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A Look Back at 2023

Still out here changing the face of foreign policy, one author at a time.

Words: Laicie Heeley
Pictures: NEOM

It’s hard to believe it, but 2024 is just around the corner. And, if we’re honest, we’re still over here processing 2020. 

But we have to admit, 2023 was a pretty good year.

This year we produced our very first impact report, launched a brand new website (hey girl), joined the Institute for Nonprofit News, and partnered with Bombshelltoe to launch the inaugural season of our Creative Capsule Residency

Our first round of Creative Capsule residents reported from the ground in Ukraine, developed a film that explores geography and nuclear mourning in New Mexico, and imagined a fictional town set in a speculative future, living in the aftermath of nuclear war. 

We also produced not just one but two seasons of Things That Go Boom, and created and published our first two radio specials, giving us an hour of air time on prominent NPR stations like KUCR (Los Angeles), WGBH (Boston), and KUOW (Seattle).

Our work was cited in major outlets like the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Foreign Policy, and appeared on college and university curricula at places like the University of Southern California, George Washington University, Harvard University, and the Naval War College.

And in our latest author audit, 54% of Inkstick’s authors self-identified as women, and approximately 40% identified as people of color. 23% of our authors, further, identified as LGBTQ+, and 17% identified themselves as first-generation college students, while 32% identified as first or second-generation immigrants.

Inkstick remains committed to changing the face of foreign policy, one author at a time. And we remain one of the few outlets focused on foreign policy and national security that does not accept money or influence from contractors or government entities that might color our views.

And this year we grew our reporting exponentially. Inkstick now publishes an average of 8-10 reported pieces a month, up from 1-2 pieces a month in 2021, in addition to our weekly newsletter, Critical State, and our seasonal podcast, Things That Go Boom. 

This work features original, on-the-ground reporting from journalists around the world and explores the many tangible human experiences at the heart of today’s pressing global security issues. Its expansion has allowed us to cover regions and topics we were previously unable to, including insights from Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina, Palestine, and Lebanon, and to dive deeper into the most important stories from around the world. Stories like the ones you see below.

It’s almost impossible to choose, but these are a few of our favorites from 2023:

blue sky, clouds, chips

Global Tech Supply Chains are as Complex as a Circuit Board” by Brendan O’Connor 

In a powerful essay, Brendan O’Connor took us on a journey from “Top Gun: Maverick” to microchips.

Collusion, Religion, and Suspicion Amid War in Ukraine” by Hunter Williamson 

Russia’s war against Ukraine has made religion — and Orthodox Christmas — a more central part of spiritual life. But as fighting continued, one of Ukraine’s main Orthodox churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, found itself under scrutiny about its ties to Russia.

Dining Under the Drones in Ukraine” by Johanna Mendelson Forman 

Johanna Mendelson Forman writes that in Ukraine, “Even with missiles flying overhead, chefs are cooking and customers are coming in to dine.”

Union Strength Dwindles at Top Defense Contractors,” and “Top Defense Contractors Favor Relocations, Expansions in Anti-Union States,” by Taylor Barnes

This year our staff reporter Taylor Barnes broke so much major new ground in her reporting, it’s hard to choose our favorite. So, we chose two. In this double whammy, Taylor published a new investigation into labor moves at the “Big Five” defense contractors that might allow them to chip away at already dwindling union strength in the sector — another exclusive uncovered by Taylor.

soldiers, green, climate change

Selling War Amid Climate Change” by Nico Edwards 

“Can war be environmentally sustainable?” Nico Edwards details why, somehow, this isn’t a rhetorical question to policymakers, think tanks, military staff, and arms producers across Europe and North America.

Forgotten Fallout: The Unfulfilled Promise of Nuclear Justice for the Marshallese,” Chloe Shrager 

Chloe Shrager speaks with some of the last remaining Marshallese to experience the US’ barrage of nuclear weapons tests in the islands, which amounted to the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshimas per day between the years of 1946 and 1958.

Gaza Hospitals Turn to Graves,” by Mohammed Ali 

In a haunting dispatch from Gaza, Mohammed Ali visits al-Shifa and al-Najjar hospitals, where one doctor says, “You’re left to triage amid the threnody of wails, deciding who might have a chance when chances are so slim.”

J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves at the ground zero site of the Trinity test

What ‘Oppenheimer’ Misses About The Decision to Drop the Bomb” by John Emery and Anna Pluff 

Even today, deeply ingrained in the American consciousness is the myth that millions were saved (presumably from death) by dropping the atomic bombs and avoiding an invasion. There are several flaws with this line of argumentation.

Iraq, water, climate change

The Struggle to Save Iraq’s Marshes” by Justin Salhani 

In his reporting on the struggle to save Iraq’s marshes, Justin Salhani details how armed groups and government officials have harassed, threatened, and even arbitrarily detained environmentalists in Iraq.

Season 8 of Things That Go Boom

The subject of our latest season is in the news constantly, but we still think if you give it a listen, you might hear something new.

Laicie Heeley

Editor in Chief

Laicie Heeley is the founding CEO of Inkstick Media, where she serves as Editor in Chief of the foreign policy magazine Inkstick and Executive Producer and Host of the PRX- and Inkstick-produced podcast, Things That Go Boom. Heeley’s reporting has appeared on public radio stations across America and the BBC, where she’s explored global security issues including domestic terrorism, disinformation, nuclear weapons, and climate change. Prior to launching Inkstick, Heeley was a Fellow with the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program and Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Her publications include work on sanctions, diplomacy, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, along with the first full accounting of US counterterrorism spending after 9/11.


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