🌊 Top 10 Stories of 2023

Roca’s Big 10 📉, these sacred rocks are just… eggs? 🥚 and new Roca Reports

Well, we have one more 2024 resolution to add after last night: No more staying up past 1 AM to watch college football. That kind of behavior is only acceptable for new episodes of Real Housewives of Orange County. 

We offer our condolences to Alabama and Texas fans and would like to give a shoutout to Roca team member Owen, whose Michigan Wolverines won a thriller. He’s a Jets, Mets, and Michigan fan, so he really needed this one…

In today's edition:

  • Roca’s Big 10 📉

  • These sacred rocks are just… eggs? 🥚

  • New Roca Reports

 🔑 Key Stories

Stories of the Year

When you spend all your time writing news, few things feel historic in the moment. Last year’s biggest events often don’t become clear until the end of the year, when you look back at all that has happened and see their impact. Last week, we went through all the stories we wrote in 2023 and selected 10 we thought were the “biggest”. Today’s edition looks at those and how we covered them. We’ll be back tomorrow with our regular rundown.

#10: “Titanic Submersible Missing”

On June 19, we published a story with the above headline. The first bullet read, “A submersible went missing near the Titanic wreck on Monday, setting off a search and rescue operation.” While the story likely won’t change the trajectory of humanity, it captivated people’s attention like few others.

#9: “Civil War in Sudan?”

On April 16 we published a story with the above headline. The first bullet said, “A battle within Sudan’s military led to airstrikes and at least 56 deaths and 600 injuries in the country’s capital.” Since then, civil war has engulfed Sudan – Africa’s third-largest country and home to 50M people – leaving the country divided between two military groups and smaller militias. The war has claimed over 10,000 lives, displaced 6M, and showed no signs of slowing down.

#8: “Biden’s New Challenger?”

On April 6 we published the above headline. The first bullet said, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he would challenge President Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.” Since then, RFK Jr. has developed a cult following and polls have routinely shown that 20% of Americans are considering voting for him. While RFK gave up his Democratic challenge – he declared this fall that he will run as an independent – the success of his outsider campaign could affect the result of next year’s election.

#7: “OpenAI in Turmoil”

On November 19, we published the above headline. The summary said, “OpenAI ousted CEO Sam Altman. Many employees and investors spent the weekend trying to have him reinstated.” Prior to this news, Altman had dominated 2023: OpenAI jump-started the AI boom and attracted billions in funding. Then out of the blue, Altman was pushed out – only to be reinstated after an uprising by shareholders and staff.

#6: “SCOTUS Blocks Affirmative Action”

On June 30, a story with the above headline said, “The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that it is unconstitutional for universities to consider race in their admissions processes.” This was one of several controversial SCOTUS rulings that will have a far-reaching impact on laws and policies within the United States. In the week after that ruling, the court struck down President Biden’s debt forgiveness plan, overruled a discrimination law, and more.

#5: “Coup Foiled?”

On June 26, we published the above story. The summary said, “Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched and called off an attempt to overthrow Russia’s military establishment.” Prigozhin managed to capture several southern cities and bring his troops within 100 miles of Moscow, only to call it off for no apparent reason and enter a soft exile in Belarus. Prigozhin continued to visit Russia and fly around the world – until his plane mysteriously crashed exactly two months after the coup attempt, killing all people aboard.

#4: Interest Rates

The saga of inflation and interest rates – which we have covered in at least a dozen stories – underpinned dozens of other stories. Between spring 2022 and August 2023, the Fed increased its benchmark interest rate from an average of .08% to 5.33%. Other central banks, including in the EU and UK, followed suit. The hikes sucked money out of the global economy; caused an exodus of funds from developing countries, sparking economic and political turmoil; and led to bank failures and fears of a global financial crisis. Inflation is now nearing the Fed’s 2% target, suggesting rates will come down in 2024.

#3: Immigration

Illegal immigration to the US and Europe surged, fueling discontent in both regions. In the US, more people illegally entered the US than ever before; in Europe, more people entered than any year since the 2015-16 migrant crisis. This trend was linked to countless stories we wrote about politics and elections in the US and Europe: Immigration concerns contributed to President Biden’s poll numbers hitting an all-time low, while fueling support for Donald Trump and right-wing parties across Europe.

#2: Trump’s Arrests

Donald Trump was charged four times: Twice federally, once in New York, and once in Georgia. The charges made Trump the first current or former US president to be indicted. His critics held them as proof that Trump is unfit to hold office; his supporters, as evidence of an anti-democratic effort to keep Trump out of office. The arrests set the US up for an extremely polarized election year in 2024.

#1: War in Gaza

Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and the ensuing war have resulted in 20,000+ deaths and helped destabilize the Middle East. Millions of people have protested, antisemitism scandals hit US universities, anti-Jewish and -Muslim murders took place in Europe and the US, and further violence broke out in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. After nearly three months, the war shows no signs of stopping.

Roca’s Saltiest Readers

Atacama Desert, featuring Roca Readers fueled by LMNT

LMNT really made a splash with Roca last year, hydrating our way into the hearts of all you Roca Riders! We're thrilled to continue our journey together into 2024, helping the Roca Riders achieve their hydration goals 

  • LMNT shows that healthy, hydrated lives are for everyone: Supporting party enthusiasts to parents, to elite Navy Seals and Olympic Teams. This year, we want to shine the spotlight on different members who have fueled their bodies with LMNT’s salty flavors, starting with Roca Reader Erin from Philadelphia 

  • When Erin enrolled on a camping trip to Chile’s Atacama Desert in October, LMNT wasn’t on the official packing list – but she knew it was essential. “So many LMNT packs were in my bag!” she told us. “LMNT allows me to understand the science behind its formulation in a transparent way. It’s my daily go-to for a workout, headache, or head rush from dehydration. Every other brand had too much sugar and tasted artificial — but the salty kick from LMNT is the tastiest there is”

  • As always, Roca Riders can enjoy a FREE sample pack of all eight LMNT flavors with any order – plus a no-questions-asked, risk-free refund policy

  • PS – If you’re a Roca Reader who has enjoyed LMNT, send us your story to feature next!

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Let there be wings: The Detroit Pistons ended their 28-game losing streak with a 129-127 win, leaving Wingstop employees “overwhelmed.” In October, Wingstop began a promotion offering five free boneless chicken wings to Pistons fans with a ticket after a win

  • Sport Dogg: NBC announced that rapper Snoop Dogg will be a prime-time analyst for this year’s Summer Olympics in Paris, set to kick off on July 26 

  • Shattering eggspectations: The revered stone balls called “Kuldevtas” that Indian villagers have worshipped for centuries are actually fossilized dinosaur eggs, per recent scientific tests 

Wildcard

  • Twins, but different: Twins born at a Connecticut hospital have different birth years. Souli Morris was born at 12:02 AM while her brother, Seven, was born at 11:59 PM

  • “Take them jawns off”: The Philadelphia City Council enacted a ban on “shiesties,” or ski masks, for crime-related reasons. A council member told the city’s youth to “take them jawns off”

  • Chipotle Fight Night: Police are searching for a North Carolina man and woman who brutally attacked a Chipotle worker over a dispute about the cost of extra chicken in their order

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Do you make New Year resolutions?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What was your personal top story of the year? Reply to this email with your answers!

🌯 Roca Wrap

Today’s Wrap begins a new Roca Reports series with on-the-ground reports from Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. We hope you enjoy!

What happens after a war?

In the 1990s, the Balkans experienced Europe’s worst outbreak of violence since World War II. Between 1991 and 1999, wars erupted in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and elsewhere, claiming 100,000+ lives. The violence destroyed countries and built new ones, changing the map of Europe.

But once the violence subsided, the region fell off the radar. 

I wanted to know: What happened next?

***

After reporting in Germany and Finland, I didn’t know where to go. I wanted to find another story to investigate while in Europe, but I didn’t have a topic in mind. I wanted something unique; something no one else was covering. I kept looking at the map, DMing readers, and searching online. Finally, I started reading about a place I knew little about: Bosnia.

I knew little about Bosnia beyond headlines from the 1990s: Genocide, war, “ethnic cleansing.” All that happened 30 years ago, though. What was it like today? 

That led me down a rabbit hole. 

The war in Bosnia ended in 1995, but I learned that the conflict never really ended. A few more searches and I learned that many people think the country could easily fall into another war. The county is widely perceived to be a tinderbox, where a single man has the power to decide whether there will be war or peace. 

As I was researching that, a terrorist attack 90 miles away from Bosnia made global headlines: 30 men armed with rocket launchers and heavy weaponry attacked police in northern Kosovo. Serbia responded by building up troops near Kosovo; NATO deployed troops and the US warned Serbia to stand down. 

Then a Roca reader messaged us on Instagram and said, “You guys should check out Liberland.” A Google search revealed that was a self-proclaimed libertarian “country” in Croatia, also near Bosnia. 

All of this led me to a question: What in the world was happening in the Balkans?

To answer it, I spent three and a half weeks in the region, traveling around Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo, meeting Roca readers, government officials, farmers, and others to understand why nearly 30 years after its wars ended, peace in the Balkans remains so fragile. 

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Will you stay up past midnight on New Year's Eve? 
Yes: 50%
No: 50%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Intermission

After reflecting on all the trips we took in 2023, we are eager to see where 2024 takes us. On each trip, our goal is to make it feel like you’re with us. We aim to provide as many details and as much context as possible so that these places are as new and educational for you as they are for us.

On that note, check out this new article — with PICTURES — from Max F’s trip to Ethiopia: “Into the Bush.” Hope you enjoy and let us know what you think! It’s formatted for the app, but you don’t need the app to read (or share) it.

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

In 1917, a group of southern Europeans gathered on the Greek island of Corfu. 

Among them were Serbs, Slovenes, and Croats; some were Catholic, others were Orthodox. Some had lived in Austria-Hungary, others in formerly Ottoman territories. What they had in common was that they were of Slavic descent, spoke similar languages, and believed southern Europe’s Slavs should all live in the same country. 

Subscribe to Roca Premium to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Roca Premium to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
Subscriber community access
On-the-ground investigations of stories no one else is covering
Exclusive deep dives and interviews