Kansas Reflector’s 2021 year in review: Insurrection, deep freeze, vaccines, arrests, Bob Dole

By: - December 31, 2021 9:07 am

Kansas Reflector staff, from left: Senior reporter Tim Carpenter, opinion editor Clay Wirestone, editor in chief Sherman Smith, reporter Noah Taborda, and reporter Allison Kite. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The year began with the ominous declaration that four members of the Kansas congressional delegation would support President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud by refusing to acknowledge the fair and accurate results of the election.

Then, on Jan. 6, the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in shocking violent rage, delaying the official certification of Joe Biden’s victory. The insurrectionists included several Kansans who now face federal criminal charges for their actions.

In the days and months that followed, Kansas Reflector reported on the Legislative session, a bitter chill and sky-high natural gas prices that led to rolling blackouts, the separate arrests of three lawmakers, and a fight between dentists and the state’s largest dental insurer. COVID-19 continued to dominate the news, with the merciful deployment of vaccines — and those who refuse them, the wrath of the delta variant, a curious interest in livestock de-wormer, the firing of health secretary Lee Norman, and a special legislative session.

Our in-depth investigations examined the systemic failure to connect autistic children with the services they need, the “hell hole” of an understaffed for-profit prison, and domestic violence.

In early December, political icon Bob Dole died at 98 after a battle with lung cancer. He was remembered as a “statesman,” “hero” and “favorite son.”

“Bob Dole was an American giant, a man of extraordinary courage, both physical and moral courage, a war hero who sacrificed beyond measure, who nearly gave his life for our country in World War II, among the greatest of the great generation, a leader of honesty, decency and good humor,” Biden said during a speech in Kansas City, Missouri, three days after Dole’s death.

The year ended with the release of more details about the depth of financial problems at the state’s largest foster care provider, the arrival of omicron, a hangover, and some earth-shaking news (literally).


Click or swipe through these slides to review the biggest, best and popular stories and opinion (in green) of 2021.


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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.