Here are some pieces — journalism and non-journalism — that inspire me, separated into categories. I currently cover transportation and economic competitiveness in the Tampa Bay area. I’ll start with those topics, since that’s what I think about most right now. Unwritten rules require me to say: inclusion doesn’t equal endorsement. 

Transportation

  1. Why does it cost so much to build things in America? by Jerusalem Demsas (Vox, June 2021) 
    • It’s complicated. If you’re wondering why most American cities struggle to complete transportation projects on time and on budget, this piece is for you. Projects like Boston’s Green Line drag on partly because inexperienced decision makers allow stakeholders’ expensive and impractical ideas to be added, researchers found. Demsas’s body of work is impressive; you should also read this one on racist housing policy. 
    • “There is no magic button or single regulatory fix that will put the US on the path to a future with accessible, plentiful, and cost-efficient transit. But public fascination with seemingly futuristic forms of transportation like Elon Musk’s hyperloop dream or a network of high-speed rail crisscrossing the country proves the value of pushing through the bureaucratic and legal morass.”  
  2. What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse, by Adam Mann (Wired, June 2014) 
    • Every time we build new roads and lanes, we fall into a trap called induced demand. Increasing the supply of something, like roads, only encourages people to want it more. Possible solutions peddled by the author: congestion pricing and increasing the price of parking. 
    • “As it turns out, we humans love moving around. And if you expand people’s ability to travel, they will do it more, living farther away from where they work and therefore being forced to drive into town. Making driving easier also means that people take more trips in the car than they otherwise would.” 
  3. Why do American cities sprawl while European cities are compact? How does it affect our quality of life?, by Henry Queen (Medium, May 2021) 
    • Wait, that’s me! Looks like I can’t help but do some shameless self-promotion. In order to understand transportation, you have to first understand suburban sprawl. It’s the default mode of our built environment since World War II and is the main reason for the traffic you encounter on the way to work. This piece dissects the origins and consequences of sprawl. 
    • “In today’s American city, owning a car is essentially required. It’s more expensive than public transit, but it also saves time. It’s ubiquity means that our cities were designed around the car rather than the humans in the car.” 

Economic competitiveness and growth 

  1. Projected population growth over the next five years (Tampa Bay EDC, September 2020) 
    • Here’s how Tampa, St. Petersburg and other surrounding communities might look in 2025. Hillsborough County is expected to grow by 8.3%, more than the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Square Area, the state and the nation. Challenges of growth will include affordable housing and workforce development. 
  2. Strong Towns, by Charles Marohn (September 2019) 
    • American cities are financially insolvent because they don’t have the money to maintain the projects they subsidize, Marohn argued. His book on transportation comes out in September 2021.  
    • “(Bankrupt) Detroit is not some strange anomaly. It’s just early. It’s just a couple of decades ahead of everyplace else.” 

Sports narratives 

  1. The Last American Hero, by Tom Wolfe (Esquire, March 1965) 
    • The transportation category above missed something important: the extent to which the car symbolized freedom in post-war America, particularly the Deep South. No person better represented that spirit than good-old-boy Junior Johnson, Wolfe wrote.
    • “Stock car racing was building up a terrific following in the South during the early fifties. Here was a sport not using any abstract devices, any bat and hall, but the same automobile that was changing a man’s own life, his own symbol of liberation, and it didn’t require size, strength and all that, all it required was a taste for speed, and the guts.” 
  2. No Man is an Island, by Gary Smith (Sports Illustrated, April 1999)
    • ​​The death of David Duval’s brother changed him. He became cold and distant, relying on no one but himself. Golf, therefore, was perfect. Finally, Duval grew to realize the importance and wisdom of his peers. Great writing, including the line below. 
    • “There. It was out. It was over. It was not over. The other hip now. Again.” 
  3. Still Life, by Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly, May 2009) 
    • A violent tackle paralyzed high school football player John McClamrock, forcing him into a solitary life in bed. But the protagonist of this story isn’t John. It’s his mother. 
    • “After the newspapers moved on, another story was quietly unfolding, one of courage, perseverance, and a mother’s fierce love.” 
  4. The Legacy of Mambacita, by Mirin Fader (Bleacher Report, February 2020)
    • The coverage after Kobe Bryant’s death predictably focused on the Hall of Fame basketball player. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; he was the most famous one who died in the tragedy. But people should know about the others too. Fader’s piece was the best at humanizing Gianna, the daughter of Kobe. 
    • “Something magical happens when a girl touches a basketball for the first time. Power is in her palms. She can do anything, be anything.”
  5. Last Chance U: Basketball (Netflix, March 2021)
    • Maybe it’s because I didn’t play football growing up, but this documentary is my favorite among the Last Chance U franchise. One of my favorite documentaries, period. 
    • “They need love the most when they deserve it the least.”

General narratives 

  1. After the Sky Fell, by Brady Dennis (Tampa Bay Times, August 2005) 
    • Not all narratives have to be long. This one is 300 words and hits it out of the park. 
    • “None of them knows why the old man sits here, night after night, working the graveyard shift.” 
  2. The Promise, by Joe Posnanski (Joe Blogs, 2010) 
    • On Bruce Springsteen, and the life of the working class. 
    • “The weirdest thing happened, something I can never remember happening before or since when I listened to a song. I felt myself crying.”
  3. These Precious Days, by Ann Patchett (Harpers, January 2021) 
    • I didn’t know if I should include this rollicking essay in this category or the one below. But it’s about so much more than the early days of the pandemic, so I put it here. An unlikely friendship gave Patchett incredible insight into the human condition. 
    • “Maybe I should say I was coming to know her without knowing very much about her. People are not composed entirely of their facts, after all.”

Pandemic 

  • How the pandemic defeated America, by Ed Yong (The Atlantic, September 2020) 
    • Just one piece among many that landed Yong the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting.  
    • “Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable.”
  • What unexpected relationships have you formed during the pandemic? by Abigail Rasminsky (Cup of Jo, June 2021)
    • This one is short, not nearly as serious and absolutely perfect. What if we learned to love the land and the people at our feet? 
    • “These last couple years have taught us that community is something else, something closer, something less abstract and more essential. Perhaps it is not only the people we love the most, the people with whom we share children or schools or history. Perhaps it is the people who are geographically close, the people in our sight lines.” 

Media/internet 

  1. Anti-vaxxers: How the Media Created a Monster, Wisecrack (April 2021) 
    • Both-sides journalism was one factor among many that contributed to the anti-vax sentiment in this country, which in turn contributed to more coronavirus deaths than necessary. 
  2. Inside, by Bo Burnham (April 2021) 
    • Feeling depressed? You’re probably not alone. Burnham delivers the clearest, most searing indictment of our digital lives I’ve ever seen. 
  3. Was COVID Created in a Lab? Here’s What We Know, by Johnny Harris (July 2021)
    • The media, while not a monolith, deserves some blame for the people’s lack of trust in it. To begin healing some wounds, it should admit when it botched coverage. Again, this could have gone in the previous category, but I’m unpredictable, people! 
  4. Revolt of the Public, Honestly with Bari Weiss (July 2021) 
    • I included this podcast to show how seemingly disparate events and movements are actually all linked. To what? The internet.    
  5. Twitter thread, Steak-umm (July 2021)
    • Umm, I guess a meat company can explain distrust in media and institutions better than I. 

YouTube channels to check out: 

  1. Balls Deep from Vice 
  2. Channel 5