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Twenty-Four Pieces That We Wish We Had Published in 2016

Stories from the past year that we admired or coveted, chosen by the Pacific Standard staff.

By Ted Scheinman


Sizing up the competition. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

At Pacific Standard this year, we published a lot of pieces that we’re proud of—but we also gazed with greed into other magazines, for we are sinful mortals and cannot help but covet our neighbors’ freelancers and features.

In a spirit of contrition, we have decided to share our favorite pieces from 2016 that were unaccountably published elsewhere.

In Secretive Marijuana Industry, Whispers of Abuse and Trafficking,” by Shoshana Walter on Reveal. “An impressive investigation of abuse among marijuana-pickers.” Francie Diep

Gun Deaths in America,” by Ben Casselman, Matthew Conlen, and Reuben Fischer-Baum on FiveThirtyEight. “FiveThirtyEight’s gun-deaths package really took the conversation to the next step, by making the statistics intuitive to understand and by pairing the stats with stories.” Francie Diep

Why Obamacare Enrollees Voted for Trump,” by Sarah Kliff on Vox. “Vox found a county where lots of people gained coverage under Obamacare, but people voted overwhelmingly for Trump. This was was so smart, and we could have done it.” Francie Diep

Why Fashion Will Learn to Love Melania Trump,” by Chantal Fernandez on The Business of Fashion. “The Business of Fashion is doing the smartest coverage of fashion around, but I particularly enjoyed this reported feature on the clash between personal values and bottom lines facing designers with regard to dressing Melania Trump. BoF repeatedly reminds us that what we wear matters, and that those who are dressing us deserve to be covered seriously.” Katie Kilkenny

The Civil War That Could Doom the N.R.A.,” by Sarah Ellison in Vanity Fair. “I thought this piece had it all: historical context, novel analysis, and a realistic look ahead at the future of gun ownership in America. As someone who grew up in a fairly rural, gun-toting part of America, I really appreciated Sarah Ellison’s balance in tone; it’s something that I think is sorely lacking from most of these conversations — as we saw all too well in this election.” Max Ufberg

Runs in the Family,” by Siddartha Mukherjee in TheNew Yorker. “It’s difficult to shake either of the narratives Siddartha Mukherjee weaves together in this essay: scientists’ quest for the genetic basis of schizophrenia, and his family’s own battle with the disease. The result is a clear-eyed look at labyrinthine research, and a reminder of why we chase that research in the first place.” Elena Gooray

Photo Essay: “Inside the Chinese Factory Making Ivanka Trump’s Shoes” on the Daily Beast. “This is just a smart editorial idea from the Daily Beast. Any publisher with a subscription to Getty — Pacific Standard included — could have assembled Greg Baker’s photographs from the Huajian shoe factory in China’s Guangdong province where Trump reportedly has hundreds of thousands of shoes made for her fashion line, but only one, as far as I can tell, did.” Nicholas Jackson

The Woman Who Might Find Us Another Earth,” by Chris Jones in The New York Times Magazine. “Two-time National Magazine Award-winner Chris Jones has always been a master of the profile — if you haven’t read it, go back to his Esquirepiece on the magician Teller, the quiet half of the famous Vegas duo — and this latest effort doesn’t disappoint. Sara Seager is a brilliant astrophysicist who is seemingly incapable of doing much of anything — from cooking and cleaning around the house to communicating openly on subjects other than her work — except finding exoplanets with the potential to support life hundreds or thousands of light-years away from Earth; she has committed her entire life and focus to her work. And it’s work that might have been described as impossible — until Seager set her sights on it.” Nicholas Jackson

Dean Baquet Doesn’t Think Donald Trump Is the Media’s Fault,” by Isaac Chotiner on Slate. “Over the past year, Isaac Chotiner has become one of the best long-form interviewers, sitting down with everyone from The New Yorker’s George Packer to economist Joseph Stiglitz. He asks challenging — and ultimately illuminating — questions of social scientists, journalists, academics, politicians, and more. This sit-down, with Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, is one of my favorites.” Nicholas Jackson

The Man With His Head in the Clouds,” by Tom Chiarella in Chicago magazine. “Tom Chiarella profiles Chicago architect Adrian Smith, who is pushing the limits in his own field by designing taller and taller skyscrapers and, in the process, pushing all of us to ask this question of ourselves: What is possible?” Nicholas Jackson

“Now Is the Time toTalk About What We Are Actually Talking About,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in The New Yorker. “The most beautifully written argument for the importance of calling it like it is.” Kate Wheeling

“Everything Mattered: Lessons From 2016’s Bizarre Presidential Election,” by David Roberts on Vox. “David Roberts wrote one of the most comprehensive election post-mortems out there.” Kate Wheeling

“Hunger Makes Me,” by Jess Zimmerman on Hazlitt. “For me, Zimmerman’s essay on how women are made to quell all our appetites was a 3,000-word path to self-enlightenment.” Kate Wheeling

The Barrett Brown Review of Arts & Letters & Prison,” by Barrett Brown on the Intercept. “I have long wished that we had more prisoners writing journalism; with an incoming president who wishes that more journalists were prisoners, this seems like a good time to pause and give thanks for Barrett Brown, who, rather than languishing in silent obscurity since his arrest and imprisonment in 2012, has instead been writing. A lot. Naturally, Brown used his column to protest his own maltreatment at the hands of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but it was also a mordant, serialized meditation on books and history, a means to discredit war-crime apologists (hi, Niall Ferguson) and to needle Jonathan Franzen. This year, Brown took the National Magazine Award for commentary, shortly before he was released to a halfway house. I’m excited to see what he does with his freedom.” Ted Scheinman

The only piece of journalism from 2016 that might still matter 1,000 years from now.” —Michael R. Fitzgerald

Michelle’s Case,” by Annie Brown in California Sunday Magazine: “Precedent gets set and then unset in Annie Brown’s intimate profile of a transgender California inmate who won the right to receive sex-reassignment surgery from the California prison system but was then unexpectedly granted parole before the surgery could take place.” Jennifer Sahn

With Child,” by Kiera Feldman in Harper’s: This article by Kiera Feldman is critically important for the snapshot it provides of how difficult it has become for many women to get abortions in the United States (with waiting periods, sonogram requirements, and rural states such as South Dakota having just one single abortion clinic), and now women everywhere are braced for much worse under the Trump/Pence administration.” Jennifer Sahn

Meet the Ungers,” by Jason Fagone on Highline: “Quandaries abound in Jason Fagone’s roving exploration of the lives touched by a Maryland court case that has allowed 230 of the state’s prisoners, most of them first-degree murderers serving life sentences, to request a retrial, with 142 of them to date having been set free.” Jennifer Sahn

The Most Exclusive Restaurant in America,” by Nick Paumgarten in TheNew Yorker. “What the hell is this chef doing? An unforgettable culinary mystery.” Ryan Jacobs

Pete Wells Has His Knives Out,” by Ian Parker in TheNew Yorker. “‘The danger is getting friendly with people you should feel free to destroy.’ The man who utters these words earns a living not from professional boxing but from reviewing restaurants. A colorful and precise profile of a frightening critic.” Ryan Jacobs

The Opposite of a Muse,” by Anna Heyward in TheNew Yorker. “A piece about ‘an artist whose medium is other artists.’ The author artfully uses the words of several photographers to paint a haunting portrait of the model that connects them. Creepy enough for inclusion in the print mag, imho.” Ryan Jacobs

Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All,” by Jane Mayer in TheNew Yorker. “If policy arguments aren’t exactly your thing, I thought this piece presented the most compelling argument against the personality of our new president, other than his face.” Ryan Jacobs

“Meet the Maserati-Driving Deadhead Lawyer Who Stands Between Hackers and Prison,” by Joseph Bernstein on BuzzFeed. “Pacific Standard’s offices are only 30 minutes from Ventura. We should have had this.” Ryan Jacobs

“Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter to Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom to Be Murdered,” by Michelle Dean on BuzzFeed. “A wild, wild yarn.” Ryan Jacobs