Stories from 2021 that deserve a second look

As the year draws to a close, the Deseret News compiled a list of stories that deserve more time in the sun

The Deseret News publishes dozens of articles on a typical day. It’s no wonder that some seem to get lost in the shuffle.

As 2021 draws to a close, we’ve compiled a list of stories from staff writers and contributors that deserve a second (or third) look. Read on to discover valuable analysis and reporting that you may have missed the first time around.

We investigated food insecurity during the pandemic

Food insecurity was a national concern even before COVID-19 caused an economic downturn and decreased access to school meal programs. But the pandemic brought new urgency to efforts to relieve hunger pains.

“We talk about food insecurity like it’s a social welfare problem. But it’s really a public health problem,” said Elaine Waxman, senior fellow specializing in food insecurity, nutrition and health disparities at the Urban Institute, to the Deseret News earlier this year.

Food insecurity and the pandemic: Who’s going hungry and has it gotten worse?

We explored an effort to get Latter-day Saint women to run for office

Audrey Perry Martin, the founder and CEO of a new nonprofit called Project Elect, believes Latter-day Saint women have the skills to solve the country’s most complicated problems. But she also knows that a variety of obstacles stand in the way of them entering the political realm.

Martin formed Project Elect, which launched this spring, to ease Latter-day Saint women’s path into politics. It provides mentorship and other forms of campaign support.

‘Women need to be at the table’: Helping more Latter-day Saint women run for public office

We looked at why Utah ranked last for women’s equity — again

On a related note, in the past year, Utah continued to grapple with its reputation as a bad state for women. Annual surveys have repeatedly shown that Utah women face sexist attitudes, a gender wage gap and other equality-related issues.

The good news is that state leaders and others are searching for solutions. “We are making progress and we know what we need to do to move the needle,” said Susan Madsen, a professor at Utah State University, to the Deseret News.

A national report ranked Utah last for women’s equity — again. What can be done to change it?
Sexism in Utah is ‘prevalent’ and ‘normalized,’ new report reveals
Landon Pearce, a visually impaired 10th grader at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, paddles with his team on Lake Powell on Saturday, March 27, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

We met with blind and deaf Utah students taking on a big challenge

Students at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind are used to problem-solving to overcome barriers. This spring, members of the schools’ newly formed Yacht Club brought that skill to the Puget Sound.

For the first time, a small crew of deaf and blind students from Utah competed in a 70-mile boat race called Seventy48. Unfortunately, the group had to cut their race short due to bad weather. They made it 50 miles.

The inspirational story of how 7 blind, deaf Utah students get ready to do the ‘seemingly impossible’

We asked contributors to help us study the Constitution.

During The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ April conference, President Dallin H. Oaks spoke on the U.S. Constitution and how people of faith should approach the document. His remarks inspired some serious reflection on the relationship between religion and politics, as well as on the ways the Constitution has evolved over time.

The inspired Constitution: 5 principles that animate our country’s governing document

We analyzed the Supreme Court’s approach to gay rights

For the second time in three years, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious objectors to same-sex marriage this summer, deciding that Philadelphia must allow a Catholic agency to continue participating in its public foster care program. The ruling was significant, but, like the first decision, it left several key questions unanswered, including whether religious freedom protections always trump anti-LGBTQ discrimination rules.

In July, the Deseret News explored how the court’s approach to religion and gay rights compares to its past approach to tension between religion and racial rights.

Does the Supreme Court treat anti-LGBTQ discrimination differently than racism?

We wrestled with America’s past, present and future

The United States’ 250th birthday is less than five years away. Will the country be one big, happy family by then?

It’s not likely, according to historians, researchers and other political experts. From the beginning, Americans have clashed over their country’s identity and policies. Tensions will still be with us in 2026.

Can America become one big happy family before her 250th birthday?
Supervisory Border Patrol agent and Rio Grande Valley sector chaplain Robert Hess wipes perspiration from his face while questioning undocumented migrants in McAllen, Texas, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

We profiled chaplains for the Border Patrol

Agents for U.S. Customs and Border Protection often struggle with the psychological burden of their work, as well as with finding help when they need it. They feel misunderstood by their communities and misrepresented in political debates.

In part because of this toxic mix of factors, the Border Patrol has the highest rate of employee suicide of any law enforcement agency. Volunteer chaplains, many of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to address this crisis by building networks of support for their fellow agents.

“The most important part is being able to connect” with other agents, said Spencer Hatch, the assistant chief of the Border Patrol’s chaplaincy program, to the Deseret News this summer.

How Border Patrol chaplains help agents find inner peace in a job of conflict and danger

We asked ‘America’s Rabbi’ to reflect on his unusual career

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach earned the nickname “America’s Rabbi” by embracing the public-facing side of his religious work. He’s written bestselling books, hosted radio shows, served as an informal link between American Orthodox Jews and the Trump administration, and even run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although unique, his career trajectory helps illustrate the many ways faith leaders can shape — and be shaped by — the political realm. The Deseret News profiled Rabbi Boteach in September.

A midnight ride with America’s celebrity rabbi

We put a spotlight on Utah’s self-defense laws

Kyle Rittenhouse was put on trial this fall for shooting three people during an Aug. 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over police violence.

The hearing — and his eventual acquittal — was closely followed by Americans across the country, but there was less engagement with the broader issue of self-defense laws and the unique ways that states like Utah approach them.

Would Kyle Rittenhouse have faced a trial if his case were in Utah? Maybe not. Here’s why
Members of Bar J Wranglers wave to the audience after a show at Merryman Performing Arts Center in Kearney, Neb., on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. | Justin Wan, for the Deseret News

We wondered what’s next for the American cowboy

The quality of life across the Mountain West is undeniably attractive. States like Utah and Idaho offer a chance at a good job, easy access to recreational activities and the opportunity to embrace family-centric suburban living. It’s no surprise, then, that the West is filling up with newcomers from the coasts.

Rapid population growth, although valuable in some ways, is problematic in others. As the Deseret News reported this fall, the West’s growing popularity is “shearing farmers and ranchers from the land and replacing a sinewy Western way of life with what some fear is an all too silicon substitute.”

The American cowboy refuses to die

We explained Utah’s redistricting process — and the confusion it caused

In November, Utah lawmakers voted to approve redistricting maps created by Republican officials rather than maps drawn up by the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission. The decision sparked protests, as well as threats of legal challenges or ballot initiatives aimed at forcing change.

Nearly half of Utahns (46%) oppose the Legislature’s decision not to vote on the maps created by the independent commission, according to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted from Nov. 18-30 by Dan Jones & Associates. Perhaps more notably, 35% of residents say they don’t know what to think.

Did Utah lawmakers do the right thing with redistricting? Here’s what Utahns think
Utah redistricting: Congressional map splitting Salt Lake County 4 ways heads to Gov. Spencer Cox

We tracked Utah’s bid to host another Olympics

For years, Olympics enthusiasts in Utah have been steadily pushing for the state to host another Winter Games. In 2021, they gained some important traction when U.S. Olympic leaders formally committed to the possibility of the games returning to Salt Lake City as soon as 2030.

Does another Winter Olympics make sense for Utah?

We urged people to pay attention to the West’s water supply

Over the past two decades, water flow in the Colorado River has declined by around 20%. But few states in the river’s basin have adjusted their water use to match the dwindling supply.

In the midst of this unsustainable situation, leaders in the West, including in Utah, are trying to craft a path forward. California, Nevada and Arizona recently agreed to scale back their reliance on the Colorado River’s water supply.

Utah may be overusing its Colorado River allotment. That could lead to unprecedented cuts in water use