The consensus view on 2014 is that it was bad, or in the parlance of our times, a “garbage year.” But bad news makes for good #content.
I started out the year as a newly minted (and terrified) freelancer, covering a number of topics—the millennial generation, media, U.S. politics, and urban planning. By the end of the year, I had basically moved entirely into the urban-planning realm, which is mostly where I intend to stay. I really enjoyed meeting so many tenacious, talented folks this year. And I’m especially grateful for the editors and outlets I’ve been able to establish consistent working relationships with. So with all that in mind, here are a few pieces I wrote this year that I was particularly proud of.
“To set profit as the goal of any transit system … is to fundamentally miss the fact that public transit should be conceived as a public good.” We begin with The Baffler and an article on New York’s Citi Bike program, which was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in early April. I wrote about its money troubles and why Bloomberg’s vision of a privately-funded transit system was a flawed one.
“If a group of well-spoken, well-connected, wealthier-than-average professionals are the nerds, then who are the popular kids?” Again in The Baffler, the weird, disingenuous spectacle of the D.C. press corps calling its annual gala “Nerd Prom.”
“Upworthy liberalism cannot process problems whose solutions are more difficult than ‘Convince people that they need to do the right thing.'” When it looked like Upworthy was about to take over the internet, I wrote about viral media’s brand of liberalism for Al-Jazeera America. Sure, viral news websites lean left…but how useful is liberalism when liberals can only talk in platitudes?
“The problem with a “coolest city” ranking is the way it takes things any city ought to be proud of…and attaches them to a polarising sociological identity.” Just after Forbes named Washington, D.C. “America’s Coolest City,” I wrote for The Guardian about some local city-planning fights that became proxy battles over whether D.C.’s “cool kids” were welcome. Lists like Forbes’ may get clicks, I wrote, but they don’t actually help anyone build better places to live.
“The truth is that people live where they can afford to live.” In The Baffler, I responded to “Liberalism and Gentrification,” a Jacobin article that I thought seriously missed the mark on how and why Washington, D.C. became gentrified. While liberal yuppies may be an easy target for blame, they’re playing the same rigged game as everybody else.
“This city was built on the oyster. In order for them to survive and do their thing and help the harbor, we need people to come in and watch them.” For my longest piece of the year, I profiled the Billion Oyster Project for BKLYNR. An initiative to plant a billion oysters in New York Harbor is raising critical questions about public access and ecological literacy along the Brooklyn waterfront. New York has never done a good job ensuring citizens’ access to its waterways—can restoring a local bivalve change that?
PLUS: “The divide between the two shows isn’t ideological; it’s generational.” Thanks largely to a retweet from Chris Hayes, I had a sleeper hit this year with a piece that wasn’t about politics…and wasn’t actually published anywhere at all. I wrote on this very blog about House of Cards, The West Wing, and different generations’ ideas about what it means to be seduced by a career in D.C. politics.
Other things I wrote, edited, and curated this year can be found here — and of course, I’ll be updating the Work page with every new piece I write in 2015.
And that’s a wrap. This has been pleasant and professional.