Credit: Matt Rota for Reveal

If you’re lucky, you’re about to have a lot of days off. A lot of free time. Maybe lots of hours on airplanes. You might even need something to do to escape from family.

To help you fill that time, we humbly submit to you five pieces of our best long-form writing this year, as selected by our staff. And when you’re done, check out this post to understand the positive change that’s come about since these stories first published.

Credit: Matt Rota for Reveal Credit: Matt Rota for Reveal

Rape on the Night Shift

What it’s about:

At the end of the day, when most of the world goes home, a nearly invisible workforce clocks in: Many janitors are women who work at night in empty buildings, in isolation, and that can put them in danger.

A snippet:

It’s easy to get lost in the nuances of sexual assault claims. Each one is a wild turn through what she said and then what he said, between what can be remembered and what can be proven.

But this wasn’t one of those cases.

Credit: Mr. Fish Credit: Mr. Fish

The death of baby Ada Mae and the tragic effects of addicted veterans

What it’s about:

The hospital for veterans in a small Wisconsin town became known as “Candy Land” for so readily dispensing opiates to its patients. Such heavy use of tranquilizers and painkillers has left scars across the region.

A snippet:

It begins with the veterans themselves, who have become addled and addicted and who have overdosed. The collateral damage ranges from distraught sisters to fatherless children and dead girlfriends.

The ripples do not stop there.

Patients of the Tomah VA have been arrested for dealing drugs, brandishing firearms in bars and passing out in the middle of the street. One totaled her truck and her car on her way to the VA.

Out in the community, police and prosecutors know these men and women so well that they refer to them by street names like “Turtle,” “Airman,” “Black Mark” and “Detroit.”

Inside the hospital’s brick walls, psychologists, nurses, social workers and the VA police just call them “Houlihan’s Hooligans.”

Debbie McDaniel shows one of her tattoos and talks about how her body art is inspired by her experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness. Credit: Courtesy of Debbie McDaniel Credit: Courtesy of Debbie McDaniel

Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse and oust a victim

What it’s about:

The religion effectively has silenced members who speak up about abuse through the tortuous practice of disfellowshipping and shunning, isolating them from their family and the only community they’ve known.

A snippet:

a case study into the secretive world of Jehovah’s Witnesses, (Debbie) McDaniel’s recent shunning is particularly striking. Her family, her congregation and the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses chose to embrace an elder they had evidence was a predatory pedophile, while rejecting one of his alleged victims because she was a lesbian.

Police sketches of “Blue Earth Jane Doe,” who was discovered to be Michelle Busha.Credit: Minnesota Department of Public Safety Credit: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Left for Dead: How America fails the missing and unidentified 

What it’s about:

Law enforcement agencies across the country have let solvable cold cases languish, only to have public citizens piece together answers on their own.

A snippet:

There’s no easy way to reach the wooded hillside with an excavator, so the plan is to dig her up by hand, one spade of Kentucky dirt at a time. That’s how she went into the earth 45 years ago, and that’s how she’s coming back out.

Credit: Jebadiah Stanfill Credit: Jebadiah Stanfill

In North Dakota’s Bakken oil boom, there will be blood

What it’s about:

The discovery of oil in North Dakota has meant cheap oil for America. It’s also led to about one worker dying every six weeks. This is the story of those deaths and how big companies largely have avoided responsibility for them.

A snippet:

A few minutes later, they reached the burning rig and pulled up next to Doug Hysjulien, who was wandering in a valley and clutching the front of his underwear. The rest of his clothes were gone.

“They’re over there,” Hysjulien shouted, pointing toward the fiery rig. “Go help the other boys. They’re worse.”


Don’t forget to read our rundown of the positive change these and other Reveal stories sparked this year. And if you appreciate this work, please consider donating here. We’re a nonprofit that relies on your donations to keep the lights on.

Andrew Donohue is the deputy editor for Reveal. He works with the audience team to find out what the public needs from – and what it can contribute to – our reporting. Stories Donohue has reported and edited have led to criminal charges, firings and reforms in public housing, pesticide use, sexual harassment and labor practices, among other areas. As a reporter and editor, he’s won awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Online News Association and others. Previously, Donohue helped build and lead Voice of San Diego, a pioneering local news startup. He was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University, where he worked on deepening engagement with investigative reporting. He serves on the IRE board of directors.