Some of Post Alley’s Top Stories of 2021

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With a few days left in 2021, Post Alley has published 721 stories this year. That’s 741,381 words for an average of 1,021 words per post by 67 writers, and, according to our server statistics, about 10,000 page views per day. Not a huge audience, but a loyal one, and one that’s growing significantly year-over-year.

As the year closes here are five of our most notable stories:

  1. Goodbye, Walker Rock Garden. Another Treasure We Failed to Save, by Eric Scigliano. The story of an obsessive “driver-turned-Boeing-rigger named Milton Walker” who labored over many years to build a phantasmagorical rock garden around the modest house in West Seattle that Walker and his wife Florence lived in for 50 years. In the grandest traditions of outsider artists, he created something unique and quite apart from any of the mainstream currents of art, a fantasy world that could only exist in this place. After years of trying to find a way to save this one-man masterpiece — including a years-long effort by Eric — last summer the garden was reduced to rubble by developers, and a little-seen piece of Seattle history was wiped away. The tale of its creation and ultimate destruction speaks to how we value and preserve (or don’t) culture.
  2. Bubble Trouble: How Seattle’s Radical Left Grew and (Predictably) Got Whupped, by Sandeep Kaushik. What were Seattle voters saying in November’s elections? The day after the election we published Sandeep’s analysis, which, to be fair, wasn’t just the product of a few reflections on election night. Over the past year, he had been aching to write a piece that reflected his growing insight that Seattle’s emboldened far-left activists had over-stepped and become trapped in their own Twitter bubble out of step with the larger electorate. This election confirmed those observations. As interesting, perhaps, was the way that activist progressives chose to interpret election results as the “conservative right” rising up again. Sandeep points out that for all intents, there is no such thing anymore as a conservative right as a political force in Seattle anymore, and, as he writes in this piece, today’s battles are about which version of progressivism will prevail here.
  3. Unsafe: A Pioneer Square Restaurateur’s Plea to City Hall: Help!, By Katherine Anderson. One of our most-commented-on pieces this year was by the owner of London Plane restaurant in Pioneer Square, who wrote about how unsafe her neighborhood had become and how there seems to be no policy or solution in sight to help turn things around: “There is an incident with a mentally unstable and/or aggressive individual harassing our customers and staff on our patio nearly every day that we are open (Wednesdays – Sundays, 10-4), and often many times a day, be it the same individual or multiple individuals.” Without help, she wrote, her restaurant would not be able to continue. Her plea resonated with many who worry that our city has become less safe over the past few years.
  4. The Melting Signs of Climate Change on Northwest Glaciers, By Joel Connelly. To be honest, stories on global warming generally don’t get a lot of readership. The stories are depressing, for sure. And there’s a sense of helplessness — how can I do anything about glaciers melting or sea levels rising, or… Nonetheless, it is crucially important to know about and understand how our climate is changing and what’s being done (or not done) to mitigate or manage it. An avid outdoorsman who cares deeply about preserving the environment, Joel has been chronicling the Northwest and its spectacular wilderness not just from a political policy perspective, but as someone who has endeavored to travel to and hike as much of the region as he can. Over the past year, in addition to covering local and national politics, Joel has written about preservation efforts to stop the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay and save the Tongass Forest in Alaska. He also wrote a series of stories about the effects of climate change on the Northwest, including personal observation of the shrinking of our glaciers.
  5. Medical Revolution: The Tantalizing and Profound Promise of mRNA, by Tom Corddry. By now, everyone is pretty sick of the disruptions of the coronavirus. Even those who were careful at the start are fatigued and ready to just get on with their lives. And it doesn’t help that the information we get keeps changing or that a lot of that information is contradictory. We want definitive answers and it’s frustrating not to get them. Tom Corddry has been a steady voice through the pandemic, monitoring the reports and studies and reporting for us on “what we know so far.” But one of our favorite pieces this year was one he did about the breakthrough research on mRNA that gave us the vaccines but also holds huge potential promise for addressing many more illnesses. Bad as the COVID crisis has been, it would have been many times worse without the scientific wizardry that produced the vaccines and now offers us hope for the future.

One of the difficulties of making a year-end list is all the stories and writers that get left out, even randomly so. Like the analysis of international affairs by Carol J Williams who monitors complex political situations around the world and explains why Brexit isn’t working out so well, how Putin is flexing his power and how Xi Jinping is remaking Chinese culture. Or Mark Hinshaw, a former city planner in Seattle, who now lives in a small village in Italy and reports on how Italians do things. Or the prolific Jean Godden, who continues to find ways to share her common sense insights into the Seattle character. Dan Chasan has a way of explaining complex legal arguments in everyday language. Our historians David Buerge and Junius Rochester. Our city-hall obsessive Kevin Schofield who probably understands the place better than anyone. Fred Jarrett and Clair Enlow and Mike James. Steve Murch, the entrepreneurial moderate. Roger Downey, who’s a pleasure to read even if you haven’t seen the performance. And veteran journalist Linda Kramer Jenning. Oregon expert Floyd McKay. National political observer Mort Kondracke. The irrepressible Jane Adams. The unstoppable Kathy Cain. Then there’s progressive whisperer Nick Licata and state politics wonk Paul Queary and astute observer of the human condition Anthony B. Robinson. And Steve Clifford, Post Alley’s resident Borowitz. Also contributing meaningfully this year have been editor John Acher and book-leave-king Dick Lilly, and many many more. A special shout-out to David Brewster, who helped put this motley crew together and continues to nudge and cajole and guide this experiment in local journalism. Here’s hoping for a better 2022, and thanks for reading Post Alley!

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Doug is a longtime arts journalist, and the founder and editor of ArtsJournal.com, he's frequent keynoter on arts and digital issues, and works with a number of arts organizations nationally.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Doug, the pleasure is for all of us newsies in having your leadership and expertise. There also is joy in associating with knowledgable thinkers and writers (even those times when I may disagree). Happy New Year to all.

  2. Thanks and more thanks to Doug ‘n’ Dave, the passably glamourous duo that launched this “biggest whatever that anybody ever saw” and keep it rumbling onward and upward.

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