This past year brought a new presidential administration, but America’s deep-seated structural problems remain. From the climate crisis to racial and economic inequalities, and from a new cycle of gerrymandering to systemic unfairness in housing, health and education, the country continues to face fundamental tests that will only intensify in the coming year.
It’s thanks to our readers that we were able to produce journalism this past year that shed light on injustice and made a real difference in people’s lives.
None of what we do would be possible without your support. Your help and feedback gives us the emotional support and motor energy to keep doing journalism that matters.
Below are some highlights of the journalism our readers helped fund in 2021 and the impact it had across the country and the world. If you can, please make a year-end gift to the Guardian.
Why do so many Americans lack access to clean water in 2021 – a basic human right established 50 years ago by UN charter? Residents of the majority-Black city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, endure dangerous levels of lead in their water. This was little known until the Guardian US published a series of stories on its residents’ years-long struggle for clean water. Since then, a host of national outlets have followed and credited our reporting, including CBS, MSNBC and the Washington Post. Weeks later, the state of Michigan pledged to replace the city’s lead pipes within 18 months. Earlier this year, a nine-month investigation by Guardian US and Consumer reports discovered alarming levels of “forever chemicals”, arsenic and lead in samples taken from water systems across the US.
The very notion of free and fair elections in the US is under threat. Two years ago, we launched The Fight to Vote, to report on voter suppression efforts ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Little did we know that Donald Trump’s “big lie” would make things so much worse. In addition to a swath of new bills that restrict access to voting, and a new cycle of turbocharged gerrymandering, the US is now facing a concerted attempt to subvert its elections. Trump acolytes are striving to win state office in order to give them power over the conduct – and outcome – of elections.
For years, pesticide-laden waste contaminated the town of Mead in Nebraska. Until, that is, the investigative reporter Carey Gillam reported on the ethanol plant polluting the small rural community. The state then took legal action against the plant, its operations were shut down and a major cleanup is under way. The reporting is part of our continuing investigations into the toxic chemicals that pollute America – its soil, food, water and bodies.
Abené Clayton’s story on gang enhancements that lengthen sentences for mostly Black and brown Californians was cited by a commission reviewing California’s criminal code in their push for reform of those enhancements. The California governor signed into law reforms to gang enhancements based on the commission’s report. The story was part of our Guns and Lies project, which has played an important role in shifting focus in the national conversation on gun violence away from mass shootings and on to community gun violence.
This months-long investigation based on whistleblower documents exposed how Facebook enables world leaders and politicians to deceive the public or harass opponents despite being alerted to evidence of wrongdoing. The series was a key contributor to the growing awareness of Facebook’s harmful practices and the whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, has since testified in front of Britain’s parliament.
An assistant attorney general in Alaska was identified by the Guardian as belonging to an extremist group and to have posted racist and antisemitic tweets. An investigation was launched and he was fired. In a separate investigation, Jason Wilson revealed that a neo-Confederate group included military officers and politicians.
The California governor this year pardoned two incarcerated firefighters who had been profiled by Sam Levin. They risked their lives fighting wildfires in California but were sent to Ice for deportation.
The Guardian didn’t just make an impact in the US – its global investigations have sparked protest and reform. The Pandora papers revealed the secret offshore deals and assets of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people, causing politicians to resign across the world and inspiring bipartisan legislation to rein in American tax havens. Through the Pegasus project, the Guardian and its partners revealed that an Israeli spyware maker was selling hacking technology to governments that were using it to spy on political opponents. Alongside growing calls for regulation, the Biden administration placed the company, NSO Group, on a US blacklist after the revelations.
Both projects entailed months of painstaking collaboration with media organizations around the world, through the coordination of the non-profit Forbidden Stories. These and other projects are part of our enduring commitment to journalistic collaboration, which we believe maximizes impact and strengthens our colleagues across the globe.