NPR's 40 Most Engaging And Popular Stories Of 2020
Mourning and celebrating; coping and distancing: 2020 has been a year of collective emotional dissonance. Even as the worst public health crisis in memory changed our lives, it also made us cherish bright moments where we found them.
We watched a high-stakes election play out — and sometimes we just wanted a distraction from it all.
Here are the NPR stories that hit home in 2020. They examine the complicated reality of life during a pandemic. They highlight moments of grace, surprise and persistence — and sometimes, stark disagreement.
Tens of thousands of new cases are reported daily nationwide.
"Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Experts say to think of transmission risk with a helpful phrase: "time, space, people, place."
The FBI says sessions were "disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images" and threats.
Four people in Wuhan told NPR about testing positive a second time.
"The majority of transmission is probably going to be from respiratory droplets," an expert says.
Dr. Robert Redfield said, "This virus does have the ability to transmit far easier than flu. It's probably now about three times as infectious as flu.
In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito accused the court majority of providing "no real protection for the presidency."
In late summer and fall, countries that had flattened the springtime curve began to see cases rise swiftly.
In Alabama, Blacks made up 44% of COVID-19 deaths, despite being under 27% of the population.
Most Engaging Stories
"I was surprised to see how much the grocery store had transformed. It even had a bouncer now."
Photographer Lynn Johnson says of Fred Rogers, "It was a delight being in his energy field."
The president downplayed the risk early on. He claimed "total" authority, before insisting the response is up to the states.
No one wants to touch anything in public — yet people still try to keep calm and keep up their spirits.
"I don't have the heart to tell my workers that there's no work and 'Find something else.' "
President Trump accepted his party's nomination and repeatedly invoked a sinister image of a "socialist agenda."
Stunning and colorful images trigger nostalgia for pre-pandemic life.
For more than two months, Wuhan's population of 11 million was put on a strict lockdown.
A 90th birthday party canceled: "My! What plans we had made, when his friends could be here / For a sunny picnic, some wine or some beer."
"After some initial frustration, we realized we just need to do things at our own pace and make sure to have fun."
Most Listened-To Stories
For centuries, the Hagia Sophia's unique acoustics inspired composers to write music specifically to be sung there.
Sen. Richard Burr sold stocks worth between $628,000 and $1.72 million on Feb. 13, according to public disclosures.
Nathan Apodaca says that after his truck broke down, "I grab my juice, grab my longboard, started heading to work." Then "Dreams" played.
Though state and local dashboards provide lots of data, it can be hard to compare them.
With few exceptions, the national media infrequently covered Jeffrey Epstein's behavior and rarely looked at how he avoided accountability.
The White House "significantly over-promised what the private sector was ready to do" to help fight the coronavirus, an expert said.
"She looked like a big, woolly minibus with a head on it."
"As a teenager, I remember downplaying my intelligence," Caleb Anderson's father says. He wanted his son to have more options.
A researcher got goosebumps when a wolf puppy ran after a tennis ball and brought it back. Then two more puppies did it.
Years after the Allentown Art Museum's "Portrait Of A Young Woman" was invalidated, a new restoration revealed key details.
Popular Long Reads
The late documentary photographer's brilliant work is condensed from more than 2 million images to 515 plates for a retrospective.
NPR interviewed at least two dozen survivors across the Philippines who were victimized by Japanese soldiers.
"The true neo-Nazis hate us, which they should because we hate them too. And the far left, who we don't have any problems with, hate us because they believe that we're neo-Nazis."
One holiday, two visions of the future — for Richmond, and for America.
The settlement's official name, Izwelethu, means "Our Land" in Xhosa. Hardly anybody calls it that.
"Chinese bullets were flying like rain, and nobody dared to climb on the truck." Then a Marine sergeant did.
"I'm glad I can take care of others. They're giving us their body to take care of. It's a beautiful job we are doing, but I wish it weren't to this magnitude."
It isn't a booming facility. It's more of a ghost town with a fresh paint job.
A womansmelled disease on her husband more than a decade before his symptoms drove them to seek medical help.
Putting an elephant on a plane during a pandemic was just one of the challenges in moving the animal to a conservation park.
NPR's Andy Bickerton contributed to this report.
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