As 2021 nears its conclusion, we are looking back on a year heavy with news. There were stories that extensively covered the COVID-19 pandemic and the effort to draw boundaries for a new congressional district for Oregon. And there were investigations in which we dug deep. Here are seven big questions from 2021 that OPB journalists tried to answer in the year that’s drawing to a close.
Year two of COVID: When and how will this pandemic end?
It comes as no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic makes the top of this list. To date, more than 800,000 American lives have been claimed by COVID-19. While 2021 included vaccines for the majority of the general public, and more recently approved doses for younger children and booster shots, we also saw two concerning variants — delta and omicron — and more waves of cases.
The pandemic continued to have a heavy impact on Oregonians in facets of life ranging from education to jobs to overcrowded hospitals. Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories:
Investigating an unsolved death: Who killed Sean Kealiher, and what does justice look like?
In OPB’s 10-episode podcast “Dying For A Fight,” we explore the life and death of Sean Kealiher. While Kealiher, an anti-fascist and anarchist protester, was killed in Portland in 2019, his death remains unsolved.
The struggles of Oregon’s largest city: What should ‘public safety’ look like in Portland?
While protests dominated the news about Portland in 2020, the city and its government faced still more challenges in 2021, including a growing homeless crisis, a record number of homicides and a downtown unsure of its future. OPB reporter Rebecca Ellis covers Portland extensively and, in 2021, she investigated a hot topic.
Read her three-part series on the role and rise of private security in Portland:
A trend from 2020 continued into 2021: the toppling of public statues nationwide. Figures of Confederate generals and presidents were typical targets. The downed statues launched conversations about historical and current representation of individuals and groups in art – regarding both the creators and subjects. In 2021, “Think Out Loud” and OPB’s Arts & Culture team dug deep.
Redistricting: What will Oregon’s new political maps mean for the state?
In the spring of 2021, Oregonians learned the state would gain a sixth congressional seat. Over the following months, the OPB Politics team kept a watchful eye on debates around the state’s new district proposals. What ensued included 11th hour negotiations, then a lawsuit and a court battle.
Science and the environment: How is climate change challenging Oregon and the Northwest?
Historic heat, wildfires and drought reached across Oregon this summer, at a time when temperatures around the globe are climbing. It was the central focus for international leaders this fall at the COP26 United Nations. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. All year long, OPB’s Science & Environment reporters sought answers.