Writing & Radio Samples

I’m the transportation reporter for WHYY’s PlanPhilly, meaning I write a lot about trains, buses, and bikes. I have contributed to Slate, NPR’s Morning Edition, Politico Magazine, Here & Now, Philadelphia City Paper, Technical.ly Philly, and Philadelphia Magazine.

In 2016, I wrote six of PlanPhilly’s ten most-read articles, including the top four. I wrote five of the top ten in 2017.

Selected clips:


Politico Magazine, Is Conor Lamb the Next Big Democratic Upset? February 18, 2018. First profile of the Democratic congressional candidate who pulled off a big upset win in final special election before the 2018 midterm election.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

PhillyMag.com, Dear Philadelphia Media: Stop Calling the Mayoral Race Boring, May 7, 2015. When reporters call an election boring, they are telling readers to stop paying attention. I spoke about this on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.

PhillyMag.com, Why Do Philadelphians Just Love to Play With the Word “Philadelphia”?, December 7, 2015. Cultural and linguistic musings and lots of curses.

Business and Tech Stories:

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.

Slate, “Kickstarter, but with stock”, June 23, 2014. This look at the pitfalls of equity crowdfunding under the JOBS Act is now assigned reading for UCLA law students taking Motion Picture Financing.

Technical.ly 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 Technical.ly Philly’s best long reads of the year.

Technical.ly 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.

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.

News Features

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, 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.

NewsWorks, 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.

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.

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 by 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.

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. 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, Can’t we all just get along? Lawyers, history explain the logic behind SEPTA strike, Nov. 1, 2016.

PlanPhilly, Democratic campaigns “concerned” SEPTA strike could derail electoral victories, Nov. 2, 2016.

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: JSaksa at whyy dot org

phone: 215.351.2076 (office)



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