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Jealousy List

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December 10, 2018

At Bloomberg Businessweek, we like to think we have a sense of humor. We poke fun at others now and then, sure. But really we like to poke fun at ourselves, because that's healthy and enjoyable.

The Jealousy List is neither healthy nor enjoyable. For the fifth or fourth or seventh (whatever, they all run together in a vortex of envy) consecutive year, this magazine's editors forced us to come up with articles we wish we'd thought of first. Journalism so good it makes us question our career choices.

So please enjoy the 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek Jealousy List. And to the honorees: Congratulations, and may the damage to our self-esteem bring you a smidgen of joy.

Check out our previous jealousy lists from 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Jim Aley [Twitter]

The Ghosts of the Orphanage

from BuzzFeed News

Jim Aley An investigation into St. Joseph’s Orphanage, in Burlington, Vt. The orphanage has been closed for a long time, thank God. Christine Kenneally interviewed aging former residents to tell a horrifying story about the torture, sexual assault, and murder of children over decades. The survivors show heartbreaking courage, and Kenneally bears witness with grace. This article is a painful read. I’ll never forget it.
Kim Bhasin [Twitter]

Babes in Pump Land

from Vogue
Kim Bhasin OK, I know this is trashy as hell, but Bridget Read’s 48 hours with the cast of Vanderpump Rules for Vogue is a delightful behind-the-scenes look at the hurricane of drama, sex, and total absurdity on Bravo’s show about the employees at Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant. I agree, it’s America’s perfect reality show. It’s wonderful, shameless mayhem.
Ira Boudway [Twitter]

What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?

from the Players’ Tribune

Ira Boudway I don’t care if this piece is from “the No. 1 sports website for boring, ghostwritten first-person accounts from athletes,” I’m jealous of what Darius Miles can do in 6,500 words. Want to know what it’s like to grow up in East St. Louis? Be 19 and playing in the NBA in the year 2000? Watch homemade kung fu movies with Shaquille O’Neal? Lose your livelihood and your mother by age 35? It’s all here.
Austin Carr [Twitter]

Billion-Dollar Blessings

from ProPublica, co-published with the New York Times Magazine

Austin Carr Alec MacGillis delivers a revealing look at the business of Liberty University Online, the second-largest online education provider in the U.S., which has become a highly profitable arm of the nonprofit Christian institution. In a year dominated by Silicon Valley-centric tech stories, I found his reporting on the questionable operations of L.U.O., based in Lynchburg, Va., to be a refreshing and eye-opening departure, a reminder of the many underscrutinized internet platforms outside the Bay Area in need of more media coverage. The story sheds light on L.U.O.’s dubious recruiting tactics and what can only be described as its divine technical support, while also serving as a lens to explore Trump-era education policy and the state of the religious right.
Max Chafkin [Twitter]

Post No Evil

from Radiolab

Max Chafkin There was a lot of great work produced about Facebook this year. This one, a series of stories created by Simon Adler for WNYC’s Radiolab, stuck with me most. It opens in 2008, when Facebook began drafting rules about nudity and violence. What starts as a reasonable exercise becomes absurdist, and an argument builds showing why the company’s policies were inadequate to the task of dealing with deliberate misinformation. Adler avoids the easy outrage traps that have sometimes defined coverage of Facebook’s response to election meddling, exploring how people with a lot of idealism got themselves into what turned out to be an impossible position: as arbiters of what is acceptable speech.
Emily Chasan [Twitter]

Kids on the Line series

from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Emily Chasan On a big breaking news story, sometimes every story looks the same, but talented journalists knowing where to look can make you see everything in a completely different light. The Center for Investigative Reporting’s “Kids on the Line” series has really highlighted what it means when children are forcibly separated from their parents. The reporters’ work—revealing the use of anti-psychotic drugs given to children, the licensing and abuse histories of institutions charged with taking care of migrant kids, and the lack of access to tent cities where children are living—has been gut-wrenching and incredibly necessary.
Howard Chua-Eoan [Twitter]

No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria

Howard Chua-Eoan I was once Rania Abouzeid’s editor back at Time magazine and sent her on many nerve-wracking assignments into Syria. I’ve always admired the way she used the foibles and inconsistencies of real people to tell the rest of the world about the violence and tragedy of the civil war that’s torn that country apart. Now she’s written this book about the conflict from the perspective of friends and families ripped apart by contending passions—a heart-rending, on-the-ground epic with the same verve, sensibility, and poetry that’s always distinguished her magazine writing. It’s a stunning achievement: the book I wish I could have written, if only I were as brave as her.
Timothy Coulter [Twitter]

Is Francis Mallmann the Most Interesting Chef in the World?

from Esquire

Timothy Coulter I enjoy good food and like to think I have a reasonable knowledge of who matters in that world, even if I have never been or likely never will visit their restaurants. So when our London food writer said he was interviewing Francis Mallmann, I had to Google to find what has already been written. What I found is Jeff Gordinier’s definitive tale of a 25-hour journey from Miami to the eccentric chef’s island on a remote Patagonian lake and the man who taught the world to embrace meat and fire.
Peter Coy [Twitter]

Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

from the New York Times

Peter Coy Somebody had to pick this amazing investigation. The Times reported that with one simple ploy involving faked receipts, Donald Trump’s father managed to direct millions of dollars in untaxed gifts to his son and other relatives, and simultaneously “justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.”
Josh Eidelson [Twitter]

How Flat Tummy Co gamed Instagram to sell women the unattainable ideal

from the Guardian

Josh Eidelson The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong reveals how the lack of regulation for nutritional supplements, Instagram’s loopholes for manipulative before-and-after pics, and an army of confidentially paid “influencers” together fueled the swift rise of a company preaching women’s empowerment while hawking appetite suppressants. “Personally, I will never buy something that has been recommended to me on Instagram,” one former Flat Tummy Co employee told Wong. “I just know there’s someone pulling the strings.”
Allison Ellis [Twitter]

How to Succeed as Global Growth Editor, One Viral Slide Show at a Time

from the New York Times

Allison Ellis As a social media editor, reading a story about how a fellow social media warrior had something they worked on go unexpectedly viral is meta in the best way possible. This article is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what social media editors do all day. Also, Millie Tran’s slideshow is fabulous for anyone wondering “What Am I Going To Do With My Life???”
Lisa Fleisher [Twitter]

Disney World’s Big Secret: It’s a Favorite Spot to Scatter Family Ashes

from the Wall Street Journal

Lisa Fleisher Who knew that so many people were spreading their relatives’ ashes around Disney World, often as they floated through the It’s a Small World ride? And who knew so many of them would talk about it, on the record, and provide photos to a Wall Street Journal reporter? This WSJ “A-hed” is a master example of reporting deep and writing tight. I’ll never think of the Happiest Place on Earth the same way again.
James Gaddy [Twitter]

Naomi Osaka’s Breakthrough Game

from the New York Times Magazine

James Gaddy Keep in mind that this was written before the U.S. Open began. On its own, this is a rare look at an athlete “living on the hyphen” as author Brook Larmer calls it—balancing Japanese, American, and Haitian cultures. In hindsight, it reads like destiny.
Felix Gillette [Twitter]

How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions

from the Daily Beast

Felix Gillette A jaw-dropping business-crime story about the improbable plundering of a famous fast-food promotion, this gem by Jeff Maysh piled up huge traffic numbers for the Daily Beast, became planet Earth’s top trending topic on Twitter, and triggered a frenzied bidding war in Hollywood, culminating in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon shelling out $1 million for its screen rights, which is apparently the highest price ever paid for an optioned article. In summary: just one big bomb cyclone of jealousy.
Mark Glassman [Twitter]

Good Dogs

from Reuters

Mark Glassman Not all great journalism has to break news. Take Reuters’s clear and delightful explainer of how the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show works—and how it came to look the way it does. This piece doesn’t blow the lid off the show’s anti-dachshund bias or deliver a live play-by-play. It just uses graphics, photos, and text to make a stodgy, esoteric tradition interesting and accessible to a general audience. It brings the dogs to the nondog people. Is there a greater cause?
Jillian Goodman [Twitter]

Slow Burn podcast

from Slate

Jillian Goodman The premise is pretty simple: Once they recede into history, even the unlikeliest events wind up looking pretty straightforward, but what did they look and feel like to the people who actually experienced them? The thing that makes it magic, though, is how earnest it is. Leon Neyfakh et al. approach their mission with the utmost sincerity, trying mightily to forget what they already know and begin at the beginning with fresh eyes. Season 1, about the Watergate investigation, premiered just before the end of last year (slightly outside the bounds of the Jealousy List, but new episodes continued to appear in 2018, so I’m going to say it counts), and to my mind is slightly more successful than Season 2 on the Clinton impeachment scandal, which began in August. Still, even/especially if you were there for both crazy times, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
Rebecca Greenfield [Twitter]

Everyone Believed Larry Nassar

from New York magazine

Rebecca Greenfield This has been the year of learning about how men in positions of power get away with gross, criminal behavior. There are so many amazing stories to choose from, but Kerry Howley’s on Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of young girls for years, shows the capacity for male authority to drown out the voices of women asking for help. Over the years, the gymnasts he abused told their parents, coaches, and the authorities. Yet, Nassar continued, unchecked because he had credentials: He was a doctor; he had legitimacy. Often, women aren’t silent; they’re just not listened to—and this story shows exactly how that happens.
Bryan Gruley [Twitter]

‘I Was Hoping to Be Retired’: The Cost of Supporting Parents and Adult Children

from the Wall Street Journal

Bryan Gruley Since I worked with Mike Phillips in the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau years ago, I’ve made it a point to read anything he writes. He does what he does with the analytical mind of an economist (he spent years covering the economy) and the heartfelt observation of a novelist. He’s also written some of the best war stories—including a series that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist—of the past decade or so. This piece was just lying there waiting for someone to write it, an in-depth look at a couple squeezed by the costs of caring for both their children and their parents. Phillips co-wrote it with Heather Gillers, and it includes priceless little nuggets like this: “The minister at the small timbered chapel pulled the vestment over the lures hanging from his fishing vest, rolled out a burgundy carpet, set up some fake flowers and declared them married. The next couple in line threw rice on the Strickerts as they headed off to a two-day honeymoon in Branson, Mo.”
Jordyn Holman [Twitter]

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

the New York Times Magazine

Jordyn Holman For far too many black women, what should be one of life’s most joyous milestones—the birth of a child—is marked with unspeakable tragedy. Since Serena Williams shared her harrowing story about trying to advocate for herself and almost dying during childbirth, there has been a growing body of investigative articles and awareness in the U.S. about black infant mortality. African-American women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, pushing the U.S. into a group of about a dozen other countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality is now worse than it was 25 years ago. Linda Villarosa took up this life—or—death topic in a heartbreaking New York Times Magazine piece that shows that the everyday racism and discrimination black women face largely contribute to these statistics. It’s once again a reminder that racism in America doesn’t affect just individuals, but generations to come.
Jeremy Keehn [Twitter]

The Candy Issue

from the New York Times Magazine

Jeremy Keehn Faced with a choice between this and Anne Applebaum’s terrifying “A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come” in the Atlantic, I opted for confection over disaffection. I wolfed down Mary H.K. Choi’s introductory panegyric-slash-polemic. I savored Tejal Rao’s tour of Japan’s kaleidoscopic Kit Kat industry. My only complaint: the blurb on Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, a Canuck favorite beloved by savvy Americans, left me jonesing for my home country’s more diverse and delectable candy offerings.
Dimitra Kessenides [Twitter]

Teach Your Children

Dimitra Kessenides Because “protest”, “march,” and “RESIST” are not dirty, unpatriotic words but ones that inspire humanity and result in change. They are words to live by. Graham Nash’s words and music, rendered this past year in this powerful animated video by Jeff Scher, are as relevant today as when the song was written in the late 1960s. The video poignantly links protest and political images from the past and present. For all the ugly, terrifying division in our world, it’s kids like the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, leading the way, living by those words, that offer the greatest hope for a better world.
Silvia Killingsworth [Twitter]

New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point to Pattern of Grifting

from Forbes

Silvia Killingsworth Wilbur Ross: a centimillionaire who allegedly steals Sweet’N Low packets—and “a few million here and a few million there”!
Kate Krader [Twitter]

I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It

from Thrillist

Kate Krader This is one of those stories that 10 people forwarded to me within hours of its posting. The provocative title is a cautionary tale of the dangers of both writing about, and following, a “Best Of” list. Most compelling, it’s about how a seemingly well-researched story—i.e., 330 burgers, 30 cities, 1 year—can have a devastating effect on a place that’s simply very good at doing its job. This piece led to another article I’m jealous of, on Jezebel, “The Making of a Sympathetic Man,” by Molly Osberg, that calls into question whether it was this review that killed the burger restaurant, or the legal challenges of the guy who owned it.
Devin Leonard [Twitter]

The Tower

from London Review of Books

Devin Leonard Andrew O’Hagan vividly reconstructs the Grenfell Tower fire and the stories of its immigrant residents, those who escaped and those who didn’t. What really made me envious, though, was his clear-eyed account of how community activists, cheered on by their show business and media supporters, waged a campaign to blame the catastrophe on local Tory leaders in charge of the building, whom O’Hagan describes as doing their best under impossible circumstances. In an era when tragedies are instantly politicized via social media, we need more stories like this.
Cristina Lindblad [Twitter]

The Dwarf, the Prince, and the Diamond in the Mountain

from New York magazine

Cristina Lindblad My colleagues may gravitate to investigative pieces—those deeply reported, 5,000-plus-word stories that scream “prize-winning” as soon as you’re three paragraphs in. But I have a soft spot for manufacturing stories. I want to smell the industrial adhesives; I want to hear the din of the metal-stamping machines; I want to see laser sintering in action—and all without getting my hands dirty. So I deeply enjoyed Cathy Horyn’s story in New York magazine about the Birkenstock sandal’s fashion moment. Let me say that I thought I’d already read the definitive piece on this subject, in the form of a 2015 New Yorker story by Rebecca Mead. Yet the happy marriage of Horyn’s words with Juergen Teller’s photos of Birkenstock production was a useful reminder that just because a story’s been done before is no reason not to do it again—but better, of course.
Leonor Mamanna

The Class of 1946–2018

from New York magazine

Leonor Mamanna New York magazine photographed and interviewed school-shooting survivors from the past 70 years. The cover and opening image is of Anthony Borges, a Parkland survivor, who was shot five times. It’s a remarkable and poignant photo essay.
Polly Mosendz [Twitter]

An Immigrant Braces for Upheaval After Two Decades in America

from the Boston Globe

Polly Mosendz Rosa Yanes is a janitor at the Boston Globe and an immigrant. Marcela Garcia, also an immigrant, is a journalist there. While many white-collar workers ignore the service staff in their offices, Garcia became friends with Yanes and tells the story of their immigrant paths diverging in an enlightening, though heartbreaking, way.
Jeff Muskus [Twitter]

Taylor Lorenz’s social media coverage

from the Atlantic

Jeff Muskus To experience just one focal point for my envy, start with “Teens Are Debating the News on Instagram,” a closer look at how some kids’ meme skills have yielded real political influence over their fellow soon-to-be voters. Lorenz has an exceptional grasp of the What Teens Are Doing slice of her beat, and a key advantage is that she rarely rolls her eyes. She’s just showing us olds a world that’s invisible to most of us, one that’s growing more important with every post.
Naula Ndugga

Cardi B Gives Her Most Explicit Interview Yet

from Cosmopolitan

Naula Ndugga The year of the woman may not have included all women—that’s what Cosmopolitan’s Jazmine Hughes made clear with her sit-down interview with Cardi B, a rapper who shot to the heights of the hip-hop world. Cardi B, known for her hard-hitting tracks and unapologetic and bold demeanor, became one of the first celebrities to call us all out on the lack of inclusivity and intersectionality of the #MeToo movement this year. In a wide-ranging interview, the 26-year-old shared her experience as a video vixen and her doubts about whether the movement will change the music industry. Her honesty and bluntness highlighted the very real state of one of 2018’s most visceral movements that has largely forgotten about black, Hispanic, Native American, and poor women and sex workers. The interview highlighted the importance of diverse voices on topical issues, challenged us to reflect on whom we left behind this year, and gave credibility to female voices we typically don’t turn to for their opinions.
Justin Ocean [Twitter]

Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking

from Wired
Justin Ocean Technically this came out in 2017, but by the time I read it in print, the new year was upon us, and I did not like how the future looked at all. Mara Hvistendahl’s exposé on China’s nascent social credit system is disturbing, dystopian, and—to me, a gay man—super alarming. The FICO score for your life, based not only on your finances but your “morals,” could inhibit your very freedom of movement, with little recourse to dig yourself out if you get a bad break or have, you know, a different outlook on life. Beijing plans to implement it for its 22 million residents by 2021. Of all the Black Mirror episodes to become reality, this one chilled me to my bones.
Toluse Olorunnipa [Twitter]

Perversion of Justice

from the Miami Herald

Toluse Olorunnipa This investigative piece documented how millionaire hedge fund exec Jeffrey Epstein allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of underage girls, and got a plea deal that allowed him to get out of jail after only 13 months. The deal was kept from his victims, who were described by prosecutors as prostitutes and had no opportunity to object to the light sentence. Epstein was even allowed to leave his jail cell during the day and work out of his office. It was a clear depiction of how the justice system can bend to the will of the rich and powerful, even when they are guilty of preying on poor underage girls. The Herald did a fantastic job unveiling this outrage and shining a spotlight on the lead prosecutor who approved the deal: Alex Acosta, who now serves as U.S. secretary of labor.
Josh Petri [Twitter]

Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It

from New York magazine

Josh Petri If 2018 was the year of the scam (and it was), Anna Delvey should be the Woman of the Year. She lived in fancy hotels and hosted dinners for the right people in the hottest restaurants while ostensibly working to open her own private arts club. Nobody knew where the money came from, but it didn’t matter as long as her bills were being paid. Then came the crushing realization: They weren’t being paid.
Mira Rojanasakul [Twitter]

A Map of Every Building in America

from the New York Times

Mira Rojanasakul There’s a Borges short story about the “perfect” map—so rich in detail that it takes up the same space as the world it’s meant to represent. “A Map of Every Building in America” gives me the same feeling of an infinite thing set in sharp contrast to our limited time to understand it. The New York Times team starts with satellite data processed by Microsoft’s neural networks, then augments it with local data that is then manually checked and cleaned. EVERY BUILDING!
Eric Roston [Twitter]

The Suffocation of Democracy

from the New York Review of Books

Eric Roston Mike Godwin is an attorney and author who in the pre-web days of 1990 observed that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” Godwin’s law, an axiom of internet life, became less funny when scholars of fascism began earnestly comparing the U.S. to the Third Reich. Among them is Christopher R. Browning, an emeritus history professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, who looked at the U.S. today and Nazi Germany, and noted “several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference” in this October New York Review of Books essay.
David Rovella [Twitter]

‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America

from the Washington Post
David Rovella Sure, Russia pulled a fast one in 2016, exploiting pent-up Republican animus toward Barack Obama that had been carefully stoked by right-wing media. But Eli Saslow’s exploration of the willingness of some Americans to be manipulated—and the inability of others to resist—brings home the story of how such hybrid warfare works. His meditation on the expanding, existential rot at the heart of American society, fed by social media billionaires who contend their platforms are venues for enlightenment rather than the hate that actually fills them, reads like an epitaph.
Aaron Rutkoff [Twitter]

Selling Airborne Opulence to the Upper Upper Upper Class

from the New York Times Magazine

Aaron Rutkoff For an editor, perhaps there’s no surer sign of jealousy than remembering something you read nearly 10 months ago and using it as the inspiration for an assignment. This portrait of a private-jet salesman has impeccable scenes and details, and that’s before Tony Robbins takes over as an evangelist for the lifestyle. It’s a fitting story for our lopsided times.
Deena Shanker [Twitter]

When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home

from the New Yorker

Deena Shanker Pests are a major problem for food producers, an occasional one for homeowners, and not usually something the general public is super interested in reading about, especially not in their full and gross glorious detail. But Kathryn Schulz managed to write a feature about stinkbugs that is as funny as it is informative, telling us everything we never knew we needed to know about this persistent and smelly invasive species—with one exception: how to get rid of them.
Kyle Stock [Twitter]

The Car Loans That Never Die

from Jalopnik

Kyle Stock A gritty, deep dive into one of the murkiest corners of the subprime loan business. Beyond the rickety math and hardscrabble heartache, there’s a simple take-away: In a buyer-beware world, being poor is often way more expensive than imaginable.
James Tarmy [Twitter]

After the Fall

from London Review of Books

James Tarmy John Lanchester manages to distill the 10 years since the financial crash into a neat, cogent, and provocative synopsis. His argument is, in effect, that by “fixing” the world economy, politicians, economists, and bankers have grossly exacerbated inequality. At a time when dozens of writers are attempting to explain What Happened, Lanchester’s recap emerges as the most persuasive, particularly because he writes with such grace and lucidity.
Ashlee Vance [Twitter]

A Kingdom From Dust

from the California Sunday Magazine

Ashlee Vance This story appeared in January and has only felt more and more poignant as the year has progressed and one climate catastrophe has followed another. It’s a deeply reported piece on how a few people have taken ownership of the paradise that is California and the abuses that have been wrought upon the land.
Jillian Ward [Twitter]

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

from the New York Times

Jillian Ward This was the story that changed everything this year for Facebook. There had been many stories before it that nibbled around the edges of the social network’s struggle with fake news, election-meddling, and user-privacy lapses, but nothing had much of an impact before this devastating New York Times investigation tore apart the company’s carefully crafted image as a neutral platform for sharing photos and taking harmless personality quizzes. Every government inquiry and new revelation that followed exists against the backdrop laid out by this story. Facebook has been on the defensive ever since.
Joel Weber [Twitter]

The Great Chinese Art Heist

from GQ

Joel Weber One of my favorite issues of Bloomberg Businessweek this year was our Heist Issue, which we devoted to “sordid tales of money gone missing.” A few weeks later, GQ published Alex Palmer’s story about noteworthy Chinese artwork disappearing from museums around the world. The piece felt like a kindred spirit to our issue—a mystery that contains all the right ingredients and leaves you satisfied but also wanting more.
(Corrects the level of award received by Mike Phillips.)