By: NANCY MARINI
THE BIGGEST STORIES of last year ranged from car crashes to cloning, multiple births to multiple deaths, and with a touch of political uncertainty.
The Associated Press conducted its annual survey, this year via its Web site, of 700 editors to find the top 10 stories of the year, led by the car crash that killed Princess Diana, her companion Dodi al-Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul. In the ensuing months, media coverage was incessant. At first, details trickled out about the driver’s drunkenness, then came the controversy over the “stalkarazzi” and finally Diana’s funeral.
Coming in second was the guilty verdict of Timothy McVeigh, convicted in the “most deadly act of terrorism on U.S. soil,” the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, where 169 people died and more than 500 were injured.
Third, just days after princess Di’s death, was the fatal heart attack of 87-year-old Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping India’s “poorest of the poor” and helped create 500 missions in 100 countries.
The fourth biggest story was the bull market on Wall Street. Despite a plunge of 554.26 points on Oct. 27, the Dow Jones average ended the year 20% higher for the third straight year.
Editors rated the first cloning of an adult mammal, Dolly, a sheep, as the fifth biggest story. Historic by itself, the cloning stirred debate on whether cloning should be allowed to continue.
Sixth was the birth of the world’s only surviving septuplets. Despite extensive media coverage, Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey want to raise their children beyond the glare of the media.
The year’s seventh biggest story was the deal between the tobacco industry and Congress under which tobacco companies would pay $368 billion if states agree to drop lawsuits.
The eighth biggest story was the mechanical explorer that landed on Mars on July 4 and transmitted data to its mother ship, Pathfinder. Millions of people were able to view Martian landscapes ? showing signs of ancient flooding and rocks named Scooby Doo and Souffle ? via NASA’s Web site.
The Democratic fund-raising scandal rated ninth. The party received illegal donations from Asian businesses, allowed sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom and the vice president solicited donations on White House phones.
Number 10 was the apparent suicide deaths of 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult. According to church belief, they shed their earthly “containers” to board a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet. In a mansion outside of San Diego, they drank a mix of vodka and sedatives, then dressed in black with a new pair of Nike sneakers, then went to their beds to die.
Locally, newspapers had their own big stories. While the Arizona Republic covered Princess Di’s death, it certainly wasn’t the newspaper’s biggest story of 1997. That honor goes to former governor Fife Symington, who resigned after being convicted of fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
“Our biggest story was a drowning in a canal,” said Scott Hunt, news editor for the Daily Sun News, Sunnyside, Wash. “Two divers went to recover salvage and they got stuck. Two rescuers went in to get them and they got trapped and all four died.”
Nor was there unanimity among editors.
Terri Hallenbech, night editor of the Daily Star in Oneonta, N.Y., believes the septuplets weren’t among the biggest stories of the year but were “one of those things that happen. It doesn’t have much significance in the world.”
Karen Gambler, news editor of the Vicksburg Post in Mississippi, disagreed, saying, “Milestones need to be on the list. We are in the business of chronicling the news as it happens.”
?( E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com)
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher January 3, 1998)