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WFAE's reporters, editors, producers and hosts worked tirelessly throughout 2021 to tell the stories that mattered most in the Charlotte area. Here's a look at some of our best work.

COVID, health care and NC climate change: WFAE dug deep with special series in 2021

David Boraks

The news cycle is fast-paced. But sometimes, you need more than just a few minutes to tell the full story. Our reporters worked hard this year to produce special, in-depth coverage of health care, education and the environment. We also produced a weekly series called Rebuilding Charlotte that focuses on how the region is recovering from the pandemic. You can catch up on that entire series here.

Here’s a quick look at our other special series from 2021.

The High Cost of COVID-19

Thousands of people in the Carolinas have lost their lives to COVID-19. But the pandemic’s impact reached far beyond individual people’s health. It’s created hardships in nearly every facet of life as we know it. Those hardships have been magnified in minority communities. WFAE teamed up with Q City Metro, The Charlotte Ledger and La Noticia for The High Cost of COVID-19, a series that focused on the disproportionate toll the pandemic took on Black and Latino communities. The series began in 2020 and finished in June 2021. You can catch up on the entire series here — and here are a few links to some standout installments from WFAE reporters Gracyn Doctor and Maria Ramirez Uribe.

The Price We Pay

The pandemic shined a light on the challenges of the U.S. health care industry. But for many Americans, those challenges were all too real long before COVID-19 entered the picture. In an 11-part series led by WFAE’s Dana Miller Ervin, we examined why Americans are a lot sicker than residents of other wealthy nations — despite paying more for medical care. Ervin talked to doctors, patients and researchers both about the staggering scope of the problem and potential solutions for some relief. We also aired two long-format interviews between WFAE “Morning Edition” host Marshall Terry and medical experts and several hourlong “Charlotte Talks” installments digging deeper into the topics of the episodes. You can catch up on all of The Price We Pay here. And here are a few links to some of the bigger stories from the series.

Still Here

The pandemic has been tough all around — even for people who weren’t directly affected by the virus. In a special podcast-style series called Still Here, WFAE’s Sarah Delia interviewed people about resilience. Specifically, she wanted to know just what resilience looked and felt like to people trying to make it through the pandemic. Delia interviewed those who lost loved ones, health care workers and even an Olympic athlete about perseverance in a time of great loss. You can catch up on every installment of Still Here at this link. And here are a select few episodes.

Asbestos Town

Davidson is a Charlotte suburb known for the college that shares its name and its idyllic location near Lake Norman. But like many small towns in the region, it has a history of mills. In this case, one former mill’s legacy is tainted by cancer-causing asbestos buried on the site. WFAE’s David Boraks produced a three-part series, Asbestos Town, looking at the history of contamination, plans for redevelopment and how they’re intertwined. Boraks also produced a one-hour special, appeared on a special episode of “Charlotte Talks” with host Mike Collins and moderated a community conversation. Here are links to the main stories in the series.

Oakdale’s Pandemic Year

Schools are microcosms of our communities. And they’re where our next generation learns about the world. The pandemic has been rough for teachers and students alike — not to mention school staff and parents. In a three-part series called Oakdale’s Pandemic Year, WFAE education reporter Ann Doss Helms looked at how COVID impacted one Charlotte elementary school. Helms showed how the Oakdale Elementary community as a whole responded to one constant in the 2020-21 school year: change. Here are the stories.

The Wood Energy Dilemma

Wood from the Carolinas is increasingly being used overseas as energy. It’s a growing industry in North Carolina, especially, and the use of wood pellets is often touted as a “renewable energy” to replace fossil fuels since trees can just be replanted. But there’s more to it than that — and a lot of recent pushback as scientists say wood pellets actually emit more greenhouse gases than coal when burned. Plus there’s all the carbon emitted during harvesting, transportation and processing. In a three-part series called The Wood Energy Dilemma, WFAE climate reporter David Boraks teamed up with WUNC’s Celeste Garcia to visit North Carolina communities feeding the world’s appetite for wood energy. You can see related stories here, and we’ll put links to the main stories below.

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