Editor’s note: Deseret News InDepth writers reflected on their work in 2020. Here’s what they learned.

When my editor suggested that I reach out to George Will for an article about what defines conservatives, I agreed, but was secretly skeptical.

I figured I’d have an easier time getting the famously elusive Matt Drudge on the phone, or Santa Claus.

Will, after all, is arguably one of America’s most famous public intellectuals, widely respected and widely read through his books and a syndicated column that runs in more than 450 newspapers. I figured I’d get the same polite response from him that journalists often get when they reach out to important people — sorry, but no time in the schedule for you — if he responded at all.

But Will not only made time, but he did so right away, returning my call within a few minutes of receiving my inquiry. Even more surprising, he began the conversation by asking about me — where I’d gone to school, where I’d worked previously, and what led me to the topic we were about to discuss.

He was totally present, totally engaged, totally charming. He answered every question thoughtfully and never once seemed in a hurry to get off the phone. I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years, and let me tell you: This happens about as often as Jupiter and Saturn lining up.

I learned a lot from that conversation, and not just about Will’s thoughts on conservatism.

Will’s gracious response exemplified the sort of person I want to be, the sort of person with whom we all want to interact. In a year in which civility seems to be losing ground — from the Central Park dog walker threatening the birdwatcher in January, to an aide to President-elect Joe Biden using an expletive to describe Republican lawmakers last week — we are all craving niceness these days. 

This is one reason that Tori Perrotti, aka “Target Tori,” became so popular this year, starting an initiative to encourage kindness after someone tried to publicly shame her by posting an unflattering photo of her on Twitter.

And perhaps that’s why Kitty O’Meara’s prose poem “In the Time of Pandemic” resonated with so many people. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen her verse at some point. It begins “And the people stayed home” and is a lovely envisioning of how the pandemic could make us better in some ways, another topic I tackled this year, along with the moral test posed by COVID-19.

As my colleague Boyd Matheson likes to say: “See something that inspires. Say something that uplifts. Do something that makes a difference.”

George Will, Kitty O’Meara and Tori Perrotti all did that, and it’s a worthy resolution as we head into the new year.

Here are five other stories I wrote about conservatism this year:

What the 2020 election revealed about conservatism in the U.S.

Are you a Republican or a Fox News Republican?

Facebook, bias and the battle over conservative and liberal content on social media

Cardi B and the conservative’s dilemma

Understanding ‘pink slime’ journalism and what it reveals about conservatives and liberals