The Year of Fear

Each week until Election Day, the Year of Fear—a project of the Delacorte Review and CJR—publishes a dispatch from one of our four towns: Bowling Green, Virginia; Macon, Georgia; McKeesport, Pennsylvania; and McAllen, Texas. Subscribe to our newsletter here, and read previous chapters below.

Introducing the Year of Fear
By The Editors — February 10, 2020

This is the story of four towns that have little in common but the loss of the newspapers they once knew.


Chapter One: The Mystery of Caroline County, Virginia
By Greg Glassner — February 11, 2020

How are the residents of this county dealing with the loss of their local newspaper, and what impact will it have on their lives and political decisions in 2020?


Chapter Two: What’s Vexing Macon, Georgia?
By Charles Richardson — February 20, 2020
Like many small Southern cities, race has vexed anyone who has tried to resolve this most complicated of issues.


Chapter Three: Red Streets v. Blue Streets in McKeesport, Pennsylvania
By Jason Togyer — February 27, 2020

None of us who stayed in McKeesport are willing to give up on the city. Still, thirty years later, vacant buildings dominate the downtown district.

Chapter Four: Fighting the Wall Along the Rio Grande
By Sandra Sanchez — March 3, 2020

The river is a source of consternation and controversy for many communities in South Texas, as Donald Trump has begun building a thirty-foot-tall metal border wall

Chapter Five: Are Democrats an Endangered Species in Caroline County?
By Greg Glassner — March 10, 2020

For decades, the quiet and rural county could be counted on to vote for Democrats in presidential elections

Chapter Six: Yes, Dorothy, We are Way Outside the Beltway
By Charles Richardson — March 17, 2020

What happens to a city with deep racial fault lines, 24 candidates for two US senate seats, a host of local races, and a newspaper too inadequate to help voters navigate it?

Chapter Seven: Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus
By Jason Togyer — March 25, 2020

Until the COVID-19 pandemic finally came to Western Pennsylvania, I wasn’t sure whether “year of fear” applied.

Chapter Eight: In the Rio Grande Valley, a Border Closes, and Signs of a Wall as the Pandemic Spreads
By Sandra Sanchez — April 1, 2020

When COVID-19 first gripped the world’s attention, Nayda Alvarez thought it would perhaps divert President Trump from building a border wall.

Chapter Nine: Imagine This: The Ghost of a Weekly Covers the Pandemic
By Greg Glassner — April 7, 2020

The Caroline Progress was how this quiet rural county talked to itself. In this pandemic, I find myself wondering how it would help its readers if it were still around.


Chapter Ten: Standing on sinking sand, living in limbo
By Charles Richardson — April 14, 2020

With the ban of gatherings of no more than 10 people, municipal candidates are basically treading water.


Chapter Eleven: Transparency in a time of pandemic
By Jason Togyer — April 21, 2020

“If you regularly attend a community meeting, and you feel safe continuing to do so, those meetings are still important—maybe more than ever.”


Chapter Twelve: COVID-19 has changed how we report stories on the border
By Sandra Sanchez — April 28, 2020

Every story I produce is expected to have a video component to be shared with their TV stations, but with today’s pandemic, that is becoming harder and harder to do.


Chapter Thirteen: How the pandemic is playing in rural Virginia
By Greg Glassner — May 5, 2020

I am aware of at least three acquaintances around here who have built backyard chicken houses in the past month.


Chapter Fourteen: A Good Idea at the Time
By Charles Richardson — May 12, 2020

All over the state, elected officials were flummoxed.


Chapter Fifteen: In towns like McKeesport, the future was already precarious. Then came coronavirus.
By Jason Togyer — May 22, 2020

It escapes me how any of the solutions being proposed on the national level will make a difference in the lives of low-income families

Chapter Sixteen: Saving Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge extends beyond political boundaries
By Sandra Sanchez — May 26, 2020

“Money for the wall should be given to anything else. There shouldn’t be any wall,”


Chapter Seventeen: At the edge of a pandemic, its direction unknown
By Greg Glassner — June 2, 2020

There have been two deaths attributed to the disease in Caroline County. The numbers in more densely populated counties around us are far steeper, however.


Chapter Eighteen: Dirty politics in the digital age
By Charles Richardson — June 9, 2020

“I recognize and understand, however, that this is not what you deserve. I ask only for your understanding of the circumstances that compel the proposals of this budget.”


Chapter Nineteen: How Facebook has undermined communal conversation in McKeesport
By Jason Togyer — June 18, 2020

How much of Facebook’s advertising growth has come at the expense of small daily and weekly newspapers?

Chapter Twenty: South Texas was reopening. Now COVID-19 is roaring back.
By Sandra Sanchez — June 23, 2020

As Abbott remained mum, local leaders took the heat, blamed for the economic losses that small businesses and communities would suffer during the shutdown.


Chapter Twenty-one: Macon-Bibb County votes while a nation protests.
By Charles Richardson — July 8, 2020

“All this is about is having a conversation about things. That’s the strong action of talking and should be what’s done.”


Chapter Twenty-two: ‘McAllen and South Texas need help now.’
By Sandra Sanchez — July 21, 2020

My husband isolated himself in our bedroom suite for the next eleven days, but his fever never broke.


Chapter Twenty-three: When a newspaper dies, what fills the void?
By Greg Glassner — July 28, 2020

As Abbott remained mum, local leaders took the heat, blamed for the economic losses that small businesses and communities would suffer during the shutdown.


Chapter Twenty-four: To school or not to school—a burning question
By Charles Richardson — August 4, 2020

School districts, particularly those in Middle Georgia, have been all over the place as far as starting dates and whether they should return to face-to-face instruction.


Chapter Twenty-five: What will ‘normal’ mean after COVID-19?
By Jason Togyer — August 11, 2020

The pandemic is exposing the weak foundation of the current American way of life in places such as McKeesport.


Chapter Twenty-six: South Texas is a bad algorithm right now
By Sandra Sanchez — August 18, 2020

My three adult children and I all received early morning phone calls on August 2 from different state-funded contact tracers to alert us all that we “may have been exposed.”


Chapter Twenty-seven: In rural Virginia, a tale of two congressional districts
By Greg Glassner — August 25, 2020

The 1st and 7th Congressional Districts make pretty good specimens if you are trying to get a sense of what’s going on at ground level in this strange and monumental election season.


Chapter Twenty-eight: A local election, school reopenings, and the pandemic
By Charles Richardson — September 3, 2020

The COVID rate in the county was 193 per 100,000 as of August 29. The district closed the school for five days to give it a deep cleaning and reopened using a hybrid model.


Chapter Twenty-nine: Will Western Pennsylvania become a string of ghost towns?
By Jason Togyer — September 8, 2020

I’m starting to wonder whether the Pittsburgh region continues to lose population because we’ve made ourselves unwelcoming.


Chapter Thirty: Where are the campaign signs and the politiqueras?
By Sandra Sanchez — September 15, 2020

The energy that normally pulses through the political landscape––which should be especially stoked by the upcoming presidential election––has substantially diminished.


Chapter Thirty-one: A Confederate soldier moves on
By Greg Glassner — September 22, 2020

“What were they fighting for? They were fighting to uphold slavery. This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue.”


Chapter Thirty-two: Macon-Bibb County and the unrelenting shock of COVID-19
By Charles Richardson — September 29, 2020

“When I look at the surrounding counties…it becomes clear that Bibb County is one of the counties most severely hit by COVID-19.”


Chapter Thirty-three: Will the sons of steelworkers see Trump’s COVID-19 behavior as strong, or reckless?
By Jason Togyer — October 6, 2020

Monongahela Valley steelworkers were tough and courageous, but that doesn’t mean they were reckless.

Chapter Thirty-four: Counting on 2021 being much better
By Sandra Sanchez — October 13, 2020

The absence of discussions about immigration and the border wall only amplifies how little folks know, or seem to care, about this South Texas border region


Conclusion: As Election Day draws near
By the Year of Fear contributors — October 28, 2020

Who could have predicted that a year whose story would have surely been seen through the lens of a presidential campaign would unfold as it has?


This project is supported by a gift from the Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism Fund at The New York Community Trust.