As 2023 draws to a close, GBH's Morning Edition is calling up journalists from all around our newsroom to get updates on some of the most impactful stories we've covered this year.

Keep tuning in for updates.

A baby-blue Twitter logo protrudes from the side of a building, photographed through tree branches
A sign is pictured outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.
Godofredo A. Vásquez AP

Uncertainty for social media platforms

Alternatives to X and government oversight of social platforms are stories to follow in 2024.

Zack Waldman on Morning Edition | Dec. 29, 2023

It was a chaotic year for social media users: First, the company formerly known as Twitter — now formally X — seemed to be in constant upheaval. Other companies, from upstarts to social media giant Meta, tried their hand at gaining some of the market share Twitter lost.

“Since Elon Musk took over Twitter last year and bought the company, it's just been a laundry list of head-scratching moves for the platform,” said GBH's social media strategist, Zack Waldman.

Despite the long list of competitors, no one platform has emerged as the space Twitter once was, he said.

Another story he’s kept a close eye on, he said, are attempts at government oversight of social media platforms.

“About 70% of states that have already banned TikTok for any folks who use a government-issued phone,” he said. “And then separately, a lawsuit against Meta from 40-plus state attorneys general who have all come together and are suing Meta for deliberately designing addictive platform features that potentially harm children and underage users. We'll see where that goes.”

A crowd of people, many wearing purple and some in wheelchairs, stand in front of the Embrace statue and wave their hands. One person holds a sign that says 'integration not institutionalization.'
1199SEIU hosted a rally on Boston Common on March 1, 2023, to call for higher PCA wages. Later in the year, the union and the state reached a deal to increase pay.
Meghan Smith GBH News

Disability rights and accessibility

A worker shortage and a tragedy both stressed the need for more support in New England's disability communities.

Meghan Smith on Morning Edition | Dec. 28, 2023

This year brought big news for the disability community in Massachusetts: Personal care attendants got a raise that will be phased in to bring their pay up to $25 an hour. PCAs are workers who help disabled people living at home with activities of daily living like getting dressed, bathing and food preparation.

“A big problem that I heard about was that the low wages for those workers made it difficult for so many people to find and keep PCAs, which meant a lot of people were just left without support,” said GBH News reporter Meghan H. Smith, who covers disability communities.

The year also brought a lot of grief for those the disability community.

Judy Heumann, known as the mother of the disability rights movement, died in March. She was instrumental in advocating for the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

And a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, highlighted the need for accessibility and inclusiveness during sudden tragedies. Four of the 18 people killed were Deaf — a huge loss in the local community.

“It's raised questions about how prepared are first responders, hospital staff, law enforcement officers to engage with Deaf people and provide services such as mental health support and counseling in ASL [American Sign Language],” Smith said. “I was in Maine a few weeks ago, and this tragedy is very still in front of people's minds. When I was there, I saw a commercial in ASL that was, you know explaining to people how they can get support. So even though that was a tragedy, there's been a lot of conversation about how it could actually improve some access to information and emergency response for people who are disabled in the Deaf community.”

Woman sitting at a conference table with others turns to speak to the woman on her left as the group listens.
Anabelle Rondon, Deputy Director TDI, MassDevelopment and a member of the Planners of Color, speaks with GBH News staff at a Get Smart lunch while visiting GBH in Boston, MA.
Marvin Germain

We told stories of your communities — with help from you

GBH News heard from hundreds of people this year, from your hopes for Gov. Maura Healey and her administration to the best nightlife spots in Boston.

Annie Shreffler on Morning Edition | Dec. 27, 2023

One of the most common questions we get is how we find and report the stories that end up on our air.

And as a public media organization, our journalism is highly informed by you, our audience.

“Crowdsourcing, just to be specific, is an open invitation for anyone who wants to participate and contribute their own talent or their perspective to a task,” said Annie Shreffler, GBH’s audience impact manager. “So to report on some of the issues of the day, we create an invitation to put a form out asking for people to submit on our website a response to a question.”

Interested in telling us what matters to you in 2024? Email us at gbhnewsconnect@wgbh.org.

Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Glendale, AZ
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 17: Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at State Farm Stadium on March 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The city of Glendale, Arizona was ceremonially renamed to Swift City for March 17-18 in honor of The Eras Tour.
John Medina Getty Images North America

Live music big and small

It was a good year for live music, from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé's headline-making tours to smaller venues opening here in Massachusetts.

Haley Lerner on Morning Edition | Dec. 26, 2023

Did anyone bring more joy, sparkle, and economy-boosting, GPD-altering spending this year than Taylor Swift and Beyoncé? It seems unlikely.

“The concert tours that are happening this year have really been like no other,” GBH News arts and culture reporter Haley Lerner said. “I mean, they're just dominating the news cycle like I've never seen before.”

Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour were also released as concern films for fans who could not get tickets to the original shows or just wanted to experience them again.

It was also a good year for newer live music venues in the Boston area, Lerner said. Suffolk Downs hosted the Re:SET festival, The Cut in Gloucester opened, and Regattabar in Cambridge opened its doors again.

“There's really a lot of spaces that people can see live music now in the area,” Lerner said.

A family with a young child sit in front of a laptop, looking thoughtfully but sad.
Richemene Bertrand, center, holds her daughter Jumaily Secius while learning computer skills with her husband, Jean Francois Secius, left, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in a rectory building where they are staying at the Bethel AME Church in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Demand for shelter has increased as Massachusetts struggles to find newly-arriving migrants places to stay after hitting a state-imposed limit of 7,500 families in its emergency homeless shelter system the previous month.
Michael Dwyer AP

The year in local news

Many stories of the year will continue into 2024, including support for migrants and Boston's ban on encampments, and the Jack Teixeira case.

Matt Baskin on All Things Considered | Dec. 22, 2023

One big story this year was immigration. The thousands of migrants who arrived in Massachusetts have strained the state's limited shelter system. The influx of migrants prompted some collaborative solutions — including an expedited work permitting process and job clinics — but support needs remain high.

"The governor has said she’ll need more money, more resources in the new year to keep addressing the migrant issue," GBH News assignment editor Matt Baskin said.

The migrant arrivals also come on the backdrop of preexisting housing issues and homelessness.

In Boston this year, officials started showing more concern about drug use and violence around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Mayor Michelle Wu led the charge to ban encampments citywide.

"Our newsroom will be looking into what life is like now for those who’d been living at Mass. and Cass, and whether new encampments start popping up in other parts of the city."

Bill Belichick holds his head and winces in frustration while on the football field sidelines.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass.
Greg M. Cooper AP

Good news/bad news for sports fans

The Patriots' poor performance this season means a (potential) Belichick farewell. But it was a better year for women’s soccer and hockey fans in town.

Esteban Bustillos on Morning Edition | Dec. 22, 2023

The end of 2023 did not bring good news to New England’s favorite football team. The Patriots are 3-11, and some fans are wondering whether longtime coach Bill Belichick is on his way out.

“Robert Kraft, he is well within his rights to move on,” said Esteban Bustillos, GBH News’ reports reporter. “But it would be a seismic, seismic shift.”

There are also seismic shifts coming to the world of college sports: The NCAA, now run by former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, is rolling out a pilot program to begin paying a small portion of its student athletes. And legal cases working their way through the courts may bring more change in that regard.

But sports fans in Boston looking for good news and good games have a lot to be excited about.

“The National Women's Soccer League, they granted a team, a Boston expansion team,” Bustillos said. “And the newly formed professional women's hockey league, the PWHL, is also starting up in January.”

Play on.

The actors of Fat Ham on stage, set in a backyard barbeque.
ames T. Alfred, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Thomika Marie Bridwell, Marshall W. Mabry IV, Victoria Omoregie, Amar Atkins perform in the Huntington’s "Fat Ham."
T Charles Erickson The Huntington Theatre

The Boston arts scene

It was a banner year for globe-trotting art exhibits, the Huntington Theatre, and free access to the arts.

Jared Bowen on Morning Edition | Dec. 21, 2023

GBH’s executive arts editor Jared Bowen, also co-host of The Culture Show, saw many standouts in the Boston-area arts scene this year.

There were visual art shows that premiered here and are now traveling the world, like the Edvard Munch show “Trembling Earth” out of the Clark Art Institute and the sculptural works in “Simone Leigh: Sovereignty,” which premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The Huntington Theatre Company also found a “magic sauce” with shows like "The Lehman Trilogy" and “Fat Ham,” Bowen said.

He was most excited, however, to see more arts organizations expanding access to their works. The Harvard Art Museums announced free entry to their institutions, and Company One Theatre said their shows will now be free or pay-what-you-can.

“It can be expensive to go to museums, it can be expensive to go to theater,” Bowen said. Eliminating those barriers to entry can make it “so much more democratic, will get more people in the door, more people exposed to the arts, which is all I ever want to see.”

Read more:

Water is still flooding an area — a car is under a broken aluminum shed that looks to have been partly carried away by flooding. In the background, a train track is suspended over nothing.
After almost a foot of water fell overnight, the area by the commuter rail track in Leominster shows damage the next morning, Sept. 12, 2023.
Mark Herz GBH News

PFAS progress

EPA restrictions are expected to be handed down on the “forever chemicals.” Plus, in Massachusetts, environmental reporters are keeping a close eye on the state’s rivers and dams.

Craig LeMoult on All Things Considered | Dec. 20, 2023

There was a lot of talk about PFAS in 2023, the so-called “forever chemicals” that never break down, GBH News environmental reporter Craig LeMoult tells Arun Rath on GBH’s All Things Considered.

PFAS chemicals have been used commercially since the 1940s in products like nonstick pans and firefighting gear, but they’ve been linked to health issues like low birthweights in babies and kidney cancer.

In March, the EPA proposed limits on six PFAS compounds in public water systems. They’re not set in stone yet: Some advocates say they don’t go far enough, while others are pushing back, arguing it would be costly to install treatment systems in every facility.

“The regulations would limit them to four parts per trillion, which is the lowest level that can be reliably measured,” LeMoult said. “The EPA said it expected to issue a final rule by the end of this year, but at this point, it's not clear that's happening. I'm told it could come in January.”

And in Massachusetts. all eyes are on the commonwealth’s rivers and tributaries.

“As there are more extreme weather events as a result of climate change, we’re increasingly seeing the impact on rivers in Massachusetts — especially on the state’s thousands of aging and obsolete dams,” LeMoult said. “Remember, in September, there was a crazy rainstorm that caused significant flooding in Leominster? The water from that storm topped the Barrett Park Pond Dam and there was a lot of concern that dam could fail.”

Local environmental groups are pushing to get more dams removed, anticipating unpredictable and heavy rainstorms that could cause property damage and loss of life if the dams fail.

For LeMoult, though, a shining moment when he looks back on a year of environmental reporting is interviewing legendary anthropologist Jane Goodall — especially in a field where “it’s easy to get depressed.” She was featured in a new documentary, “Reasons for Hope,” about the people taking steps to make positive change.

“It was actually a highlight of my career, to be honest,” LeMoult said. “She told me hope is not about wishful thinking. She said hope is about action. ... She said, if you focus on the issues you're passionate about and get together with others who also care, you'll find you can make a difference. And, she said, it's then that you can dare to think globally.”

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MBTA_Green_Line.jpg
An MBTA train pulls into a stop on Commonweath Avenue near Boston University in Boston. Phil Eng, the MBTA’s general manager, was brought in to lead the agency earlier this year — which GBH News’ transportation reporter Bob Seay says is the biggest transit story of the year.
Elise Amendola AP

Track work

Track work — and a new management track — marked the year for MBTA riders

Bob Seay on Morning Edition | Dec. 20, 2023

MBTA riders started the year waiting to see improvements in speed as the agency struggled with its long-neglected maintenance logs.

They’re still waiting, GBH transportation reporter Bob Seay said. But now there’s a plan, and new people in charge with General Manager Phil Eng and other senior leaders.

“This is the first experienced transit agency manager we've had in more than 10 years to take over the T, and he immediately reorganized the management,” Seay said. “So far, he has done well, I think. He has been blindsided, as could be expected, by a couple of developments, but he's recovered from that pretty well and he's laid out a plan for 2024 that he says will eliminate all the slow zones in the system.”

The MBTA also negotiated a new contract with its Carmen’s Union this year, with wages rising 18% over four years. The higher salaries appear to have drawn in more people to fill bus driver roles.

“It's amazing: You offer people more money, you get more people applying for jobs,” Seay joked.

Will 2024 bring an end to slogging through slow zones? Seay said there is reason for some optimism.

“In one year, you can save this tape, interview me — and I think you're going to see some definite progress being made,” Seay said.

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A man sits in his auto repair shop.
Dan Ford trains homeless and other underprivileged young people how to restore cars so they can pursue that work as a stable career. In 2023, the city of Worcester denied him funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Sam Turken GBH News

Worcester

Police misconduct investigations, rising housing prices, and inequities in who gets funding

Sam Turken on Morning Edition | Dec. 19, 2023

New England’s second largest city has had a busy year, GBH News reporter Sam Turken said. Its police department is under federal investigation, and continued to make headlines “for the wrong reasons,” as Turken put it. One story that grabbed headlines was Police Chief Steven M. Sargent’s sudden retirement in September amid harassment accusations.

Housing prices continued to climb, with median rents reaching about $2,000 a month.

And Worcester City Council grappled with how to deal with the city’s two so-called “crisis pregnancy centers.” Abortion rights advocates have accused the centers of using deceptive tactics to steer people away from abortions, while supporters of the centers say they provide needed services.

But some of the most interesting stories had to do with who gets to help when city residents are struggling, Turken said.

“Smaller nonprofits, often led by people of color, struggle to secure these local, these state, even these federal grants,” he said. “One activist, her name’s Nelly Medina, the way she put it is: The grassroots efforts that are coming from the people on the ground are the ones that are scoffed at. These organizations that were looked over are some of the most respected in the community. It’s a huge injustice.”

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Press Conference On Disappearance And Death Of Jassy Correia
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins abruptly resigned earlier this year following two federal investigations.
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Boston Globe

This year in politics

A shelter crisis, high-profile departures and not much from the state Legislature

Adam Reilly and Katie Lannan on Morning Edition | Dec. 18, 2023

The year in Massachusetts politics was marked by what we saw: More homeless and migrant families in need of housing, bringing new conversations and funding crises around the state’s right-to-shelter law.

But just as notable are the things we haven’t seen, GBH’s State House reporter Katie Lannan said.

The Legislature has passed around 80 laws. But if you take out just the legislation that impacts just one state worker or community — like establishing sick leave for a single employee, or granting an additional alcoholic license to Mansfield — the total count is only about 16.

“And many of those have been late,” Lannan said. “They've been marked by drawn-out disputes between the House and Senate. One of the legislative committees still is meeting separately because the House and Senate chairs disagree over rules. So it's been a slow-moving legislative year up on Beacon Hill.”

Also notable, according to GBH politics reporter Adam Reilly: The departure of U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who left her job after two federal investigations showed misconduct around the race to replace her old post as Suffolk district attorney.

Rollins was “a real trailblazer, a political force” as district attorney, Reilly said. “And I wonder, moving forward if Rollins exiting the way she did is going to lead to here locally diminished sympathy for her approach to criminal justice.”

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