It’s been quite a year since taking over as editor of the Bucks County Beacon. I have been really inspired to see how much this publication has been embraced by the community who aren’t just readers, but who actually are the Beacon in that so many are contributors. We’ve grown exponentially in the last 9 months. Our work has been cited in The inquirer, WHYY, Time, Salon and other media publications across the state and country. I think this proves that building progressive, participatory media is not only possible, it’s also necessary, because we fill in the gaping holes, either coverage wise, or ideologically left by the two shrinking dailies. I’ve been tasked with choosing our Top 10 Stories for 2022 – an almost impossible task given the amount of amazing contributions for our growing roster of writers. These are 10 stories I really appreciated this year, but they could easily be replaced by 10 other ones.
Feel free to message or tag me on Twitter if you have a story that we published that you really appreciated.
10. The Truth Of Our Abortion Stories Need To Be Shared, by Kelly DeJong
The overturning of Roe v. Wade by a far-right, and I would argue illegitimately packed Supreme Court, was one of the biggest stories of the year, if not this century. Locally we saw women and men alike stand-up and speak out against this miscarriage of justice. Bucks County’s Kelly DeJong decided to write about her own abortion as an act of dissent and solidarity with women everywhere. As she wrote, “These stories live in the shadows cloaked in unnecessary shame and our truth must shine to keep this right.”
9. United In Purpose: The Shady Christian Nonprofit Tied To A Massive Voter Data Leak And The ‘Big Lie’, by Jenny Cohn
Jenny Cohn takes a deep dive into the incestuous christo-fascist movement that includes a powerful Christian nationalist network that leaked voter data and was part of the Stop the Steal movement. Doug Mastriano was their man in Pennsylvania. Thankfully he lost the governor’s race to Democrat Josh Shapiro.
8. Astroturfing In Central Bucks School District: Moms For Liberty And Book Bans, by Diana Leygerman
Writer Diana Leygerman unmasks the role of the far-right, astroturf Moms for Liberty mob locally in Central Bucks. What we are seeing in Bucks County, and across Pennsylvania and the country, is a largely dark money-funded, manufactured anti-public education machine using disinformation and the politics of fear and resentment to advance their political agenda in a school district now banning LGBTQ flags from classrooms because they are “political.”
7. Right-Wing Politics And Moral Panic Driving Policy Targeting Central Bucks School District Libraries, by Cyril Mychalejko
The school board wars in Bucks County have been a vicious and bigoted right-wing assault on public education, tolerance, and acceptance. Central Bucks School District has been ground zero and has garnered national attention for the right-wing majority school board’s attempts to empower a small group of ideologically and religiously-driven parents to remove access to books not just for their children (if they even have any attending Central Bucks schools) but for everyone. The people they are taking their cues from are “Woke PA” disciples preaching their gospel of hate and moral panic, accusing librarians and teachers of “grooming” and cherry picking certain passages to suggest somehow that a book like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is “pornographic.” The books targeted are by authors who are LGBTQ, people of color, and who write books that veer from a strict jingoistic version of history. There will be school board elections in 2023.
6. Microsoft, Benevity Include Extremist And Hate Groups In Charity Rewards Program, by Jenny Stephens
While the Beacon’s mission is to focus on Bucks County and Pennsylvania, sometimes we take a look at big picture issues that still incidentally impact us locally. Jenny Stephens uncovered at best a lack of due diligence, at worst intentional neglect by Microsoft and Benevity, by allowing the charity fund they run together to raise cash for groups like Rod of Iron Ministries, Turning Point USA, Moms for Liberty, and militia AZ Border Defenders is truly dangerous. “No one should allow the funding of hate non-profits. Individuals need to make sure they aren’t facilitating the trafficking of hate and bigotry,” Heidi Beirich, Co-Founder, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told the Beacon.
5. How Immigrant Rights Action Is Serving Bucks County’s Immigrant Community, by Catherine Caruso
Beacon contributing reporter Catherine Caruso has written a lot of amazing stories from us, but I especially like this one. It tells the story of Bucks County’s amazing all-immigrant, all-women-led group Immigrant Rights Action and how they make a difference in so many people’s lives locally.
4. Pastors For Doug Mastriano? Somebody Call The IRS, by Jenny Stephens
A leader from the Family Research Council trained pastors in Philadelphia to skirt around tax law and work to elect Mastriano for governor. This trend of Pastors engaging in explicit partisan political work – even though they shouldn’t – had been reported on at a national level by Katherine Stewart in her book “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.” But Jenny’s Stephens’ reporting was able to show that it is tangibly happening in the greater Philadelphia area.
3. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick Wants To Change The US Constitution And Radically Transform The Country, by Cyril Mychalejko
This is one of several articles the Beacon reported that shatters the moderate, bipartisan brand the Fitzpatrick camp has successfully manufactured (due largely because of a lack of journalistic scrutiny by the county’s two Gannett dailies). PA01’s Republican representative teamed up with a QAnon-defending Texas Congressman to push H. Con. Res. 101 which calls for an Article V constitutional convention – a pet project of far-right figures like Steve Bannon, Rick Santorum, and the group Convention of States (who have given presentations in Bucks County). I followed up months later with Russ Feingold for his take (“Former US Senator Feingold Calls Rep. Fitzpatrick’s Resolution For A Constitutional Convention ‘Extremely Dangerous’”), as he just published his book “The Constitution in Jeopardy: An Unprecedented Effort to Rewrite Our Fundamental Law and What We Can Do About It.” Feingold told the Beacon that if an Article V convention were to be successfully called for “we [would be] in uncharted and extremely dangerous waters for our democracy.”
2. Underreported And Massive Theocratic Movement Joins Forces With Michael Flynn And Roger Stone, by Jenny Cohn
Jenny Cohn’s reporting for the Bucks County Beacon has reached a national audience, in part because it focuses on the national threat of this unholy alliance of MAGA, Christian Nationalists, and other extremists working in concert to subvert democracy. Her coverage helped lead to increased media scrutiny across the state and country. Jenny followed up with Michael Flynn And Roger Stone’s Dangerous Crusade Continues, and will be kicking off the New Year with more Stone reporting in light of the January 6 Committee’s final report.
1.”So Much For ‘Election Integrity’: Forged Petitions Mar Republican PA01 Congressional Candidate,” by Linda Lee.
This was the first big story the Bucks County Beacon broke after I became editor at the end of March (which came from a tip from a reader), written and reported extraordinarily by former staff writer Linda Lee. I really credit this article with helping put us on the media map locally and helping turn a lot of eyes on the Beacon. Linda followed up with “Finger Pointing About Forged Bucks County GOP Petitions Intensifies,” but ultimately no one was held accountable and justice was put on the back burner. So much for Bucks County GOP election integrity.
I look forward to next year’s continuing and expanding coverage. Happy New Year!