Best of 2018

Meet our staff as we share what we thought was some of the best writing and coverage of the year.

To suggest links for The Region, email info@postindustrial.com

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Matt Stroud

Editor-in-chief & Publisher

Carmen Gentile

Editor-at-large

Annie Siebert

Managing Editor

Maria Rose

Associate Editor

 

Matt Stroud

Editor-in-chief & Publisher

 

Carmen Gentile

Editor-at-large

 

Annie Siebert

Managing Editor

 

Maria Rose

Associate Editor

 

Matt Stroud

Editor-in-chief & Publisher

 

Carmen Gentile

Editor-at-large

 

Annie Siebert

Managing Editor

 

Maria Rose

Associate Editor

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

A Kingdom from Dust

By Mark Arax // Photo by Trent Davis Bailey / The California Sunday Magazine

~

The vast majority of detailed, in-depth reporting in the United States emerges from legacy publications everyone’s heard of — The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, Vanity Fair. A few years back, though, new, regional publications started to emerge with a mission to do thorough investigative reporting outside the hallowed halls of these legacy outlets. Among the best of these is California Sunday Magazine, which produced the best piece of narrative journalism I read this year, “A kingdom from dust,” by Mark Arax. A profile of the biggest farmer in the U.S. — and the largest water user, by far, in the Western U.S. — the piece is lush portrait, with haunting photographs, of one man’s farming empire, and how it overtook entire towns, shaped how Californians eat, and tried to hide in plain sight as the Golden State faced the worst drought in its history. 

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

Narcotica

By Christopher Moraff and Zachary Seigel

~

One of my favorite reporters in America right now is Christopher Moraff, a Philadelphia-based freelancer covering opioids from the perspective of people living on Philadelphia’s streets. For the last couple years, he’s been tracking which drugs end up in whose hands, and what the effects of nanny-state policies — such as shutting down ad hoc drug user injection sites — have had on a community of people struggling with addiction. Among his recent journalistic feats is a street-level study in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood finding that, when folks are sold heroin, it’s frequently nothing but illicit, dangerous fentanyl combined with filler such as lactose. That could explain why West Kensington has one of the highest rates of overdoses in Philly. Moraff alone does this kind of necessary, ground-level reporting, and he does it as a freelancer, writing for outlets such as Filter and The Daily Beast, and talking about what he sees on his podcast, Narcotica. Follow him on Twitter @cmoraff to keep tabs on his important work. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

The men who didn’t disappear

By Brittany Hailer // PublicSource

~

This piece is a heartfelt, stark account of the grim realities of drug abuse and its criminal trappings. Two brothers and their family are the center of an addiction and crime saga spanning several decades. It also lays bare the the dramatic difference in drug-related hardships as it pertains to race. As reported in the story, “the drug death rate is increasing the fastest for black people ages 45 to 64.” Despite these challenges, there are moments of redemption and escape that will give readers a glimmer of hope. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

Left Behind America

By Shimon Dotan // PBS Frontline and ProPublica

~

PBS Frontline and ProPublica teamed up to produce this look at the grim economic disparity in the postindustrial city of Dayton, Ohio. This beautifully shot and expertly edited feature-length documentary starts on a frigid day in a desolate part of suburban Dayton. The city went for Hillary in 2016. But the surrounding county, blighted and impoverished, cast their ballots for Trump. Dayton is a place where the poverty rate is three times higher than the national average, sending large swaths of the population reeling toward drug addiction and chronic despair. It’s a must-watch for those still asking, how can we be so divided?

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

The weasel, twelve monkeys and the shrub

By David Foster Wallace // Rolling Stone

~

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t consume much longform journalism in 2018. I canceled my New Yorker subscription in March, when my son was born, and told them I’d re-subscribe in 18 years. Keeping up with the daily news has been challenging enough; I rarely sit down to read 20,0oo+ words. But when Arizona Senator John McCain died in August, I stumbled across a David Foster Wallace essay written 18 years ago, when McCain was running for president. It’s an entertaining read, to be sure, but it’s also relevant as we inch ever closer to yet another presidential campaign, especially for states won by Trump in 2016. Rust Belt denizens can expect to be profiled by journalists from all over the world, and a healthy dose of skepticism of prognostications, characterizations, and promises — well-described by Wallace — will be warranted in the next two years. 

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

ZigZag

By Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant // Stable Genius Productions

~

This podcast focuses on technology, journalism, being a mother while launching a business, and … the blockchain. It’s not as unfocused as I just made it sound. The “Note to Self” alums created an informative narrative podcast that, in addition to being entertaining, successfully explained exactly what the blockchain actually is. Oh, and don’t miss the impressive and beautiful data visualizations via Instagram. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Welcome to the age of climate migration

By Jeff Goodell // Rolling Stone

~

Conversation around immigration and shifting population patterns drives much of our national discourse, but one perspective I hoped to see more of is climate migration. Hurricanes and fires, droughts and heat waves dominate national news coverage, but how it affects those forced to relocate — in other words, find and build new homes as individuals and families displaced from their communities — has been generally overlooked. Migration is typically understood as an international phenomenon, but movement within a country can be equally challenging to address. With insight and intense interviews, Jeff Goodell addresses what climate migration will look like for the U.S. and spells out how, soon, those in southern states affected by climate change and environmental degradation may move north in waves. Also, if you’re up for extra credit, this article by The New York Times is one of the best pieces that has been written on the policy side of climate change, exploring how political opportunities to stop catastrophic environmental impacts, like climate migration, were ignored. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Stirring the waters

By Caity Coyne, Molly Born, and Will Wright // The Groundtruth Project

~

This project is the product of six months of research as a collaborative effort from The Groundtruth Project and three local newsrooms: the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. The journalists, all Report for America fellows, investigated the impaired access to clean water in central Appalachia and pinpointed several key issues that perpetuate the problem. It’s good reporting and smart writing, and also serves as an example for what journalism can do in ideal circumstances — foster creative partnerships between news outlets and empower local journalism (where some of the best writing comes from) to resonate with communities on a larger scale.  Again, for extra credit (in case it’s not apparent, I like environmental reporting and made-up point systems) check out this episode of the podcast “America Adapts,” as well as this series by Southerly to learn more about environmental issues and public health. 

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

A Kingdom from Dust

By Mark Arax // Photo by Trent Davis Bailey / The California Sunday Magazine

~

The vast majority of detailed, in-depth reporting in the United States emerges from legacy publications everyone’s heard of — The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, Vanity Fair. A few years back, though, new, regional publications started to emerge with a mission to do thorough investigative reporting outside the hallowed halls of these legacy outlets. Among the best of these is California Sunday Magazine, which produced the best piece of narrative journalism I read this year, “A kingdom from dust,” by Mark Arax. A profile of the biggest farmer in the U.S. — and the largest water user, by far, in the Western U.S. — the piece is lush portrait, with haunting photographs, of one man’s farming empire, and how it overtook entire towns, shaped how Californians eat, and tried to hide in plain sight as the Golden State faced the worst drought in its history. 

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

Narcotica

By Christopher Moraff and Zachary Seigel

~

One of my favorite reporters in America right now is Christopher Moraff, a Philadelphia-based freelancer covering opioids from the perspective of people living on Philadelphia’s streets. For the last couple years, he’s been tracking which drugs end up in whose hands, and what the effects of nanny-state policies — such as shutting down ad hoc drug user injection sites — have had on a community of people struggling with addiction. Among his recent journalistic feats is a street-level study in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood finding that, when folks are sold heroin, it’s frequently nothing but illicit, dangerous fentanyl combined with filler such as lactose. That could explain why West Kensington has one of the highest rates of overdoses in Philly. Moraff alone does this kind of necessary, ground-level reporting, and he does it as a freelancer, writing for outlets such as Filter and The Daily Beast, and talking about what he sees on his podcast, Narcotica. Follow him on Twitter @cmoraff to keep tabs on his important work. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

The men who didn’t disappear

By Brittany Hailer // PublicSource

~

This piece is a heartfelt, stark account of the grim realities of drug abuse and its criminal trappings. Two brothers and their family are the center of an addiction and crime saga spanning several decades. It also lays bare the the dramatic difference in drug-related hardships as it pertains to race. As reported in the story, “the drug death rate is increasing the fastest for black people ages 45 to 64.” Despite these challenges, there are moments of redemption and escape that will give readers a glimmer of hope. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

Left Behind America

By Shimon Dotan // PBS Frontline and ProPublica

~

PBS Frontline and ProPublica teamed up to produce this look at the grim economic disparity in the postindustrial city of Dayton, Ohio. This beautifully shot and expertly edited feature-length documentary starts on a frigid day in a desolate part of suburban Dayton. The city went for Hillary in 2016. But the surrounding county, blighted and impoverished, cast their ballots for Trump. Dayton is a place where the poverty rate is three times higher than the national average, sending large swaths of the population reeling toward drug addiction and chronic despair. It’s a must-watch for those still asking, how can we be so divided?

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

The weasel, twelve monkeys and the shrub

By David Foster Wallace // Rolling Stone

~

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t consume much longform journalism in 2018. I canceled my New Yorker subscription in March, when my son was born, and told them I’d re-subscribe in 18 years. Keeping up with the daily news has been challenging enough; I rarely sit down to read 20,0oo+ words. But when Arizona Senator John McCain died in August, I stumbled across a David Foster Wallace essay written 18 years ago, when McCain was running for president. It’s an entertaining read, to be sure, but it’s also relevant as we inch ever closer to yet another presidential campaign, especially for states won by Trump in 2016. Rust Belt denizens can expect to be profiled by journalists from all over the world, and a healthy dose of skepticism of prognostications, characterizations, and promises — well-described by Wallace — will be warranted in the next two years. 

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

ZigZag

By Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant // Stable Genius Productions

~

This podcast focuses on technology, journalism, being a mother while launching a business, and … the blockchain. It’s not as unfocused as I just made it sound. The “Note to Self” alums created an informative narrative podcast that, in addition to being entertaining, successfully explained exactly what the blockchain actually is. Oh, and don’t miss the impressive and beautiful data visualizations via Instagram. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Welcome to the age of climate migration

By Jeff Goodell // Rolling Stone

~

Conversation around immigration and shifting population patterns drives much of our national discourse, but one perspective I hoped to see more of is climate migration. Hurricanes and fires, droughts and heat waves dominate national news coverage, but how it affects those forced to relocate — in other words, find and build new homes as individuals and families displaced from their communities — has been generally overlooked. Migration is typically understood as an international phenomenon, but movement within a country can be equally challenging to address. With insight and intense interviews, Jeff Goodell addresses what climate migration will look like for the U.S. and spells out how, soon, those in southern states affected by climate change and environmental degradation may move north in waves. Also, if you’re up for extra credit, this article by The New York Times is one of the best pieces that has been written on the policy side of climate change, exploring how political opportunities to stop catastrophic environmental impacts, like climate migration, were ignored. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Stirring the waters

By Caity Coyne, Molly Born, and Will Wright // The Groundtruth Project

~

This project is the product of six months of research as a collaborative effort from The Groundtruth Project and three local newsrooms: the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. The journalists, all Report for America fellows, investigated the impaired access to clean water in central Appalachia and pinpointed several key issues that perpetuate the problem. It’s good reporting and smart writing, and also serves as an example for what journalism can do in ideal circumstances — foster creative partnerships between news outlets and empower local journalism (where some of the best writing comes from) to resonate with communities on a larger scale.  Again, for extra credit (in case it’s not apparent, I like environmental reporting and made-up point systems) check out this episode of the podcast “America Adapts,” as well as this series by Southerly to learn more about environmental issues and public health. 

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

A Kingdom from Dust

By Mark Arax // Photo by Trent Davis Bailey / The California Sunday Magazine

~

The vast majority of detailed, in-depth reporting in the United States emerges from legacy publications everyone’s heard of — The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, Vanity Fair. A few years back, though, new, regional publications started to emerge with a mission to do thorough investigative reporting outside the hallowed halls of these legacy outlets. Among the best of these is California Sunday Magazine, which produced the best piece of narrative journalism I read this year, “A kingdom from dust,” by Mark Arax. A profile of the biggest farmer in the U.S. — and the largest water user, by far, in the Western U.S. — the piece is lush portrait, with haunting photographs, of one man’s farming empire, and how it overtook entire towns, shaped how Californians eat, and tried to hide in plain sight as the Golden State faced the worst drought in its history. 

  Matt’s Top Picks 2018  

Narcotica

By Christopher Moraff and Zachary Seigel

~

One of my favorite reporters in America right now is Christopher Moraff, a Philadelphia-based freelancer covering opioids from the perspective of people living on Philadelphia’s streets. For the last couple years, he’s been tracking which drugs end up in whose hands, and what the effects of nanny-state policies — such as shutting down ad hoc drug user injection sites — have had on a community of people struggling with addiction. Among his recent journalistic feats is a street-level study in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood finding that, when folks are sold heroin, it’s frequently nothing but illicit, dangerous fentanyl combined with filler such as lactose. That could explain why West Kensington has one of the highest rates of overdoses in Philly. Moraff alone does this kind of necessary, ground-level reporting, and he does it as a freelancer, writing for outlets such as Filter and The Daily Beast, and talking about what he sees on his podcast, Narcotica. Follow him on Twitter @cmoraff to keep tabs on his important work. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

The men who didn’t disappear

By Brittany Hailer // PublicSource

~

This piece is a heartfelt, stark account of the grim realities of drug abuse and its criminal trappings. Two brothers and their family are the center of an addiction and crime saga spanning several decades. It also lays bare the the dramatic difference in drug-related hardships as it pertains to race. As reported in the story, “the drug death rate is increasing the fastest for black people ages 45 to 64.” Despite these challenges, there are moments of redemption and escape that will give readers a glimmer of hope. 

  Carmen’s Top Picks 2018  

Left Behind America

By Shimon Dotan // PBS Frontline and ProPublica

~

PBS Frontline and ProPublica teamed up to produce this look at the grim economic disparity in the postindustrial city of Dayton, Ohio. This beautifully shot and expertly edited feature-length documentary starts on a frigid day in a desolate part of suburban Dayton. The city went for Hillary in 2016. But the surrounding county, blighted and impoverished, cast their ballots for Trump. Dayton is a place where the poverty rate is three times higher than the national average, sending large swaths of the population reeling toward drug addiction and chronic despair. It’s a must-watch for those still asking, how can we be so divided?

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

The weasel, twelve monkeys and the shrub

By David Foster Wallace // Rolling Stone

~

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t consume much longform journalism in 2018. I canceled my New Yorker subscription in March, when my son was born, and told them I’d re-subscribe in 18 years. Keeping up with the daily news has been challenging enough; I rarely sit down to read 20,0oo+ words. But when Arizona Senator John McCain died in August, I stumbled across a David Foster Wallace essay written 18 years ago, when McCain was running for president. It’s an entertaining read, to be sure, but it’s also relevant as we inch ever closer to yet another presidential campaign, especially for states won by Trump in 2016. Rust Belt denizens can expect to be profiled by journalists from all over the world, and a healthy dose of skepticism of prognostications, characterizations, and promises — well-described by Wallace — will be warranted in the next two years. 

  Annie’s Top Picks 2018  

ZigZag

By Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant // Stable Genius Productions

~

This podcast focuses on technology, journalism, being a mother while launching a business, and … the blockchain. It’s not as unfocused as I just made it sound. The “Note to Self” alums created an informative narrative podcast that, in addition to being entertaining, successfully explained exactly what the blockchain actually is. Oh, and don’t miss the impressive and beautiful data visualizations via Instagram. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Welcome to the age of climate migration

By Jeff Goodell // Rolling Stone

~

Conversation around immigration and shifting population patterns drives much of our national discourse, but one perspective I hoped to see more of is climate migration. Hurricanes and fires, droughts and heat waves dominate national news coverage, but how it affects those forced to relocate — in other words, find and build new homes as individuals and families displaced from their communities — has been generally overlooked. Migration is typically understood as an international phenomenon, but movement within a country can be equally challenging to address. With insight and intense interviews, Jeff Goodell addresses what climate migration will look like for the U.S. and spells out how, soon, those in southern states affected by climate change and environmental degradation may move north in waves. Also, if you’re up for extra credit, this article by The New York Times is one of the best pieces that has been written on the policy side of climate change, exploring how political opportunities to stop catastrophic environmental impacts, like climate migration, were ignored. 

  Maria’s Top Picks 2018  

Stirring the waters

By Caity Coyne, Molly Born, and Will Wright // The Groundtruth Project

~

This project is the product of six months of research as a collaborative effort from The Groundtruth Project and three local newsrooms: the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. The journalists, all Report for America fellows, investigated the impaired access to clean water in central Appalachia and pinpointed several key issues that perpetuate the problem. It’s good reporting and smart writing, and also serves as an example for what journalism can do in ideal circumstances — foster creative partnerships between news outlets and empower local journalism (where some of the best writing comes from) to resonate with communities on a larger scale.  Again, for extra credit (in case it’s not apparent, I like environmental reporting and made-up point systems) check out this episode of the podcast “America Adapts,” as well as this series by Southerly to learn more about environmental issues and public health.