The Bucks County Beacon’s 2023 Year In Review

Editor Cyril Mychalejko takes a look back at 12 of the top stories published in the Beacon this year. What were your favorite stories?
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The Bucks County Beacon reached new heights in 2023. We brought on new writers, expanded our readership, and garnered national attention for our reporting from media outlets across the United States. Together, we continue to prove that building progressive, participatory media is not only possible, it’s also necessary. I’ve been tasked with choosing our “Top” 12 Stories for 2023 – an almost impossible task given the amount of amazing contributions for our growing roster of writers. These are 12 stories I really appreciated this year, but they could easily be replaced by 12 other ones. 

12. Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s Worst Votes of 2023, by Kierstyn Zolfo

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When it comes to daily newspaper political reporting covering Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, Bucks County is a news desert and Gannett’s Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer are nothing more than mirages. Kierstyn runs back Fitzpatrick’s 10 worst votes of the year – votes readers who rely solely on these Gannett dailies for information about their Trump-endorsed Congressman – wouldn’t know about. “Democracy dies in darkness,” which is why The Bucks County Beacon continues to shine a light on news that matters most to voters – and democracy.

11. Rod of Iron Festival in Pennsylvania Shows How Dangerous and Deranged This MAGA Cult Is, by Zach D. Roberts

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Far-right extremism has been growing locally in Bucks County, across Pennsylvania, and throughout the nation. The festival, a two-day carnival of MAGA dripping madness in Greeley, PA, offered an unfiltered look at the Republican Party’s present and future. Zach is our roving reporter covering the far-right extremism beat; look out for more coverage from him in 2024.

10. Bucks County Needs to Resist the Current Conservative Backlash to Racial and Social Progress, by Kevin E. Leven

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Kevin writes about local efforts to roll back racial progress and why we need all of us, Black and non-Black, to pull up our collective sleeves and not give up the struggle in our anti-racism organizing and resistance. Kevin also has a great Q&A series where he talks to Bucks Countians about race, racism, and anti-racism – conversations we need to have with each other.

9. It Takes a Village: Expelling Right-Wing Extremism from Bucks County School Districts, by Cyril Mychalejko

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In this column I document the right-wing, reactionary extremism we had been seeing the last two years in Central Bucks School District and place it within the history of the right’s long war against public education – and progress in general. Thankfully, as you’ll see below, the village – which had already been organizing at that point – mobilized and ushered in sweeping changes to the district in November.

8. In Pennridge School District, Books Once Shadow Banned Are Now in the Trash Can, by Darren Laustsen

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Darren, a Pennridge dad, refused to stand by and let the district’s Moms for Liberty-dominated school board, who secretly sought advice from a right-wing Christian law firm, subvert the First Amendment and effectively ban books under the pretense of weeding out old, obsolete titles. He took the district to court – and WON! The moral of this story is that each and every single one of us can make a difference.

7. As Moms for Liberty Meets in Philadelphia, Don’t Underestimate Their Extremism and the Threat They Pose, by Peter Green

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They are not just MAGA culture warriors banning books and fomenting anti-LGBTQ hysteria and hate. They are part of a national network of right-wing activists on a crusade to dismantle public education. Peter wrote an extraordinary deep dive on this extremist group in the run-up to its national convention in Philly. We actually sent our reporter Pat LaMarche inside the convention, but she was kicked out for her critical reporting, while other journalists at the summit were warned that being like the Beacon would get them banned. Also check out Moms for Liberty coverage by Maurice Cunningham, Jennifer Cohn, Erin Flynn Jay, and myself.

6. Homeless Awareness Events This Month Remind Us That Anti-Poverty Work Is Needed Everywhere, by Pat LaMarche

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Poverty is all around us, even though we may not see it. Of the more than 600,000 individuals living in Bucks County, “40,110 are food insecure” and “463 Bucks County residents found themselves experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2022.” Pat’s reporting on poverty and homelessness locally will continue in 2024 and it is an editorial priority.

5. Rainbow Room’s Queer Prom Under Attack by Libs of TikTok, Doug Mastriano, Fox News, by Catherine Caruso

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A digital rage mob to right-wing media and lawmakers pipeline that traffics in hate and harassment and often targets the LGBTQ community put Doylestown’s Rainbow Room in its crosshairs. Catherine’s reporting on this issue was featured in the New York Times’ Local Journalism Worth Reading in 2023.

4. Central Bucks School District Embarrassed Itself with Show Trial of ACLU LGBTQ Discrimination Complaint, by Lela Casey

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As Lela’s reporting pointed out, the “sham investigation” commissioned by the right-wing school board majority was never about uncovering the truth, it was about creating a political prop for upcoming elections. Thankfully, voters saw through it. Also check out her follow-up: New ACLU Complaint Reveals Central Bucks School District Lied to the Community, Illegally Retaliated Against Teacher.

3. Pennsylvania’s Prayer Warrior: Abby Abildness and Her Dominionist Crusade in the Commonwealth, by Jennifer Cohn

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The New Apostolic Reformation, a dominionist movement, wants to claim the “Seven Mountains” of society for God. It’s Abby’s job to conquer Pennsylvania’s government mountain. Check out more of Jennifer’s reporting on this dangerous, anti-democratic Christian extremist movement.

2. The Numbers Don’t Lie: Voters Give Pennridge Democrats a Mandate for Change in the School District, by Jenny Stephens

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Pennridge residents, parents, and teachers from both parties voted overwhelmingly to oust extremism from the school board. I believe Jenny’s tireless reporting played a part in this historic board flip. But kudos to Pennridge Democrats and all the community members involved for pulling off something I didn’t think was possible!

1. Meet Three of the Neighbors Who United to Defend Public Education in Central Bucks School District, by Edie Weinstein

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Learn how people power defeated a Bucks County plutocrat – MAGA millionaire Paul Martino – and his Moms for Liberty-backed school board candidates. The entire nation was watching this race. Just another great story about how community organizing works! Also, Edie has a great monthly Q&A series with Bucks County changemakers that you should check out.

I look forward to next year’s expanding coverage and for the Beacon to continue to tell the stories that matter most to Bucks County and democracy. Happy New Year!

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Picture of Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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