Editor’s Picks: Six pieces of journalism that defined 2020

Through what has been a challenging year, truth-seeking and inspirational journalism has risen to capture the hearts and minds of the public

Living through a global pandemic has been unusual, lifestyles have altered, routines have changed, uncomfortable truths have been unearthed and propelled to the forefront of the public eye. Every day, I found myself immersed in feature articles, opinion pieces that challenged the status quo and videos that deconstructed some of the most beloved aspects of popular culture. All of which, resonated and inspired my journalistic curiosity. I sat, phone in hand taking a note of the written, audio and visual content that carefully captured the zeitgeist of the time. I did so with every intention to come back to that list, with a piece celebrating some of the journalists that have played a crucial role in documenting the year for future generations.

In no particular order, here are six handpicked pieces of journalism that defined 2020.

1. Michaela the Destroyer by E. Alex Jung

Vulture senior writer E. Alex Jung’s profile of Michaela Coel is undoubtedly one of the best profiles I have ever read. The best writers possess this distinct ability to capture a person’s true essence and life story, through words that transform into a biographical picture in the mind of the reader. This is a skill that continually deserves to be celebrated. It is a feature of Jung’s writing that makes his work so sought-after. Jung’s use of description was so extensive that I felt as if I was sitting on the sidelines, watching a young Michaela Coel emerge into a revered actor, screenwriter and all-round creative with full control of her career development. This is a profile that really made me feel inspired, hopeful and full of ambition. “I really think of interviews as creating space for an interesting conversation, and I’m willing to go as far as the subject is,” Jung explained in an interview with Aude White published in New York Magazine in July this year.

With profiles of Thandie Newton to Whoopi Goldberg, Jung succeeds in creating personal connections between the reader and several household names, allowing us to perceive celebrities in ways we may have never done before. It’s safe to say that Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You was one of the best shows on TV this year. I’m intrigued to read Jung’s future work and see what he has in store for us in 2021.

Make sure you check out this thread of profiles he wrote this year:

2. The Problem Of Watching World News Through White Eyes Only by Marcus Ryder

There were several outstanding opinion pieces, which delved into journalism and racism this year. Among the journalists who made such a valuable contribution to this ongoing conversation was Marcus Ryder. His writing deserves to be praised and I just had to include this particular opinion piece in this list. Ryder challenges the status quo and what is deemed as ‘important’ news. Through personal accounts, he constructs a strong argument for the need for a diverse news agenda where world news isn’t seen through white eyes alone. He makes a strong case for the need for diversity in foreign reporting and how this plays into the narrative of a story – what is reported and how the story is framed.

This is a timeless piece by Ryder and a conversation that needs to keep being had well into the new year.

3. Nigeria’s #EndSARS Movement and Media Suppression by Ivie Ani

In October, the rest of the world watched in horror as Nigeria faced a brutal massacre. Lives of peaceful protestors lost at the Lekki tollgate plaza continues to be mourned by many, as one of the devastating tragedies that occurred this year. Nigerian-American journalist Ivie Ani wrote a comprehensive analysis of the #EndSARS Movement. One which further proved her versatility as a writer and the important role she plays in chronicling historic moments that impact the African diaspora in a positive and negative way. Her analysis speaks truth to power, a fundamental element of journalism that you may have come across before.

Time and time again, Ani shows her ability delve into complex aspects of the music industry, while documenting important events which shape the socio-political landscape. She asks the important questions. She contributes to wide-ranging conversations and just by simply reading her work you can see her commitment to maintaining an ethical approach.

In my reflection of the year, I felt it necessary to include this important piece of journalism in this list.

4. A Reckoning Over Objectivity, Led by Black Journalists by Wesley Lowery

This opinion piece by reporter Wesley Lowery is unrestrained, gripping and impactful. A well-needed contribution to the ongoing conversation around the concept of objectivity. A timeless piece addressing the ramifications of a word, so deeply embedded in traditional principles and teaching of journalism in institutions across the world. As Lowery boldly put it, “…the failure of the mainstream press to accurately cover black communities is intrinsically linked with its failure to employ, retain and listen to black people.” Lowery’s opinion piece allowed young black journalists like myself and black reporters in the field who have quarreled with objectivity to feel seen and heard. His writing reechoes sentiments expressed by writers like Regan Jackson, Ed Madison and Ben DeJarnette in Reimagining Journalism in a Post-Truth World: How Late-Night Comedians Internet Trolls, and Savvy Reporters Are Transforming News.

If you haven’t read this opinion piece already, you definitely should.

5. Visual Journalism

It’s important for me to cover different forms of journalism, which is why I’ve included audio and visual stories in this list. I want to do something a little different with this section. I want to use this space to appreciate CNN’s Great Big Story. An invaluable contribution to cinematic storytelling that we lost this year. Waking up to a new IGTV video unveiling the voice behind beloved cartoon characters or hidden food treasures all over the world, was a highlight that helped me to get through this year. Great Big Story provided a unique educational experience that will truly be missed.

6. AUDIO JOURNALISM (Podcast Spotlight)

Like many, I found solace in podcasts and audio content this year. One which stood out to me is The WIRED Podcast by WIRED UK, which has also been recognised by Press Gazette for its reporting on COVID-19. With timely, informative and nuanced discussions this podcast is one I had to include in this list. If you want to tune into The WIRED Podcast you can do so here.

Narrowing this list down to six was extremely tough, as there are many other pieces that I wish I could have included. With that being said, please feel free to leave a comment sharing any journalism pieces that stood out to you this year.