. They find one recruit’s mother and a couple of one-off, tangentially related quotes from former players and none of it adds up to anything real. Compare it to this piece on Tommy Tuberville, which also is thin in terms of sourcing, but at least their sources actually SAY something.
224.) Inside OutKick, the Right-Wing Sports Site Pushing COVID Trutherism by Robert Silverman in The Daily Beast
Why do I keep reading stories about Clay Travis? I’m part of the problem. Remember the “Simpsons” Halloween episode where the advertisements come to life and destroy the city, and the only way to stop them is to stop giving them attention? I think that might be the case with Trumpism, too.
225.) He’s 83, She’s 84, and They Model Other People’s Forgotten Laundry by Chris Horton for The New York Times
226.) Inside the Violent and Misogynistic World of Roy Den Hollander by Nicole Hong, Mihir Zaveri and William K. Rashbaum in The New York Times
227.) R.I.P. Cable TV: Why Hollywood Is Slowly Killing Its Biggest Moneymaker by Michael Scheider and Kate Aurthur in Variety
This was the opposite of the Dabo story. This is too much sourcing. No need to get every voice you talked to into a story. Nix the repetitive stuff and focus on what your reader should know.
Meanwhile, this quote was frustrating:
“It seems ugly and messy and not fully baked to chase something much smaller with only one revenue stream,” she says. “Advertisers still need to advertise! Do you want to put yourself in the place that newspapers found themselves, with no advertising and hardly any subscribers? What signal do you want to send your customers if you completely defund and make unattractive the place you get half your money?”
Yeah, pretty much.
⭐228.) The worst-case scenario by Hannah Dreler in The Washington Post
This is just a terrific bit of reporting and narrative storytelling. I’d expect this story, about a cop, fresh off de-escalation training and thrown into a combustable situation, to be on most “best of” lists at the end of the year.
229.) Iowa football and Kirk Ferentz see Black players speak out on program’s racial inequities by Adam Rittenberg and Michele Steele for ESPN
Terrific and thorough reporting by my pal Adam for a story very indicative of this moment in time in which overt racism is only part of the story.