Fireworks display

It would have been easy but discouraging to spend an entire year of Storyboard featuring stories about homelessness, climate woes and, of course, COVID-19. It would be tempting to identify the stand-outs among those, which are many, in my personal picks for stand-out posts of 2021.

Instead, as I scanned our links, I chose to focus on work inspired by children, music and food. (Note: The links to music-related posts all were written by me. Not my intent, or even awareness, when I tapped them.) Through the year, we featured more traditional news and enterprise stories that touched on matters involving children, music and food — everything from projects about gun violence and teen transgender rights to sexual identity. But as we face another uncertain winter I found myself wanting to highlight things that demonstrated how deep reporting and strong writing can apply to any topic, and how we can find inspiration all around us.

Don’t miss the posts that ranked in the top six based on analytics. Now, for the Editor’s Totally Discretionary Choice Awards:


Triple muses: a lake, a children’s book and a long shower A marketing director who lives on the south shore of Lake Superior wrote an ode to solstice and the lake, inspired by the rhythms of reading “The Runaway Bunny” to her daughter. By Meghan Dennison Craft

How a high school journalist geared up to cover protests in Portland, Oregon In her capacity as editor of her high school newspaper in Salem, Oregon, editor Eddy Binford Ross fashioned protective armor from ski- and bike-gear and spent her nights on the streets of Portland, covering tense racial justice demonstrations. A Q&A with Lisa Grace Lednicer

Editing advice from the world’s best story critic: a child A freelance science editor, desperate to get her 4-year-old to sleep, made up a bedtime story. The child pushed back until Mom got it right. By Joyti Madhusoodanan

What a journalist mom learns from her daughter’s foray into writing the news A freelancer who homeschools her children through the first winter of COVID watches as her 9-year-old launches a neighborhood newspaper focused on pets. By Traci Angel


How to tell a good story, by Stephen Sondheim: Hummable helps The death of the composer/songwriter prompted a revisit of his unparalleled musicals along with countless tributes. One, by Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri, offered a chance to define the elements of effective stories. By Jacqui Banaszynski

Writing that dares to sing “Get Back,” the documentary that followed the Beatles through a single month in which they conceived, wrote and performed a new album, showed the power of pursuing stories with daring approach “What if?” By Jacqui Banaszynski

Nerding out on big weather, a big lake and a little Gordon Lightfoot November brought yet another anniversary of the wreck of the oil freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, and the Gordon Lightfoot by the same name. A data base reporter and her newsroom band found a new way into the wreck’s mystery — and played some music to boot. By Jacqui Banaszynski


A journalist’s journey into her family story leads to a history of American pie When a Washington Post went back to her mother’s kitchen to learn the disappearing art of making a perfect pie crust, another D.C.-based journalist and baker asked how she turned that into a story about American history — and then made pie. By Dustin Renwick

Two Native American journalists talk turkey about Thanksgiving There’s history, and there’s history. More and more of it brings the Americana myth into question. A Washington Post reporter and a teacher at the University of Montana spoke about their own histories with the Thanksgiving holiday, and why it matters to write a fuller truth. By Jason Begay.

A few other categories of note

There is no way I could include even a small fraction of the work that deserves study. It’s all on the site, available to you at any time. Our Story Annotations are especially great teaching and learning tools, as are the Strictly Q&A conversations. And then there is my favorite: Story Craft.

Under that last banner, search “nut graf.” You’ll find a wealth of posts on that gnarly topic, including two full weeks of advice from a range of professionals on how to teach, edit and guide the nut material of stories.

And new this year: An annotation of a This American Life podcast episode that started as a longform text piece, and “Field Testing,” a five-part video series on how to produce effective video stories when working on your own. The latter was named a finalist in Short Film Digital Video Storytelling by the Online News Association. Alexander Trowbridge, who produced that series for us, also analyzed how ProPublica used raw video from Parler to tell the story of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Further Reading