Violence, Economy Top News On 2007's Front Pages
A student gunman terrorized the Virginia Tech campus one April morning, and the news was reported extensively around the world. U.S. editors now call the massacre the top news story of 2007.
News of the shooting that left 32 dead broke on the Internet, television and radio. Information and images spread quickly through cell phones — including one that will be displayed in the Newseum's Digital News Gallery — and social networking sites. Many newspaper front pages, including The Roanoke (Va.) Times, were devoted to the shooting. In the days that followed, front pages were explanatory and reflective.
The deadliest shooting in U.S. history was chosen as the top story from among 50 significant news events of the year in an Associated Press poll of U.S. editors and news directors.
The AP called 2007 a year mixed with uncertainty and possibility. "But the story of 2007," AP National Writer Adam Geller wrote in a year in review, "was the frustration that wound through so much of the news. Americans repeatedly confronted the same images and the same misgivings in many of the year's biggest stories."
The mortgage crisis — with its record-setting foreclosures and financial ripples — was chosen the No. 2 story.
On Dec. 16, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News devoted three-quarters of its front page to "The Housing Slump: Where it Hits Home." To Executive Editor Carole Leigh Hutton, newsworthiness comes from impact: "Even in an area as affluent as this one, where the values of high-end homes continue to rise, the subprime mortgage crisis has resulted in record numbers of foreclosures and has disproportionately impacted our largest minority community — Latinos."
2007 was filled with news — from wildfires and drought and the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the United States, to the political crisis and assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and the devastating cyclone in Bangladesh.
According to Paula Froke, deputy national editor at AP, the top-stories ballot is created by a group of editors at the AP. Write-ins are welcome, she noted, and two late-year news events — the Omaha, Neb., mall shooting and baseball's drug scandal — were suggested by voting editors.
Many newspapers also have a local version. The Chicago Sun-Times did an online poll asking readers to vote on what topped the news in Chicago, offering among suggestions: "Barack 'n' roll," "mob trial" and "dead men driving."
Rounding out the Top 10 stories of 2007:
War in Iraq: Few weeks went by without front-page headlines about Iraq, despite difficulties in reporting from the country where 37 journalists have been killed so far this year. Sectarian fighting declined, and some Iraqis returned to Baghdad. But 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq since the war began. Troop withdrawal was debated.
The Olympian in Washington state devoted its Oct. 10 front page to 48 local soldiers who "made the ultimate sacrifice" in 2006-2007. "Iraq is a top story for our readers, and we consider it an important local story since Fort Lewis is in our backyard," said Vickie Kilgore, executive editor. "We also have an active group of war protesters who have staged attention-getting, sometimes volatile street demonstrations." Reaction to the front page — a departure for the newspaper — was overwhelmingly positive, she said.
Oil prices: The price of a barrel of oil rose throughout the year. The resulting spike in gasoline prices made front-page news, especially in the spring and summer when Americans took to the roads for vacations.
Chinese exports: Concern about tainted food and toys with lead paint brought news about products exported by China to the front page. Newspapers, including The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, provided resources and tips for consumers. "This was a global story that came home in a dramatic way. It affected children directly, and that's almost always Page One news," said Cheryl Carpenter, managing editor.
Global warming: Newspapers sounded the alarm over the consequences of global warming. When former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Prize for his environmental work in October, his photo appeared on Page One. Earth news returned to prominence late in the year during a U.N. climate conference and U.S. debate about states' abilities to limit emissions.
Minnesota bridge collapse: In August, the Twin Cities' newspapers — the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and St. Paul Pioneer Press — mobilized their staffs to cover the late-afternoon collapse of an interstate bridge. Photos from the scene startled commuters across the country, and the disaster prompted inspections of bridges in many places.
Presidential campaign: Political coverage has been front and center for newspapers in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, locations for early caucuses and primaries. The Dec. 16 Des Moines (Iowa) Register included three pieces of the campaign story — one in a series on candidates' positions, a news story about politics and a reference to endorsements.
Immigration debate and Iran's nuclear program rounded out the list.