Media Circus: The Best Journalism of 2017

From sports stories to non-sports stories, these are the pieces of journalism from 2017 that will stay with you for a long time.
Publish date:

As I wrote in this space last year, choosing the best writing and reporting in a given year is an impossible task, as well as an entirely subjective enterprise. Below, are 130 or so pieces that impacted me as a reader, but I honestly could have chosen hundreds more.

I’m sure I left out many great pieces out and I intentionally did not include pieces from my Sports Illustrated colleagues. No doubt some will complain, but it’s not a competition. The pieces below are a reflection of the publications I read and publications people I follow on social media read. The stories are not ranked, nor categorized. Sports and non-sports stories are listed below. I hope you find something that impacts you too.

• This Jason Fagone piece on a Philadelphia trauma surgeon will stay with you for a long time. 

The New Yorker writer Evan Osnos traveled to North Korea to examine the risk of nuclear war. Incredible piece. 

• Vice News’ report from the front lines in Charlottesville was the best video journalism I’ve watched this year. 

• Brilliant work by Christopher Goffard of the L.A. Times. This will be the one of most memorable pieces you read this year.

• Haunting and sobering work by John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post on four first graders still haunted by a school shooting. 

• The most important piece Mitch Albom has ever written. 

• Brilliant, important work from Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic: “Tim Piazza fought for his life for 12 hours before his Beta Theta Pi brothers called 911. By then, it was too late.” 

• A piece from Politico I wish every American would read: Will the Georgia Special Election Get Hacked? 

• From John Eligon of The New York Times: The Adopted Black Baby, and the White One Who Replaced Her.

• From Norimitsu Onishi: A Generation in Japan Faces a Lonely Death. 

• From Wired’s Brooke Jarvis: How one woman’s digital life was weaponized against her. 

• Eight women told Washington Post reporters Irin Carmon and Amy Brittain that Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them. 

• From Luke O’Brien of The Atlantic: The Making of an American Nazi

• From Time Magazine: Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers 

• Heartbreaking piece from NYT’s John Branch: A father's desperate attempt to save his son: ‘I Have No Idea How to Tell This Horror Story.’ 

• A remarkable wedding vows story by C.J. Chivers of The New York Times

• Deadspin’s Lindsey Adler, on a teen girl who posed for eight years as a married man to write about baseball and harass women. 

• From Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg and Steve Eder: Weinstein’s Complicity Machine

• This story from L.A. Times reporters Amy Kaufman and Daniel N. Miller on Brett Ratner was absolutely convincing and journalistically tight. 

• From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: How an unassuming neighborhood in Pittsburgh became the overdose capital of the region

• Haunting piece on domestic abuse from Katherine Fugate. 

• Incredible journalism from NYT reporters Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal investigating US airstrikes in Iraq. 

• This two-part podcast on an Iraqi civilian who lost his family due to an errant U.S. air strike is one of the great pieces of audio journalism in my lifetime. From The Daily:

Part I 

Part 2 

• Elegant piece by Mary Pols of the Portland Press Herald about the life and death of a Maine milk hauler. 

• Sensational piece by Jeanne Marie Laskas on the White House mailroom under Barack Obama. One of the best story I read this year. 

• From the New York Times reporter Scott Shane: How a new college graduate created a fake news website that drew millions of views. 

• Stunning work by Washington Post reporters Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous on the CIA capturing Putin’s specific instructions to defeat Clinton and help elect Trump. 

• Remarkable work via Jennings Brown of Gizmodo: The last of the iron lungs

• The Washington Post and 60 Minutes teamed up for an investigation on Congress weakening the DEA’s ability to go after drug distributors. Incredible reporting. 

• The Atlantic’s Jeff Maysh had one of the craziest stories you will ever read on catfishing.

• This might be the best single podcast episode I’ve ever heard 

• Disturbing, detailed report from Brett Anderson of The New Orleans Times-Picayune on allegations of John Besh restaurants fostering culture of sexual harassment. 

• Remarkable reporting from Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker: From aggressive overtures to sexual assault: Harvey Weinstein’s accusers end their silence. 

• Via The L.A. Times: They survived six hours in a pool as a wildfire burned their neighborhood to the ground. 

• From John Branch of the New York Times: The Girl in the No. 8 Jersey.

• ESPN’s Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham went inside the NFL owners and players trying to handle protests. 

• From Washington Post writer John Woodrow Cox: For six teens at a Las Vegas high school, homecoming week started with a country music concert

• Amazing to read today. The 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Death of a Playmate" by Teresa Carpenter. 

• Remarkable piece by Mac McClelland for the New York Times Magazine on what happens after a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity. 

Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur on the death of stick to sports

• Via Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post: How the military handles sexual assault cases behind closed doors. 

• From’s Vaughn Johnson: By day, she's the mayor's receptionist. By night, she's a pro wrestler. 

• From Alice Gregory of The New Yorker: How do you live after unintentionally causing a death? 

• Via The Marshall Project: After 20 years in prison for murder, she was ready to start a PhD at Harvard. Then the administration found out. 

• Via Washington Post writer John Woodrow Cox: Almost two dozen kids are shot every day in the U.S. This 4-year-old was one of them. 

Heartbreaking piece written on LinkedIn: “Is your daughter okay?” 

• From Rembert Browne, writing for Bleacher Report: I wrote a profile of Colin Kaepernick. I wrote an essay about America. 

• Excellent work from the L.A. Times writer Zach Helfand: LenDale White and what happened after fourth-and-two

• MIT professor Vipin Narang‏, on why Kim Jong-Un wouldn’t be irrational to use a nuclear bomb first. 

• Via Andrew Maraniss for The Undefeated: Frank Dowsing, Mississippi State’s first black football player, is almost unknown today. 

The Houston Chronicle, with a definitive humanistic piece on Hurricane Harvey. 

• Bleacher Report’s Lars Anderson, on the tragic death of Evan Murray, teenage quarterback. Brilliant, heartbreaking work. 

• Great piece by L.A. Magazine’s Jeff Maysh: The Cop Who Became a Robber

• A group of Tampa Bay Times reporters investigated the death of five workers at Tampa Electric. 

• Via The Oregonian’s Bethany Barnes: How Portland Public schools helped an educator evade sexual misconduct allegations. 

• Sobering and remarkable work from Lisa Gartner and Zachary T. Sampson of The Tampa Bay Times about a 16-year-old car thief who can’t escape his surroundings. 

• A truly remarkable piece by Jay Caspian Kang for the New York Times Magazine: What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity. 

• Great piece by The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer on Facebook and Google’s negative impact on journalism: “When Silicon Valley took over journalism ... my cautionary tale” 

•’s Mike Sielski on the life and death of a Philadelphia college basketball star. 

• Deadspin's Dave McKenna, on the kid who didn’t die at Riverfront Stadium. 

• By the time Noura Jackson’s conviction was overturned, she had spent nine years in prison. This type of prosecutorial error is almost never punished. Great work by Emily Bazelon. 

• Via NPR’s David Folkenflik: Behind Fox News' Baseless Seth Rich Story: The Untold Tale. 

Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler, on the young man Rae Carruth left behind.

• Frontline had a remarkable look at the rise of Vladimir Putin. I’d urge you to watch this. 

• WNBA star Breanna Stewart, for The Players Tribune, opened up about being molested as a nine-year-old. Courageous piece. 

• Via Buzzfeed’s Jim DeRogatis: R. Kelly Is Holding Women Against Their Will In A “Cult,” Parents Told Police. 

• Anthony Scaramucci called The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza. Here’s what happened.

• Meduza’s Danya Turovsky had a detailed look at how Moscow is preparing for the coming cyber World War. 

• From Tobias Rose-Stockwell: This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit. 

• Great work from Aaron Gordon of Vice Sports: The Five-Buck Bump of Cocaine That Destroyed an Olympic Dream. 

New York Times writer David Waldstein had a remarkable profile of the exciting life and lonely death of former NBAer Jackson Vroman.  

Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty on a 9-year-old basketball prodigy and all the horrors that come with that. 

• Vital reading from Mark Bowden, writing for The Atlantic: How To Deal with North Korea

• Gut-wrenching read from Julie Lurie of Mother Jones on a flood of children—having lost their parents to drug use or overdose—are living with foster families or relatives. 

• Remarkable story by Washington Post reporter Craig M. Whitlock on the FBI’s investigation of complaints that Bobby Knight groped women at U.S. spy agency. 

• Via Bloomberg: A massively under-covered story: U.S. power plants being breached by hackers working for foreign government. 

• From Bryan Curtis of The Ringer: Jemele Hill and the Fight for the Future of ESPN

• From Jana Pruden of The Walrus: Thirteen years ago, a five-year-old girl named Tamra Keepness disappeared in Regina. She has never been found. 

• From Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: She was his rock. Now a failed NFL player is accused of killing his mother. 

• A college football player thought he and a friend were going to meet up with two women. Instead, they were abducted and tortured for 40 hours—all because of a teammate. Harrowing story by Tisha Thompson and Andy Lockett of ESPN’s Outside The Lines

• Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post wrote a brilliant feature on a Muslim doctor who arrived in a rural Midwestern town and what happened post-election.

• Via Masha Gessen of The New Yorker: The Gay Men Who Fled Chechnya’s Purge. 

• A great media and culture piece by Charlie Warzel of Buzzfeed on the race to get the top response under a Trump tweet. 

• The end of a college baseball program. Terrific work by Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News

• This Players Tribune piece by Mike Bossy was tremendous. Really poignant. 

• From The New Yorker: West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country. Locals are fighting to save their neighbors—and their towns—from destruction. 

• From Tobin Smith: How Roger Ailes and Fox News Got Rich Scamming America’s La Z Boy Cowboys and Selling Out America’s Soul: 

• ESPN’s Tom Junod, on Muhammad Ali's last days

• From Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times: A Mother’s Death, a Botched Inquiry and a Sheriff at War: 

• An incredible piece of journalism by PBS’s Frontline: Steve Bannon’s War

• Did the Turkish President’s Security Detail Attack Protesters in Washington? Great interactive work by New York Times

• In California, millions of dollars' worth of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are disappearing. Farmers are perplexed, the cops are confused, and the crooks are getting richer. By Peter Vigneron of Outside Magazine

• Incredible story from Mike Newall of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the heroic librarians battling Philly's heroin epidemic—who literally helped save a life in front of Newell. 

• By Nina Martin of ProPublica, and Renee Montagne of NPR: The Last Person You Would Expect to die in childbirth. 

• ESPNers Steve Fainaru, Greg Amante: Bill Roach, Logan Cascia, Chris Buckle, Horgan Tonya Malinowski, and Michael Baltierra did remarkable reporting on Syria's national soccer team. 

• From Chris J. Rice for Catapult: Decades After Foster Care, I Found My Long-Lost Brother

• Thought this Donald G. McRae interview of former NBA player Craig Hodges for The Guardian was fascinating. 

• Make sure you watch Frontline’s North Korea’s Deadly Dictator documentary 

Buffalo News sports columnist Bucky Gleason on Western Michigan’s 71-68 win over the University at Buffalo. 

• Must-reading from The Washington Post’s John Woodrow Cox: For a second-grader, gunfire, school lockdowns, then the worst violence of all. 

• The always-excellent Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr.‏ responded to a reader who felt he had been too negative since the 2016 election. 

• Amazing story from Daniel Brown of the Mercury News: How an NFL player’s donated heart saved the life of a baseball Hall of Famer. 

• From Christina Frangou for Swerve: The last day in the life of an ordinary man who decided he wanted to die. 

• Via The Seattle Times: How Pearl Jam formed

• A great first person from Cavs guard Isaiah Thomas for the Players’ Tribune. 

• Sixty journalists at the Cincinnati Enquirerexamined the heroin epidemic. 

The First White President, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

• On the politics of college football, by Spencer Hall of SB Nation. 

Charlotte Observer’s Jesse Soloff writes about his late wife: A blue bungalow, a big backyard, and a future that was all too short. 

• A powerful, painful piece from Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal, who lost her son to heroin

• Politico’s Tim Alberta did some remarkable reporting on the GOP’s Health Care Debacle. 

• Dan Pompei, writing for The Athletic, wrote a beautiful piece on sportscaster Mike Adamle suffering from dementia. 

• Brilliant work from the Washington Post’s Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan on the immigration fight in Texas. 

• Terrence Ross wrote a great piece for The Players Tribune on playing in Toronto. 

• You May Want to Marry My Husband. Remarkable piece by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 

• A truly extraordinary post from’s Royce Young on his unborn child. I hope you read this. 

• Great piece by David Epstein on the epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatment. 

• Poignant piece by Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune on why the longtime Chargers PR director will not move with the team. 

• From Nathaniel Rich of the New York Times Magazine: A young, shackled black man is shot to death—and the police say he killed himself. The resulting investigation has pitted the victim’s father against the most powerful man in New Iberia, La. 

• Friendship, death and a girl that saved the football season. By Elizabeth Merrill of

• Via Hailey Branson Potts of the L.A. Times comes this remarkable piece about a foster father who takes in only terminally ill children. 

• Sports editor Greg Tufaro‏offered a heartfelt tribute to his daughter, who lost a valiant battle with cancer after a heart transplant. 

• This Mark Leibovich piece on the bond between Donald Trump and the Patriots had some remarkable quotes. 

• From Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham: The inside story of the Raiders move to Vegas

• The story behind the amazing viral photo of Muslim and Jewish children protesting at Chicago’s O'Hare Airport.

Buffalo News writer Tim Graham went searching for kicker Bjorn Nittmo. What he found will haunt you. 

• Via Wired’s Brendan I. Koerner: Can You Turn A Terrorist Back Into A Citizen

• Bleacher Report’s Flinder Boyd on the life of Joe McKnight

• From The Boston Globe: She loved him, and he died in the Holocaust. Now her son is bringing his music back to life: 

• Longtime Pacific Northwest sportswriter Dave Boling, on the remarkable story on how former Seahawks great Curt Warner and his wife Ana raised autistic twins. 

• Kevin Van Valkenburg, on journalism, for The Sunday Long Read

• From Jeff Pearlman: The Fallout From Sportswriting's Filthiest F-Up

• Via Outside: When a creature mysteriously turns up dead in Alaska—be it a sea otter, polar bear, or humpback whale—veterinary pathologist Kathy Burek gets the call.

• The best piece I read in 2017 on the Russia-U.S. dynamic: How We Fool Ourselves on Russia