My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2015

Carrying on with a tradition I started in 2013 and continued in 2014, I’ve decided to point out some of my professional highlights of 2015.
Over the year, I’ve continued contributing to the Austin Chronicle, covering news and even writing two cover stories for them this year (my two longest articles ever). I wrote more articles for The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Observer this year, but I also wrote for The Chicago Tribune and The Houston Chronicle, two of the biggest papers in the country, for the first time this year. At the 2015 Central Texas Colloquium on Religion in February, I presented an academic paper “MCs & Marx: Examining Rap from a Historical Materialist Perspective,” which I will expand into my honors thesis.
With just a semester and my thesis left, if all goes as planned, I will be graduating in May from The University of Texas at Austin with a Plan II Honors, Religious Studies Honors, and History triple-major, with a minor in American Studies. This summer, I will be interning full-time with The Dallas Morning News‘ editorial board.
Below, in chronological order, I’ve included ten of my articles that I’m most proud of from this year.
1. “It’s good to see millennials venture beyond politics as usual” – The Dallas Morning News – Jan. 9 – Opinion Column
After hearing of a young socialists club at my high school, I was reminded of my own history of high school activism, and decided to write in support of those of us who fall outside of the political mainstream.
2. “UT’s Student Government Winners Mix Substance With Satire” – Austin Chronicle – Mar. 27 – News Feature
While lots of people are now familiar with UT Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu, they first made national news when they campaigned to take over the student government. I wrote about RotMan for the first time following their electoral victory, though at the time, I wasn’t expecting to write so much more about the duo over the year.
3. “Do UT Frats Have a Race Problem?” – Austin Chronicle – Mar. 27 – News Feature
After reporting on incidents of racism in the UT campus community, I talked with Dr. Richard Reddick, a UT alum and professor, and looked into some of the reasons why the Greek community can often seem hostile toward racial minorities.
4. “Written in Stone” – Austin Chronicle – May 29 – News Cover Story
Finally putting my history degree to use, I wrote my first solo cover story (and my longest story ever) in May about the history of racism at UT-Austin and how its physical landscape reflects that.
5. “Dr. Fenves, tear down this statue” – The Dallas Morning News – June 10 – Opinion Column
After reporting in my cover story about the long legacy of racism at UT, I wrote an opinion column in my hometown paper urging UT President Greg Fenves to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from our campus.
6. “‘Southern pride’ is not white supremacy” – The Chicago Tribune – June 19 – Opinion Column
Following my column advocating the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from campus and after Dylann Roof murdered nine people in a historic black church, I wanted to make clear that there’s nothing wrong with ‘Southern Pride,’ but that there’s a whole lot wrong with the South’s history of racism, especially during the Confederacy.
7. “Adios, Jeff!” – Austin Chronicle – Sep. 4 – News Feature
After first advocating the removal of UT’s Jefferson Davis statue back in 2013 and after all the time I had spent covering the controversy and history of the statues, it was a special moment for me to be there live to cover the removal of the statue.
8. “Black lives matter—so should their votes” – Scalawag Magazine – Nov. 11 – Opinion Essay
Originally a longer research paper for my “Constitutional Design” class at UT, I wrote about some of the Electoral College’s flaws, particularly its role in enabling and arguably encouraging racial inequality for the newly-created Scalawag Magazine, which covers the culture of the American South.
9. “Law allowing guns in buildings at colleges will invite trouble” – The Houston Chronicle – Nov. 21 – Opinion Column
Unfortunately, my “pointless screed,” as one unhappy commenter described it, might be behind a paywall for some. Still, it was an honor to have my thoughts about campus carry published in one of the largest papers in the country.
10. “Let’s Go Gun Crazy” – Austin Chronicle – Dec. 18 – News Cover Story
My third cover story ever, this article was one of the most entertaining pieces I’ve ever written, and almost certainly the most absurd.

My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2014

Last December, I highlighted my ten favorite articles that I wrote in 2013, and I’ve decided to try it again this year.

First, here’s a quick summary of my 2014: I continued writing for the Austin Chronicle, mostly covering local news. I’m still the opinion editor for The Horn and still occasionally contribute to the Dallas Observer and The Dallas Morning News. I’ve kept writing for the Texas Travesty, which was named the “Readers Best Local Non-‘Chronicle’ Publication” by the Austin Chronicle (and during the fall, I was the Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic). At school, I’ve studied and written about a variety of topics, including history, Christianity, and hip-hop. In the spring, I rapped for charity. In November, I started working part-time for Pluckers Wing Bar, handling marketing and donations.

All in all, I wrote over fifty articles this year. Below, in chronological order, are the ten of my articles from 2014 that I’m most proud of:

1. “For popular rapper, an unusual calling card: sobriety” – The Dallas Morning News – February 14:

I grew up reading The Dallas Morning News‘ Points Section every Sunday morning, and those articles definitely helped inspire me to write. So it was a dream come true when my essay about rapper Macklemore and his struggle with addiction was published in the Sunday Points section.

2. “Facebook ‘Threat’ Case Unresolved” – Austin Chronicle – February 28:

While an especially frustrating case to cover, the story of Justin Carter is an important story for me  – and anyone else who values free speech. My reporting on the case was even cited by NPR.

3. “Online Privacy: Technical, Political, or Both?” – Austin Chronicle – March 28:

As a result of whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s leaks, many Americans are becoming more conscious of their online privacy and security. I interviewed multiple experts for the story, including Phil Zimmermann, Elissa Shevinsky, and more.

4. “Stand up to injustice, even if you stand alone — and remember the ‘tank man’” – The Dallas Morning News – June 5:

The Tiananmen Square protester known simply as ‘Tank Man’ has long been a hero of mine, so I was grateful to get to write about his heroism, twenty-five years after the event.

5. “The Texas GOP Stands on a Platform of Ignorance” – Reason – June 28:

Reason is one of my favorite publications, so I was honored to write for them. Earlier this year, the Texas Republican Party’s 2014 platform condemned homosexuality, arguing that being gay “must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.” They even supported reparative therapy, a controversial practice aimed at helping homosexuals embrace their “authentic” heterosexual identity. And I wasn’t too happy about that, so I wrote about it.

6. “The Best Bible Verse-Checks in the History of Rap” – On Faith – July 29:

In 2013, I explored the profane by writing about “The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time.” This year, I strayed from the profane and focused on the sacred – I wrote about the best Biblical allusions in hip-hop.

7. “A.Dd+ Chronicle Their Nawfside Love on New Nawf EP” – Dallas Observer – August 12:

Just this last week, Dallas hip-hop duo A.Dd+ won three Dallas Observer Music Awards – Best EP, Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act, and Best Live Act. Back in August, I interviewed the duo about their Nawf EP – which pays homage to ‘Nawf Dallas,’ the neighborhood where the duo is from (and where I’m from as well).

8. “Talking Songs with Joe Purdy” – The Horn – September 10:

Joe Purdy is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and I had the privilege of interviewing the singer-songwriter before covering his concert in Austin.

9. “Pluckers is the bomb – ISIS is not” – Texas Travesty – September 23:

If there’s one thing I love, it’s Pluckers Wing Bar. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s war. So I connected the two in one of my (hopefully) humorous articles as the Texas Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic.

10. UFC Fight Night Pounds the Erwin Center” – Austin Chronicle – November 24:

While I’m generally not too big of a sports fan, I do enjoy MMA, and I was lucky enough to cover a UFC event for the Chronicle. And before covering the event itself, I had the chance to interview UFC featherweight Cub Swanson.

Recommended Readings – June, 2014

Every so often, I share some of the articles that I’ve really enjoyed recently, regardless of the subject or length or source. Feel free to check out some of my other recommendations from 2013 (February 17thJune 20thJuly 28th, & August 8th) or earlier this year (March 2014), as I try to make my suggested articles as timeless as possible – after all, as Henry David Thoreau suggested in his Life Without Principle, “Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.” Below, in no particular order, are seven articles that I highly recommend. Let me know what you think.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

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Article Recommendations (August 8, 2013)

Every few weeks or so, I try to list some of the articles that I’ve really enjoyed recently.  (Feel free to check out my lists of recommendations from February 17thJune 20th and July 28th.) So here are my newest suggestions (although the suggestions themselves aren’t all new):

“From Tom Paine to Glenn Greenwald, we need partisan journalism” by Jack Shafer (Reuters) – An incredible article defending openly biased journalism. “I care less about where a journalist is coming from than to where his journalism takes me.”

“Who am I to judge the Pope, says gay man” (The Daily Mash) – An absolutely brilliant satirical response to Pope Francis saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

“The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan… Stalin Did” by Ward Wilson (Foreign Policy) – The article is an extremely well-supported and convincing argument that the use of nuclear weapons on Japan in World War II actually did little, if anything at all, to encourage Japan to surrender.  Warning: It’s a long read – but it’s undoubtedly worth your time.

“The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan” by Sheldon L. Richman (The Free Market) – Despite the seemingly infinite claims of President Reagan being a small government saint, his record indicates that he was far from a libertarian.  This article echoes the feelings of Dr. Ron Paul in his 1987 resignation letter to the RNC.

“In U.S., Strong Link Between Church Attendance, Smoking” by Frank Newport & Igor Himelfarb (Gallup) – As they so often are, this recent Gallup poll was really fascinating for me.  “Smoking in the U.S. is highly correlated with religiosity, with those who never attend church almost three times as likely to smoke as those who attend weekly.”