Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ooo, Shiny List of 2012

Today's Star Tribune includes an AP story on the 10 biggest news stories of the year. Here are the topics as printed:

1. Mass shootings
2. U.S. election
3. Superstorm
4. Obamacare
5. Libya
6. Penn State
7. U.S. economy
8. Fiscal cliff
9. Gay marriage
10. Syria

The accompanying text explained that the election had been number one -- based on a survey of U.S. editors and news directors completed on December 13 -- until the shooting on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. AP then reopened the survey and suddenly mass shootings jumped from sixth place to first.

This kind of "ooo, shiny" response by editors is part of the problem with media coverage. I understand the election being number one, since it dominated the entire year, but the Newtown/gun story really has nothing on the superstorm story, both in terms of first-hand effects on individuals and long-term impact (since the storm is the only hint of climate change in any of the stories).

I love little children and hate the proliferation of guns as much as the next progressive, but the destruction of hundreds of thousands of people's homes and lives (and over a 125 killed in the U.S., plus 70 in the Caribbean) seems like a bigger deal to me. Let alone the aftermath of Sandy and what it means for people and the whole country's (let alone the world's) economy as ocean levels rise and the incidence of severe weather increases.

And really, the Penn State story is more important than the U.S. economy or Syria?

The only good thing about this list is that the Petraeus scandal came in at 11 and missed the list. That's the biggest nonstory of all, aside from the usually unmentioned violation of civil liberties inherent in the government snooping in his private emails.

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