Rushing: Some of my Favorite Stories of 2021

Photo by Derek Hytrek

This year was unique because I spent half of it working outside of journalism.

I got back in the game full time in July and was able to write some pretty good stuff ranging from ridiculous—honestly, some of my favorite kind of stories—to serious deep dives on political races and narratives surrounding issues in the news.

With that kind of range of stories to choose from, it makes picking my five favorite stories of the year a little agonizing in the best way possible. To make it a little easier on myself, I’m going to share my five favorite stories from 2021, but they aren’t in any particular order!

OK, let’s go!

Des Moines Taco Fest Mess Leaves Attendees Frustrated

When you get to quote someone describing an event as “Fyre Fest on a bridge,” you’re going to enjoy writing the story. This article blew up and was one of Starting Line’s biggest of the year.

Multiple news outlets across the country reached out to me for help to try and track down the organizers of the failed Des Moines event because those same promoters were planning events in their communities.

Additionally, Starting Line’s reporting was cited by multiple outlets that dug into AZ Food Festivals LLC, the Arizona-based company that put on the Des Moines festival.

Iowan Says Employers See Single Mothers as ‘Liability’

We all have heard the narrative and saw reports that reinforced the viewpoint that so many jobs were open because people “were lazy” or “didn’t want to work,” which itself was an extremely lazy take on a complex situation.

I wanted to do something different and novel with my reporting: I actually talked to people who were on unemployment or had used the benefits to stay afloat. The women I talked to weren’t lazy—contrary to the belief of some. Instead, they were single mothers who faced a number of challenges including child care issues, fears over COVID, or past actions that continued to limit their opportunities.

Iowa Native Chris ‘Chrisco’ Hill Is A Celebrity In The Sneaker World

I’m obsessed with shoes. Think of me as Sneakerhead Carrie Bradshaw.

Sadly, working in Iowa—outside of the occasional column or blog—rarely affords me an opportunity to write about sneaker news.

This profile was on my bucket list of stories to write after a tip from my buddy Tyler Johnson about a friend of his from rural Iowa who was making waves in the sneaker world. It was fun to write about a notable sneaker designer with the ever-important Iowa Connection. Not only that, but Chris was a great interview and he and I (obviously) had a lot in common.

The Problem With Jake Chapman’s ‘Obscenity’ Claim

This was the second conversational explainer piece I’ve done at Starting Line—look for more of them in the future.

I really enjoy the tone and flow of these. It’s a great way to boil down an issue to its most rudimentary form while also noting how outlandish the situation is.

Impossible Expectations: Iowa Educators Share Why There’s A Teacher Shortage

This is a late entry, but one I’m really proud of.

I spent a good chunk of time working on this story and I’m happy to give a megaphone to Iowa’s educators, an incredibly underappreciated group.

We went through a few revisions of this story. The first draft I turned in, Pat gave me one of my favorite pieces of feedback ever: “It’s too doom and gloom.”

This final version isn’t less “doom and gloom” per se, but I added more about why teachers stick with the profession despite, well, everything.

These people are dedicated public servants who want the best for their kids but they feel unsupported in that effort. Don’t believe me? Read the story.

by Ty Rushing

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