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Damn, We Wish We’d Done These 5 Stories This Month

At the end of every year, we’re jealous of Bloomberg’s “Jealousy List,” a collection of stories that staffers wish they had published. We’re so jealous that we’re making monthly lists of our own.

So here are five stories published by other journalists last month that made us envious. Hopefully, our jealousy will lead to your discovery.



By Undark Magazine and The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Airborne pollution that’s small enough to sneak through the respiratory system’s armor is wreaking havoc worldwide, contributing to more than 4 million deaths a year. But we all know that pollution is bad for human health, and that’s part of what makes it such a tough subject for journalists to cover. The series “Breathtaking” shows the way, using photos, video and text to go deep into the topic. The first installment in the series describes the thick fog of pollution from brick kilns, burning garbage, construction and vehicle emissions that has settled in Patna, India, a city of 2 million people. So far, the series excels for both its nuanced understanding of the challenges to improving air quality and its stark description of the lives that are at stake.

— Anna Maria Barry-Jester, lead health writer


Trump Has Changed How Teens View the News

By Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic

First off, how good is Taylor Lorenz? She keeps knocking out these clever, insightful pieces, seemingly a couple a week. With this one, ignore the headline: This story is about much more than Trump; it’s about the changing media landscape. And it does something we like to do at FiveThirtyEight, which is explore a hunch by backing it up with a nuanced combination of data and reporting. Some of the ways that our faith in the institution of media is disintegrating are startling. For instance, teachers are hiding the source of articles they use in class for fear that they’ll be dismissed as fake news. But I also see some hope in this article. For one, we should be having a conversation about media bias. We should be initially skeptical of salacious reporting. But that media literacy needs to be guided — and nuanced. Teachers, we’re counting on you.

— Jody Avirgan, podcast host and producer


Delmon Young Trade Tree: How to flip a bust for 15 years of talent

By Sam Miller,

ESPN’s Sam Miller is a frequent object of our jealousy here at the FiveThirtyEight sports desk, and his midmonth story on the legacy of a long-forgotten Tampa Bay Rays trade is a good example of why. Through a string of deals that spans more than a decade, Miller shows how one bust of a former top prospect (Delmon Young) was swapped for a succession of players — who were themselves flipped for still more players — that ultimately helped the Rays recover roughly as much value as if Young had just turned into a star in the first place.

— Neil Paine, senior sportswriter


Vitamin D, the Sunshine Supplement, Has Shadowy Money Behind It

By Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health News/The New York Times

Here’s yet another example of a vitamin not living up to its hype. Szabo’s investigation shows how conflicts of interest shaped recommendations on vitamin D and why testing became so widespread: There was lots of money to be made.

— Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer


Women’s Pockets are Inferior

By Jan Diehm and Amber Thomas, The Pudding

It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever worn women’s clothing that the pockets are a disaster. Pants tailored to women often just skip pockets altogether or, to our horror, feature a flap that looks like a pocket but, for no good reason, isn’t one. But even when women’s pants — or dresses! — have pockets, nothing ever seems to fit in them. The good people at The Pudding wanted data to see if women’s pockets really are inferior to men’s, so they measured the pockets of 80 pairs of jeans from 20 of the most popular American brands and then visualized all those pockets beautifully. The takeaway? If you wear women’s pants, you really can’t fit anything in your pockets — if you even have pockets at all.

— Sara Ziegler, general editor