Editors and news directors of the world, please stop the madness. We consumers of mass media can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV or click on a Web site this week without a year-in-review story. 2007’s Best and Worst Movies! The Top Sports Moments of the Year! A headline on the San Francisco Giants’ Web site reads: “Memories aplenty for Giants in 2007.” (Yes, and they all sucked because the team sucked! I don’t need to see a month-by-month, blow-by-blow account of the team’s worst season in 12 years).
Every section in a newspaper feels a need to do a year-ender. The San Jose Mercury News’ restaurant reviewer even chimes in with “my 10 most memorable meals of the year.” And the Arizona Republic this week felt compelled to remind us that the year’s top local business stories include the lousy housing market and the opening of new shopping centers across the Phoenix metro area. (Why state the obvious? I mean: it’s all still happening and we see it with our own eyes every day. “For Sale” signs litter every neighborhood and houses sit empty for months on end. And, you don’t think we notice that the hundreds of acres of farmland along the freeway are suddenly replaced by a huge Best Buy or Target store?)
At least some enterprising publications are not just regurgitating old news and are trying to put a new spin in their stories. But they, too, have varying degrees of success.
The Huffington Post published “the trends that made the naughty and nice lists of 2007.” (Nice idea, bad execution. Apparently not too many people were naughty or nice because there were only five examples each.)
Wired.com, a terrific technology site, is quite innovative for publishing stories on “the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2007″ and “the top 10 new organisms of 2007.” (That’s pretty cool because I can actually learn something.) But then it also published ridiculous stories like “vote for the sexiest geeks of 2007″ and “the 10 best gadget ads of 2007″ (Ads!?).
My newspaper editors once asked me to write a year-in-preview. It was different and it was fun. I called up a seismologist to find out what the chances were of a big earthquake hitting that year. And I’m grateful my editors had a sense of humor and kept it in the story. I just checked out the Contra Costa Times’ online archives and the story, which was published on Jan. 1, 1996, began with:
You’re partied out and you’re O.J.’d out. 1995 is history. It’s a new year. Time to look to the future and wonder excitedly what 1996 will bring.
For a bunch of local politicians, it might mean unemployment. Elected officials from all levels of government will play musical chairs this year as term limits in the state Legislature force five of eight East Bay legislators out of office. Speaking of shakeups, a UC-Berkeley seismologist says….
Heh. I think the rest of the sentence said there was a 1 or 2 percentage chance of the Big One hitting that year. But I’m too cheap to pay the $2.95 to view the full story.
Anyway, when I worked full-time in news organizations, I wrote my fair share of deadly year-in-reviews, so I understand the reasoning behind them. We’re in the news business. We chronicle the news and this is a chance to step back and tell you what we feel were important things that happened in the past year. And except for the tsunami in 2004 and this year’s political chaos in Pakistan, it’s generally a slow news period and these stories fill space.
I also understand these year-enders are just those normal staples of journalism. Like the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping story or the first-rainstorm-of-the-season story. Or the five-year or 10-year anniversary of a major disaster story. But c’mon people, all these year-in-review stories are too much. You are all overdoing it.
Unless you are Megatron and have been iced down in cryogenics for the past year and need to catch up on news, very few people will read the stories. (OK, sorry. I just watched the Transformers movie.) But you get my point. It’s been only a year. I remember what happened. I don’t need the media to tell me what was important in the past year. I already know.
OK. Rant over.