In December, I met Noor and Aziz

Here’s something good about 2021: Vaccinations against COVID-19, which began in the US on December 14, continued to be administered around the world.

Here’s something frightening about 2021: An insurrection took place at the US Capitol on January 6 and divisiveness is rampant.

Before we can properly start to process what 2021 may hold, it’s time to close out 2020 with my monthly wrapup of SmartBrief stories.

I’m repeating a change I started last month — sharing the most-clicked story for December. I’m also sharing the most-clicked story for the year.


The Sesame Workshop is constantly looking for ways to help children learn and develop. Rohingya refugees are a topic I encounter frequently in another newsletter I edit, UN Wire, most recently on Jan. 4. There are around 860,000 Rohingya and minority refugees in Bangladesh who fled from Myanmar. This resource alone will in no way solve the big problems, but hopefully it helps these children feel less alone and a tiny bit safer.

Top December story: Why equitable boards are so much more effective

Top 2020 story (from 3/27/20): Stimulus package includes universal charitable deduction

Business Transformation SmartBrief

It’s more of a challenge than I thought it would be to find interesting “change management” stories three times a week for this brief and to coach the team through doing so. Maybe the wedding industry is top of mind for me because my son got married in November and my daughter is getting married in May, but it definitely has had its adjustments to make during the pandemic, as you can see from this article. I also just like saying/reading the word “minimony.”

Top December story: The pandemic has changed grocery shopping

Top 2020 story (from 5/11/20): Focus on these 3 areas as employees return to work

International City/County Management Association

There were so many interesting details to this story. I’m always fascinated by large-scale public projects that come together successfully and portray a message meant to unite people. I especially appreciate how this new public square in New Zealand was gifted the name Te Komititanga by the country’s Indigenous people.

Top December story: Ask employees these questions to create connection

Top 2020 story (from 4/21/20): Santa Monica, Calif., accepts city manager’s resignation

National Association of Social Workers

I loved so many things about this article. Although not the most important thing, I loved being able to use a picture of a bona fide hip hop star (in this case, Kid Cudi) as the featured image. It’s easy to get in a stock photo rut with the social work brief, and this was NO RUT PHOTO! I also believe strongly in the intersection of art and mental health, so this thorough piece was a winner with me.

Top December story: How to support a loved one who’s grieving

Top 2020 story (from 5/21/20): How is Brene Brown getting through the pandemic?

National Emergency Number Association

First of all, I’m glad the citizen involved in this story is OK. Second, this story is kind of fun to read in reverse. The last line talks about how dispatcher Cristal Buckner was pronounced “dispatcher of the year” early on the day documented by this story. The rest of the story explains why Bucker (and Matheny) clearly deserved the honor.

Top December story: Director of D.C. 9-1-1 resigning as agency faces audit

Top 2020 story (from 10/27/20): Coronavirus leads to Puerto Rico closing all 9-1-1 centers

Reserve Officers Association

Simply put, I’m grateful to these National Guard members for their role in helping with vaccinations.

Top December story: Congressman serving in Guard now a two-star general

Top 2020 story (from 8/31/20): Portland, Ore., Navy Reserve leader relieved of duty

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

As is often the case with my favorite science stories, the allure of this one isn’t the science (although that’s pretty great too). I have so much admiration for NASA and its scientists. Although I’m just a layperson, I have had a few opportunities to get educated about their processes and methodical approach. Therefore, I have so much empathy for the humans in charge of trying to get the heat probe of the InSight spacecraft unstuck from the Martian surface. The line that gets me? “If [one more attempt to dislodge the probe] doesn’t work, we’ll call it a day and accept disappointment.” I know how hard it must be for a scientist to say that. I hope it comes free!

Top December story: Video shows Milky Way’s transition over 400K years

Top 2020 story (from 10/30/20): Rarely-seen ram’s horn squid caught on video (check it out in the video below!)

UN Wire

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office turned 70 last month. The organizers didn’t plan for it to exist or be needed past the first three years. I agree with its head, Filippo Grandi, that “it is an uncomfortable birthday that we are not in the mood to celebrate.” I, too, hope for a day when we won’t need this agency.

Top December story: Guterres predicts long pandemic recovery at UN summit

Top 2020 story (from 1/22/20): Coronavirus spread prompts emergency WHO meetings

SmartBrief on Leadership

This is not a brief I edit, but it is our brief (to my knowledge) with the largest circulation, so I find its readers’ responses relevant.

Here’s the summary readers clicked on most in 2020 in this brief:

I don’t know why this is, except that whether they are in person or on Zoom, we all get our fill of meetings eventually. Perhaps readers were encouraged by the idea that there is a logical way to determine if they should invest time and energy in a meeting or not.

I also think it’s interesting to look at the “SmartBrief originals” post that did the best last year. These are posts we publish on the SmartBrief site (and here are all 15). This post from July was the top read original.

Who doesn’t want to alleviate anxiety? I can see why this post was so powerful.

About working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters and Future’s other enterprises.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying and have questions, please email me so we can discuss further

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

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