Writing & Radio Samples

I am a features reporter for CQ Roll Call, where I used to cover banking and financial services. Formerly, I was a reporter at WHYY, where I mainly covered transportation for PlanPhilly. I have also contributed to Slate, NPR’s Morning Edition, Politico Magazine, The Economist, WBUR’s Here & Now, Philadelphia City Paper, the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Philly, and Philadelphia Magazine.

Selected clips:

Enterprise and Features

Roll Call, How Democrats of faith see devout Speaker Mike Johnson, Dec. 6, 2023. A look at how faith informs the politics and Weltanschauung of some religious House Democrats, compared to how it influences Mike Johnson. 

Roll Call, How the nonreligious in Congress view Speaker Mike Johnson, Nov. 13, 2023. A look at what the very few members of Congress who don't profess a faith thought of the new Speaker of the House. 

Roll Call, What’s to stop the House speaker chaos from happening again to the next guy?, Oct. 12, 2023. Story written amid GOP's ouster of Speaker McCarthy that noted (accurately) that the next guy would face similar intra-party headaches. 

Roll Call, How Patrick McHenry went from partisan ‘attack dog’ to holding the fate of the House in his hands, Oct. 10, 2023. Profile of the speaker pro tempore, written with Caitlin Reilly. 

Roll Call, The GOP wants you* to quit your job (*if you were appointed by Biden), May 12, 2023. 

Roll Call, ‘Rise in violent rhetoric’: Lawmakers in both parties report spike in death threats, Jan. 20, 2022. Investigation into how many members of Congress receive death threats.

Roll Call, More Republicans have died of COVID-19. Does that mean the polls are off? A look at the potential political ramifications of COVID disparate impact on conservative voters. March 30, 2022.

Roll Call, She was bleeding from a stab wound. A congressional staffer intervened, October 28, 2021. A story about the victim of a stabbing, the neighbor who helped her, the violence prevention legislation he works on, and the limitations of such programs in the face of a deeply flawed criminal justice system.

Politico Magazine, Is Conor Lamb the Next Big Democratic Upset? February 18, 2018. I wrote the first profile of the Democratic congressional candidate who went on to pull off a huge upset win in final special election before the 2018 midterm election.

The Economist, Brian Fitzpatrick tries to hold on in Pennsylvania’s first district, October 30, 2018. A short profile of how a Republican U.S. Representative was fighting to hold on in the Philly suburbs.

Roll Call, Rubio raises profile in pandemic, challenges GOP economics, April 23, 2020. Profile of Sen. Marco Rubio seizing the coronavirus crisis to create the Paycheck Protection Program and raise his profile as a party leader.

Roll Call, What if Congress isn’t hopelessly locked in partisan gridlock? What if it’s getting a lot done? March 3, 2022. Countering the prevailing narrative, my original data reporting suggests Congress has actually been extremely productive.

Roll Call, How Cynthia Lummis, a rancher and grandmother, was crowned the Senate’s queen of crypto, Feb. 15, 2022. Profile of the unlikely senator leading the effort to support cryptocurrencies with friendly regulation.

WHYY, A day in the life of Philadelphia, and the people who make it go, August 28, 2018. With two dozen colleagues, I took a pre-dawn to post-dusk, behind-the-scenes look at what keeps Philly running. The result was a 21-minute long radio story and a long article about the workers we too often ignore.

Slate, Welcome to Philadelphia, where we no longer hate ourselves, February 1, 2018. Written on the eve of Super Bowl LII, about what an Eagles win would mean for Philly.

Morning Edition, Being the Philly Phanatic, July 13, 2017. A trip to the ball field to hang out with the guy who makes the Phanatic the most beloved mascot in pro sports, heard on NPR’s morning program. I have a written version of the story here.

Slate, The Presidential Campaign Websites Are Terrible, March 1, 2016. In which I noted that Donald Trump was connecting with voters significantly better than his competitors, generally and specifically through his website, long before many took him seriously., Why Do Philadelphians Just Love to Play With the Word “Philadelphia”?, December 7, 2015. Cultural and linguistic musings and lots of curses.

Slate, “You can do anything with a law degree” is a vicious lie, May 14, 2014. It really is.

Slate, Rum Deal: Counting Up All The Ways America’s Booze Laws Are Terrible, June 12, 2014. Conducted novel legal research for this article, explained how regulatory capture makes alcohol laws sclerotic and made a keg’s worth of booze puns.

Slate, Why You Hate Cyclists, September 24, 2012. I used behavioral economics to explain why hating cyclists is usually irrational. This was the first thing I was paid to write.

Business Reporting

Roll Call, As Congress talks, businesses try GoFundMe to survive COVID-19, Dec. 8, 2020. Reporting that highlighted the stakes of congressional negotiations for businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

WHYY, A long-shot plan to extend Regional Rail to Phoenixville could revolutionize how infrastructure is built, Aug. 24, 2018. Headline says it all.

PlanPhilly, As Drexel transforms University City, communities nearby prepare for gentrification, July 13, 2018. A deep dive into the political and economic forces coming to bear on some of the neighborhoods near Drexel University as that school encourages development.

PlanPhilly, As Philadelphia’s housing market booms, economists warn the city may be in a bubble—or something worse, July 25, 2017. A clarion call on housing affordability in a city that doesn’t have an affordable housing crisis – yet.

PlanPhilly, You weren’t the only one: After hundreds of riders accidentally get 2nd Key card, SEPTA pledges to fix kiosks, website, July  28, 2017. I continue to chronicle SEPTA’s missteps with SEPTA Key.

PlanPhilly, SEPTA Strike negotiations take turn for the worse; SEPTA “beyond frustrated” with union, Nov. 3, 2016. Part of on-going coverage of SEPTA’s 6-day-strike, news of which I first broke. Starting just before the strike began, I filed web stories daily, along with radio spots for WHYY’s local broadcast and NPR’s national newscast. This was one of my favorites.

PlanPhilly, Why is SEPTA Key arriving two years late?, Dec. 23, 2015. This examines why Philly’s dream of replacing subway tokens with a modern fare card system can’t seem to ever happen. My finding: a railroad and bus operator isn’t well equipped to handle a high tech project.

PlanPhilly, With new Schuylkill Yards, Drexel and Brandywine promise development without displacement, March 8, 2016. Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust announced a $3.5 billion, 14-acre development between the college and Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. That’s big, but not nearly as big as their promise to build a high-tech “innovation district” without adversely affecting residents in nearby, lower income neighborhoods.

PlanPhilly, U.S. Supreme Court decision imperils a portion of wage tax in Philadelphia and Wilmington; Officials unwilling or unable to estimate likely budget impact, Dec. 14, 2015. Noticing a Supreme Court decision that invalidated a Maryland income tax similar to Philadelphia’s own, I broke the story on the looming legal danger and impact on the city budget. Some months later, my reporting was in an essay in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review confirming my own legal analysis. Philly, Everything you need to know about Benefit Corporations. Or: How the Main Line might save Wall Street, October 16, 2014. I reference Nietzsche, a car commercial, Milton Friedman, and lots of legal scholars in this feature on a novel concept in corporate law. Selected as one of Philly’s best long reads of the year. Philly, The benefits of crowdfunding aren’t what you think, Sept. 9, 2014. A look at the less-than-obvious benefits of crowdfunding – it’s marketing, not money, that matters most.

Radio Spots and Features

WHYY, Facade work refreshes 30th Street Station as Amtrak shops its commercial district plan, August 8, 2018. Sound rich super-spot turned around in a few hours.

WHYY, A new Philly-themed bar is drawing crowds in London, May 12, 2018. I reported and produced a radio story about a bar in London without going there, enlisting patrons to send me tape. (The story went viral, so WHYY later sent me over there for a follow up, which I wrote and produced immediately after the game… and after a drink or two.)

WHYY, Why 35 grown men traveled hundreds of miles to ride a SEPTA trolley, April 3, 2018. I rode along with the 25th Super Saturday Streetcar Special to try to figure out what makes a “railfan” tick.

PlanPhilly, Amazon HQ2 series. Links to my (appropriately skeptical) coverage of Philly’s (ultimately failed) pitch to get Amazon’s HQ2, including back-to-back radio features that used the Amazon sweepstakes to look at the city’s broader business environment.

WHYY, Killing SEPTA transfer fees, charging for parking differently — it’s all in Philly’s new transportation plan, October 10, 2018. Sound rich spot on Philly’s new comprehensive transportation plan turned around in a few hours.

WHYY, SEPTA considering an end to transfer fees as part of bus system overhaul, May 7, 2018. Feature on my scoop on the major policy changes SEPTA was considering as it studied a bus network overhaul.

WHYY, LOVE Park? More like loathe park! Criticisms mount as JFK Plaza slowly reopens, April 25, 2018.

WHYY, Grocery stores are popping up in Philadelphia. Don’t be fooled, the boom is over, September 19, 2018. Feature on super market industry trends with localized focus on Philadelphia. An example of one of the many times I've taken an editor's suggestion and ran with it.

WHYY, Is Philly better off with safer streets or faster moving traffic? At City Hall, it depends on who you ask, April 18, 2018. Quick turn-around super-spot that includes some analysis of the political disagreements slowing down policy changes.

WHYY, Residents wait wearily as Water Dept. takes months to replace sewers and mains, May 25, 2018. Super-spot.

Other News Reporting

Roll Call, It’s Jackson’s SCOTUS hearing. But GOP can’t stop talking about Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, March 21, 2022. SCOTUS confirmation hearing coverage. Written with reporting from Todd Ruger.

Roll Call, What ‘Your’ vs. ‘You’re’ says about Congress right now, Dec. 2, 2021. A look at the grammar fights on Twitter among members of congress. Written with reporting from Megan Mineiro.

Roll Call, Ted Cruz ignored ‘federal quarterback’ role when he zipped off to Cancun, Feb. 18, 2021. A follow up story on what Sen. Cruz could have been doing during a weather disaster in Texas instead of slipping off to a Mexican resort. Turns out, a lot! 

Roll Call, Obama small-business chief says Democrats should act now on loan funds, April 16, 2020. An interview with Obama’s SBA head that got picked up by lots of outlets.

PlanPhilly, Eyes on the Trail: Officials respond to Schuylkill River crime with lighting and town watch, February 12, 2016. One of the few crime stories I’ve done; this makes references to Jane Jacobs and Gary Becker.

WHYY, In the first language of our heart: Immigrants keeping the Catholic faith alive in Philadelphia, Sept. 17, 2015. Essay and radio feature co-reported with Katie Colaneri. I pitched Katie a radio feature for WHYY’s Ancient Faith, Modern Lives radio special examining Catholicism in Philadelphia before the Papal visit. My pitch: St. Thomas Aquinas is a small church in South Philly where the top masses are spoken in foreign languages. From there, we looked at the role of immigrants in keeping church doors open. Essay by me, most radio producing by Katie, equal split on the reporting. (Unfortunately, when WHYY changed CMS, small audio clips of the different language services embedded in the text were lost, which kind of ruins the first few grafs…)

Roll Call, Maxine Waters said Freeman was on her side. Andy Barr said so too, October 30, 2019. During a lengthy legislative debate, two representatives claimed that a specific small business owner would take their side on whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. So I called him.

City Paper, Anthony Clark, city elections chair, hasn’t voted in last 5 elections and A six-figure salary for half the work, October 9, 2014. I broke this story, which was picked up by Fox News and inspired editorials in the Daily News and the Inquirer.

PlanPhilly, Streetsplainer: What the heck do those “The space between these lines not dedicated” street markers mean?, May 10, 2016. As featured in the New York Times bestseller, 99% Invisible City.

College Glory Days

Op-Ed Columnist: The Daily Pennsylvanian, “You, sir, are an idiot.” I wrote Op-Eds for the DP. Here are some I’m still proud of:

Facebook – the fall of privacy. In 2008, I wrote “Privacy has changed. The idea that an action witnessed only by a handful of people would remain private to that group is no longer given…. Our generation is the first to cope with the necessary assumption that our every action seen by another may in turn be seen by all of our peers.” I predicted political careers being destroyed by social media years before Anthony Wiener, made self deprecating jokes, and referenced Camus. This was subsequently quoted in the New York Times.

Drunken logic for Pennsylvania’s beer laws. I took a comedic look at Pennsylvania’s odd liquor laws. Lots and lots of beer puns.

The Frankenstein on 40th Street. I weighed in on a contentious development project back in 2008. It’s 2014 and they are still litigating this place. Published just after Easter, I asked Penn to make reaffirm the Penn Compact’s central promises to the surrounding neighborhood in the same way Catholics make affirmations of faith.


email: jim at jimsaksa dot com