Like beauty, news is in eye of beholder

Published 10:54 pm Saturday, January 3, 2009

Quick, what was the biggest news story from the Lawrence County area in 2008? Now go ask five people the same question and see what they say.

Smart money says that each will have different opinions and viewpoints on what was the biggest headline and how it impacted our communities.

That is the challenge the Tribune faces each year when we sit down to determine the top 10.

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It is always a daunting task but also educational in that it is interesting to see how other people interpret and internalize the things that make headlines.

As with any top 10 list, it is impossible to make everyone happy or even to expect to come close. We simply used the best method we know.

Basically, the newsroom staff created a list of 25 or 30 stories from throughout the year. Then the list was given to about a dozen Tribune employees to rank their top 10.

It is important to note that these are men and women from a variety of walks of life, with varied backgrounds, living in different communities and having vastly different political and sociological views.

We then use a point system to total up the votes. Obviously a story got more points for a first place ranking than a last place.

Once it all shook out that was how we came to the top 10 published last week along with some of the other stories that maybe didn’t make the final cut.

Each person used their own internal judgment and filter system to determine what they thought was news. If it wasn’t on the list, everyone had the chance to write in a story.

It was exciting to see that final list, even though I personally would have ranked items differently.

For me, I tried to look at what stories were most talked about, what had people energized and what had national or long-term ramifications.

Barack Obama being elected as the nation’s first African-American president topped my list because it was a monumental moment in history, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on.

The way the election — locally and nationally — both energized and polarized our community made this the biggest news item to me.

Second on my list was the tragic death of Guy Thomas. The effects this had on the community and is still having today — which has been furthered by the Beth Rist controversy that also made my list — is that for many there seems to be a general distrust of the Ironton Police Department and our elected officials.

Other items that some of my co-workers ranked high didn’t make my list. One was the county’s budget problems.

Is this a big story? Sure. Is it one of the biggest? I didn’t think so because it really isn’t anything new.

The county has known it was facing this crisis for several years yet leaders haven’t done enough to right the ship.

So for me, it couldn’t be one of the top stories of 2008 if it has actually been going on for years.

But the real question is this: What do you think?

What do you — the readers — feel were the most important local news stories of 2008?

Post them online. Send them as letters to the editor. Shoot, just talk about them with someone.

Maybe looking back at the importance of the past will help us better prepare for the future.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at