We know you're busy, but we still tried our hardest in 2020 to steal your attention with worthy and compelling stories, photographs, artwork, and videos in our print and online editions. Longreads and longform reporting have been part of Phoenix New Times for 50 years, allowing readers to get more detail, information, or just plain kickass reading material than is typically found in normal news stories.
This year, our cover stories documented 2020's monumental and often tragic events, introduced you to people and places you should know about, and generally brought you closer to understanding Arizona.
In no particular order, here are our staff's top 10 favorite longreads of 2020:
1. The Hottest Day Ever in Phoenix: An Oral History
by Benjamin Leatherman
History lesson: The hottest temperature ever recorded in the Phoenix area was on June 26, 1990, when thermometers reached 122 degrees. Yes, it actually felt that hot, too. Take a trip back 30 years and listen to what the old-timers experienced. A sample: "I went to the ladies' room and the rubber around the leg band in my underwear completely melted. Completely melted. I had to pry it off my legs. I still have scars on my inner thighs to this day.”
2. Influencers, Guns & Money: The Brazen Reign of Scottsdale's Kryp+0 K!ng
by David Hudnall
Arizona never runs out of stories about mobsters and rich Arizonans getting scammed in investment fraud schemes. This one involved not land or horse tracks, but cryptocurrency, that weird, computer-generated money that nobody really understands. And instead of a mobster, this one brought you the son of a mobster: John Caruso. Read about his rise and fall here.
3. A Guide to the Indigenous Food Scene in Greater Phoenix
by Chris Malloy
People have lived in Arizona for thousands of years, long before Sam Fox restaurants and fast food. They raised their own beans and corn, hunted what little wildlife they could find in the desert, and ate Sonoran foods including cholla cactus. Now, modern indigenous people like the relatives of deceased Tohono O’odham fry bread restaurant pioneer Cecilia Miller make it their mission to bring out the old ways in unique, healthy fare. Witness "wraps on whole-wheat ceme’t, tepary bean salad, or mesquite muffins." This is fresh stuff.
How nuts can Arizona get after Trump lost the presidential election to Biden? Well, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs' life was threatened. The Arizona Republican Party and many prominent members refused to acknowledge the election results. And Mike Cernovich, creator of the Pizzagate conspiracy, along with infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones joined a crowd at the Arizona Legislature who couldn't decide if they wanted the votes counted, or the vote stopped. It only gets crazier from there.
5. The End of Metrocenter Is More Than Just the Closing of a Phoenix Mall
by Robrt L. Pela
Many businesses closed this year, but Metrocenter had been going downhill for a long time before closing its doors for good on June 30. It's just a mall, some might say. Right. Metrocenter was a shopping world for kids and adults across the Valley to explore back in a day when Phoenix was smaller, more hayseed. “Everyone from the west side has a Metro story... " as one sentimental local says in the story. This one takes you back to when Metrocenter was the place everyone wanted to go, through its lean years and finally the "ghost town" it became near the end.
Reform was on the minds of most Americans in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests this summer that brought attention to longstanding injustices, and the issue was front and center in the Maricopa County Attorney's race this year. The post usually goes to a tough-on-crime, Republican white male. But the two women candidates for Maricopa County Attorney, Julie Gunnigle and Allister Adel, both talked of how they wanted to reshape the office to make it more efficient while avoiding unjust sentences. But was Adel, the Republican, just tailoring her message to fight off her progressive Democratic competition?
This comprehensive piece takes you behind the scenes of Arizona's big-money, high-stakes medical-marijuana dispensary scene as the industry prepares for a historic shift to recreational pot sales. Swenson writes, "In an industry with exorbitant entry costs, federal restrictions, complex legal structures, and a whole armory of difficult characters, not everybody can emerge a winner." Meet some of the winners, and learn how the game is played.
8. Solidarity: Scenes From Phoenix's Black Lives Matter Protests
New Times Staff
This one isn't actually a long read, but it took the cover of our June 11 issue following the earth-shaking protests that erupted in Phoenix and just about everywhere else after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd during an arrest. If you can find a print copy, you'll want to save it.
9. Phoenix vs. The Pandemic: How Valley Residents Are Taking on the Coronavirus Crisis
by Steven Hsieh and Elizabeth Whitman
We don't have to tell you life changed when the virus took hold of Arizona. But New Times documented what was happening to a number of area residents in the emerging pandemic, getting out in the field (with masks on) and talking to everyone from health care workers to store clerks. "I mean, I’m fucked," one bartender said. "I had two jobs on Monday. Now I have zero jobs. I have four children. I have a truck. I have bills to pay, and they’re not getting paid now. So we’ll see what happens."
10. State of Mind: Phoenix Police Mock, Violently Arrest Mentally Ill Woman
by Meg O'Connor
Why did a young, mentally ill woman with a child at home disappear for months, only to be found in a hospital, pregnant, hundreds of miles south of the border? It seems to have something to do with the way Phoenix police treated her during an arrest, as reported in this follow-up to last year's shocking news story about the woman's disappearance and discovery.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.