With the news moving at breakneck speed this year, it was easy to miss remarkable stories — or open them in a tab with the best intentions to read them eventually.
But with the end of the year upon us, it’s time to go back and highlight the stellar journalism other publications produced in 2017. We present this year’s list of stories we wish we’d written.
And while we’re talking jealousy, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge Bloomberg Businessweek had the idea for this list first — so hop on over there if you want some more of the green-eyed monster.
Every Parent Wants to Protect Their Child. I Never Got the Chance.
Story by Jen Gann, photographs by Elinor Carucci, New York
Jen Gann writes honestly about her young son’s devastating cystic fibrosis diagnosis — a diagnosis that was missed in a prenatal test. Gann grapples with the idea that if she had known, she may have terminated the pregnancy. This is a mother who both desperately loves her child and simultaneously grieves the loss of a choice that could have spared him the pain and suffering of his terminal disease. Elinor Carucci’s photographs are beautiful, intimate accompaniments to the essay. (Contributed by Alissa Ambrose)
She Was a Rising Star at a Major University. Then a Lecherous Professor Made Her Life Hell.
By Madison Pauly, Mother Jones
Before there was Harvey Weinstein, before there was Louis C.K. or James Levine or Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose and the other accused sexual predators, there was University of Rochester professor T. Florian Jaeger. Mother Jones broke the story of how seven current and former professors accused Jaeger, a rising star in the brain and cognitive sciences department, of sexual harassment. The university initially dismissed the years of complaints as hearsay and cleared Jaeger, instead retaliating against his accusers, Mother Jones reported. After the story, the school commissioned another investigation, led by attorney Mary Jo White, a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Hundreds of scholars, accusing Rochester of “supporting the predator and intimidating the victims and advocates,” have called for an academic boycott, urging students not to apply for admission and scholars not to apply for jobs there. Their petition has more than 400 signers. (Contributed by Sharon Begley)
The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change
By Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic
Climate change poses a challenge for health reporters: How do you narrow down a problem so huge and so pressing into a tangible story about people’s bodies? Robinson Meyer has done an amazing job here, using memorable scenes and characters to make important ideas come alive. (Contributed by Eric Boodman)
Chasing a Killer
Story by Lena H. Sun, photographs by Melina Mara, The Washington Post
Who gets to go up the Ubangi River in search of the animal source of a dreaded and deadly disease? Lena Sun of the Washington Post. Her account — beautifully illustrated and laid out — of traveling with disease detectives to remote Manfouete in Congo Republic to look for the source of monkeypox — it’s not monkeys — shows the ends these intrepid scientists will go to in their pursuit of answers. My jealousy cooled considerably, though, with the revelation of their big “get” — three-foot long giant pouched rats covered in crusted lesions. (Contributed by Helen Branswell)
By Kim Albrecht, et al
This study and dataviz shows the evolution of productivity and impact throughout thousands of scientific careers. Albrecht and her colleagues reconstructed the publication record of scientists and connected each paper with its long-term impact on the scientific community as quantified by citation metrics. They found that the highest-impact work in a scientist’s career is randomly distributed within his or her body of work. That is, the highest-impact work has the same probability of falling anywhere in the sequence of papers published by a scientist. It could be the first publication, appear mid-career, or emerge last. This result is known as the random impact rule. In their visualization, they show the random impact rule in all its power. You can explore careers in different disciplines, rank scientists according to different career parameters, or select a subset of them. It’s very elegant and captivating. (Contributed by Talia Bronshtein)
The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth
By Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR
This story, part of a series on maternal mortality by NPR and ProPublica, took a widely known fact — that the U.S. has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world — and investigated why that is, simultaneously revealing how it could be improved. The reporters combined that investigation with a heartbreaking narrative about the case of one woman, a neonatal intensive care nurse who died after giving birth to her own baby. (Contributed by Andrew Joseph)
In Unprecedented Move, The University Of Washington Just Fired A Professor For Sexual Harassment
By Azeen Ghorayshi, BuzzFeed News
While the story of Henry Weinstein’s sexual harassment in Hollywood has been dominating the headlines, Azeen Ghorayshi has been doggedly calling out sexual harassment in science and academia — bringing to the light stories at UC Berkeley, Caltech, and this story at University of Washington. The behaviors of these high-ranking professors and researchers were well-known within their academic circles but had escaped media attention, allowing the harassment to continue unchecked. Ghorayshi’s work shed important light on the situation, causing three leading academicians to either resign or be fired. The case of Ebola and flu researcher Michael Katze marked the first time the University of Washington had fired a professor with full tenure. (Contributed by Usha Lee McFarling)
Hip-Hop’s Unlikeliest Icons: Promethazine Codeine Syrup Manufacturers
By Timothy Bella, Bloomberg Businessweek
The story took on the pop-culture pervasiveness and popularity of “purple drank” — or codeine cough syrup — and how little the drug companies behind those products have really grappled with that reality. The part that stuck with me? Bella’s careful attention to the detailed rap and hip-hop lyrics that name-drop the pharmaceutical companies that make the syrups. (Contributed by Erin Mershon)
By Mike Mariani, Atavist Magazine
At age 5, she was asking questions about particle physics. At 7, she started taking college classes. At 13, she finished her first bachelor’s degree. Now, at age 26, she quietly repairs computers and tutors aspiring graduate students. In this long read well worth your time, freelance writer Mike Mariani examines how trauma has shaped the life of the once-in-a-generation child prodigy Promethea Pythaitha. Following a violent 2011 attack that left her mother disabled, Pythaitha was diagnosed with severe PTSD and major depressive disorder. The story is a poignant look at a remarkable young woman’s struggle — and reluctance — to reclaim her once dazzling intellectual promise. (Contributed by Rebecca Robbins)
An overdose, a young companion, drug-fueled parties: The secret life of USC med school dean
By Paul Pringle, Harriet Ryan, Adam Elmahrek, Matt Hamilton, and Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times
First you hear the rumors. Then you have to dig further into the rumors because they’ll keep nagging you if you don’t. Add to that a complex and captivating central character: Dr. Carmen Puliafito, a medical school dean whose indiscretions are so out there that he’d need to be created (perhaps by the writers of a police procedural TV drama) if he didn’t already exist. The facts here are so bizarre that, as a reporter, you need to find evidence to either debunk them or back them up, once and for all. And I suspect that the five reporters had fun doing it. As valuable and important as it is to report stories about systemic problems and policy shortcomings, sometimes it’s nice to have a story that looks like it was as entertaining to report as it was to read. (Contributed by Leah Samuel)
The long five minutes: Abortion doulas bring comfort during a complicated time
By Monica Hesse, The Washington Post
Most people are familiar with birth doulas, women (usually) whose role it is to advocate for and comfort a woman when she’s giving birth. This story was a remarkable account of another type of doula, who sits with women at another important time in their lives — when terminating pregnancy. It’s a beautiful look at a time when women help women in a most vulnerable state. (Contributed by Megha Satyanarayana)
By Marisa Taylor, Kaiser Health News
Every twist and turn of this story was worth reading. Marisa Taylor did a terrific job investigating a dying professor’s risky and unethical experimentation in the quest for a new herpes vaccines. Each installment built on the last with vivid and often shocking new details. I have the feeling we haven’t heard the last of it. (Contributed by Stephanie Simon)
By Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker
This was a jaw-dropping piece of journalism. Reporter Rachel Aviv details appalling abuses within the guardianship system, which can allow total strangers to take over an elderly person’s assets, choose where they live and whom they talk to, and determine what medical care they get. In some cases, doctors play a troubling role in the practice. (Contributed by Megan Thielking)