December 30, 2019
It’s The End Of The 2010s. What A Decade It Was.
Before we ring in 2020, we asked our panel for their picks of the biggest stories of the decade in the Washington region.
Jackie Bensen of NBC4, Rachel Sadon and Lori McCue of DCist, and Rhiannon Walker of The Athletic joined us to hit rewind on 2019. But what moments defined the decade for them as journalists?
What was the biggest news moment of the decade?
Jackie Bensen: “Horrifying episodes of gun violence against schoolchildren marred the decade, including attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, and dozens of others. The horrifying spectacle of semi-automatic weapons used in mass school shootings, as well as in similarly brutal attacks in other public venues — from a movie theater in Aurora, CO, to a historic black church in Charleston, SC, to a country music festival in Las Vegas, NV — led to calls for increased gun legislation after each new tragedy.”
Lori McCue: “It’s hard to think of a time in recent memory that D.C.’s bid for statehood has been more public. All of the Senate Democrats currently running for president have come out in favor of making D.C. the 51st state, and in September, the issue of D.C. statehood got a hearing in the House, the first hearing of its kind in decades. Even if it did end up being mostly about Councilmember Jack Evans (and parking?), it’s the furthest this issue has gone in nearly 30 years.”
Rachel Sadon: “The disappearance of Relisha Rudd in 2014 forced the city to confront the deplorable conditions at the city’s main family shelter. And in 2016, D.C. saw the highest per capita spike in homelessness in the country, in large part due to an increase in homeless families. While the city has worked to turn the tide, including building a series of new neighborhood shelters, there are still more than 6,500 people living without a home in the nation’s capital.”
Rhiannon Walker: “D.C. is experiencing the greatest ‘intensity of gentrification’ of any city in the United States. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition confirmed that sense when it released its findings this March — both of my parents are from D.C., and I’m a born and raised resident of the region. I’ve watched the dynamics, culture and population change dramatically the majority of my life and the entirety of the study’s time period of 2000-2013.”
What was the biggest arts and culture story of the decade?
Jackie Bensen: “The invention of Instagram. The social media platform has created an industry of ‘influencers’ (some of whom make their living doing it). Instagram has allowed restaurants, in particular, to dispense with the traditional and costly paid advertising format.”
Lori McCue: “Following the incredible hype over the Hirshhorn’s ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors’ and other immersive experiences, it’s hard to remember just how surprising the fervor over the Renwick Gallery’s ‘Wonder’ was. Over the exhibit’s months-long run that started in 2015, more than 700,000 visitors came to see pink walls covered with thousands of insects, a man-made tree made of blocks, and a gauzy rainbow floating on the ceiling. The lines that stretched outside the museum during its run — not to mention the way the exhibit permeated social media — changed the idea of what a stately Smithsonian museum could be.
Without ‘Wonder,’ we wouldn’t have ‘Infinity Mirrors,’ nor would we have the variety of (certainly more commercial) immersive exhibits that pop up around the city. Plus, for better or for worse, we might not have the word ‘Instagrammable.’”
Rachel Sadon: “It doesn’t get any more momentous than the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Barack Obama and Ruth Odom Bonner, whose father had been enslaved in Mississippi, tolled the bell to open the museum in 2016 and forever changed the National Mall. To call NMAAHC a wild success is an understatement. Three years later, tickets are still necessary and the founding director is now the head of the entire Smithsonian Institution.”
Rhiannon Walker: “The city fighting back this year regarding the MetroPCS store near U Street [with #DontMuteDC]. As a result of gentrification, you have people moving into areas that are more lively, and then being upset about the ‘noise’ that makes that particular part of town unique. If you live near Florida Avenue/U Street, you move in knowing it’s one of the most popular locations for young people, nightlife and music. That includes go-go. If you live near Capital One Arena, then you do so knowing it’s the hub for much of the cities sports, downtown life in general. Kids trying to make money playing drums on the buckets comes with it.
To move into a neighborhood, and then be mad about those two staples is the definition of insanity, because those two components of D.C. life were there well before you. D.C. residents hosting Moechella on U Street this year and standing up to those people was huge.”
What was the biggest sports story of the decade?
Jackie Bensen: “Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup [in 2018]. What a memorable night. For many DC residents, it’s the first time they can remember a ‘national-level’ sports championship. Followed by national championships for the Nationals and the Mystics.”
Lori McCue: “Seeing the Washington Mystics cap off their first year in their brand-new dedicated stadium with a WNBA championship title — their first ever! — was awfully special. After last season’s loss to the Seattle Storm in the finals, the team seemed particularly energized this season, breaking franchise and league records, plus claiming regular season MVP Elena Delle Donne.”
Rachel Sadon: “It’s hard to think of anything that topped the Nationals winning the World Series [this year] — in glorious unlikeliness, in silly charm, in unabashed D.C. pride.”
Rhiannon Walker: “Robert Griffin III’s knee injury to end his rookie season. Washington Capital’s first Stanley Cup title in 2018. Washington Mystics and Washington Nationals’ titles this year.
I start with the football team, because they’re the team people in this city care the most about, which is why there is as much anger and frustration over the organization being run into the ground these last two decades. When RGIII was at his peak in 2012, excitement in the area was at levels not seen for years. He gave fans reasons to believe the team may return to glory, and that was all dashed away with the initial knee injury he suffered in the game against the Ravens, and the real nail in the coffin being the subsequent injury against the Seahawks in the playoffs. He was never the same.
The latter three teams’ first championships were huge for a city that trailed only Minnesota in terms of championship drought for a region with all four major sports. D.C. is no longer considered cursed in the sports world.”
For more from this panel, listen to our show “Kojo Rewind: What Happened Around Here in 2019?”