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FULFILLMENT: Winning and Losing in One-Click America

A sweeping narrative of regional inequality in America, captured through the frame of Amazon.

Featured Articles

Featured Articles

Killer Apps

Is social media making America’s murder surge worse?


August 8, 2023

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When Law Enforcement Alone Can't Stop the Violence

Amid a murder crisis in America, community-based solutions have received a flood of funding. How effective are they?

January 30, 2023

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What Philadelphia Reveals About America's Homicide Surge

There are many explanations for the rise in killings in U.S. cities, including the pandemic and the choices made in response to it. In Philadelphia, the causes, the human costs — and the suffering — are particularly stark.


July 30, 2021

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The Lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers

In Hobbs, New Mexico, the high school closed and football was cancelled, while just across the state line in Texas, students seemed to be living nearly normal lives. Here’s how pandemic school closures exact their emotional toll on young people.


March 8, 2021


The True Cost of Dollar Stores

Discount chains are thriving. But what do they do to poor communities?

June 29, 2020


The Tragedy of Baltimore

Since Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, violent crime has spiked to levels unseen for a quarter century. Inside the crackup of an American city.

March 12, 2019

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How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online

With a hard sell to prospective students and huge amounts in taxpayer funding, Jerry Falwell Jr. transformed the evangelical institution into a behemoth.

April 17, 2018


Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire in Baltimore

May 23, 2017


The Original Underclass

Poor white Americans’ current crisis shouldn’t have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has.

September 2016


The Billionaire's Loophole

A tax law helps David Rubenstein perform major patriotic philanthropic works. Is it fair?

March 14, 2016


Who Turned My Blue State Red?

It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.

November 20, 2015


What Can We Do About Pandemic-Related Learning Loss?

Remote school was devastating for many students. In Richmond, Virginia, a plan to switch to a year-round calendar brought promise and pushback.


June 19, 2023

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Can Germany Show Us How to Leave Coal Behind?

The country embarked on an ambitious plan to transition to clean energy, aiming to lead the fight against climate change. It has not been easy.


January 31, 2022

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Amazon and the Breaking of Baltimore

Regional inequality has deepened across the country.


March 9, 2021


The Students Left Behind by Remote Learning

The desire to protect children may put their long-term well-being at stake.

September 28, 2020

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The Case Against Boeing

Since Samya Stumo’s death in a 737 MAX crash, her parents and her great-uncle, Ralph Nader, have devoted themselves to proving that the company put profit over safety.

November 11, 2019


Why Do Americans Stay When Their Town Has No Future?

Family and community are the only things left in Adams County, Ohio, as the coal-fired power plants abandon ship and the government shrugs.

May 23, 2018


Is Anybody Home at HUD?

A long-harbored conservative dream — the “dismantling of the administrative state” — is taking place under Secretary Ben Carson.

August 21, 2017


Revenge of the Forgotten Class

Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were playing with fire when they effectively wrote off white workers in the small towns and cities of the Rust Belt.

November 10, 2016


The Great Republican Crack-Up

Dayton was once a bastion of the GOP establishment. The story of how the city changed helps explain the rise of Donald Trump.

July 15, 2016


The Third Rail

In Baltimore, public investment — and disinvestment — in transportation have figured greatly in the persistence of racial and economic inequality.

March, 2016


The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker

A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star

June 15, 2014


Praise for Fulfillment

“A wide-ranging, impressionistic tour of a nation whose citizens’ existence has become intertwined with a single corporation . . . MacGillis was one of the first journalists to begin documenting the socioeconomic upheaval that helped shift the rural Rust Belt from blue to red . . . [He] describes how, while rich corporations and their top employees have settled in a small number of wealthy coastal cities, the rest of the American landscape has been leached of opportunities.”

“A grounded and expansive examination of the American economic divide . . . This is much more than a story of retail. It’s about real estate. It’s about lobbying, data centers and the CIA. It’s about revolving doors in Washington, D.C., and cardboard folders in Ohio . . . [Fulfillment] is neither a hagiography nor a targeted attack. Instead, like the HBO series The Wire, it reveals the way economic, political and social systems affect individual stories . . . It takes a skillful journalist to weave data and anecdotes together so effectively . . . Reading these people’s stories will break your heart. But you should read them.”

In Alec MacGillis’s urgent book, Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, true fulfillment is elusive in Amazon’s America. Through interviews, careful investigative reporting and vignettes from across the country, MacGillis deftly unravels the strong grip Amazon has on the United States . . . [Through] deeply humanizing portraits of communities impacted by Amazon, MacGillis gives us a picture of contemporary America as mere survival under precarity.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote that all work has dignity if it pays an adequate wage. Alec MacGillis explains why some of America’s richest people and largest corporations don’t seem to care. He has an uncanny ability to weave together the stories of those whose fortunes are soaring with the stories of those whose lives are falling into hopelessness.”

—Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator from Ohio and author of Desk 88

“Alec MacGillis is one of the very best reporters in America. By always going his own way, he finds stories and truths that others avoid. Fulfillment paints a devastating picture of Amazon, but it also gives human voices to the larger story of our unequal economy and society. Fulfillment is an essential book in the literature of America’s self-destruction.” 

—George Packer, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of Our Man and the National Book Award–winning The Unwinding

Fulfillment vividly details the devastating costs of Amazon’s dominance and brutal business practices, showcasing an economy that has concentrated in private hands staggering wealth and power while impoverishing workers, crushing independent business, and supplanting public governance with private might. A critical read.”

—Lina Khan, associate professor at Columbia Law School and author of Amazon's Antitrust Paradox

About Alec


Alec MacGillis is a reporter for ProPublica and the author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America and The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell. In recent years, his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York, and New York Times Magazine, among other publications, on subjects including Jared Kushner's apartment complexes in Baltimore, violence in dollar stores, and the effects of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. He won the 2016 Robin Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, the 2017 Polk Award for National Reporting, and the 2017 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award.

Alec was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he graduated from Pittsfield High School before attending Yale. He started his career at a series of small newspapers: The Winsted Journal (Conn.), Journal Inquirer (Conn.), Brooklyn Papers (N.Y.), and Concord Monitor (N.H.) before arriving at the Baltimore Sun in 2000. In 2006, he joined the Washington Post, where he covered the 2008 presidential campaign and the Obama administration before leaving for the New Republic in 2011. In 2010-11, he received a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan.

In addition to his print journalism, Alec served as the narrator for a 2018 PBS Frontline documentary on left-behind cities, based in Dayton, Ohio, and his reporting on Kushnerville served as the basis for an episode of Netflix's Dirty Money in 2019, Slumlord Millionaire.

In 2010-11, he received a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. In 2021, he undertook a research fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin.

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