Vaccine Fan Fiction, Boom Time for America’s Forests and Political Apathy in N.Y.C.: The Week in Narrated Articles

This weekend, listen to a collection of narrated articles from around The New York Times, read aloud by the reporters who wrote the stories.

For months, social media has been operating as if mass death and collective trauma could be processed (or at least ignored) by rigorously serving up topical memes on our phones.

Now, the long-running Covid dramedy appears to be nearing its finale, in the form of an orgiastic flurry of vaccine content.

Images of filled-out vaccine cards are status symbols. The syringe emoji is spurting everywhere. There are vaccine fan-fiction TikToks where the pharmaceutical brands are spun into whole personalities. There is even a vaccine heartthrob: Huge Ma, the “Vaccine Daddy” behind the Twitter account @TurboVax, which surfaces open appointment slots in New York.

Since Blaine Wetzel took over the kitchen at the Willows Inn, a restaurant on Lummi, a tiny island near the San Juan archipelago of Washington State, it has become a global destination. Culinary pilgrims come for multicourse dinners of foraged dandelions, custards infused with roasted birch bark and salmon pulled from Pacific waters they can see from the dining room.

Beyond the food, guests come for the story, and pay at least $500 to live in it for a night.

But 35 former staff members who spoke to The New York Times said that story — the one Mr. Wetzel tells to diners, to the media and to aspiring chefs who come to Lummi to learn from him — is deeply misleading.

Written and narrated by Michael Wilson

The next mayor of New York faces a staggering slate of extraordinary challenges: resuscitating tourism and refilling the empty skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan, bringing jobs back and the commuters to perform them, lowering crime while raising confidence in the city’s police and law enforcement.

And yet, a seemingly large portion of New Yorkers, with only eight weeks left before the Democratic primary, remain utterly disengaged and oblivious to the race.

For many, the ongoing toils of living with the coronavirus and lingering weariness from the 2020 presidential campaign have crowded out time or energy for local politics.

Written and narrated by Gabriel Popkin

In barely a decade, the wood pellet industry in America’s Southeast has grown from almost nothing to 23 mills with capacity to produce more than 10 million metric tons annually for export. It employs more than 1,000 people directly, and has boosted local logging and trucking businesses.

Supporters see the thriving industry as a climate-friendly source of rural jobs. For others, it’s a polluter and destroyer of nature.

Written and narrated by Ali Watkins

The ambulance crews that service much of rural America have run out of money and volunteers, a crisis exacerbated by the demands of the pandemic and a neglected, patchwork 911 system.

The situation is particularly acute in Wyoming, where nearly half of the population lives in territory so empty it is still considered the frontier. At least 10 localities in the state are in danger of losing ambulance service, some imminently, according to an analysis reviewed by The New York Times.



The Times’s narrated articles are made by Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Aaron Esposito, Elena Hecht, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Anna Martin, Tracy Mumford, Tanya Perez, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and John Woo. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.


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