Virginia Tech massacre voted top story of 2007
By DAVID CRARY
AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech by a mentally disturbed student gunman was chosen the top story of 2007 by U.S. editors and news directors in The Associated Press’ annual vote.
The rampage, which prompted colleges nationwide to reassess their emergency response systems, received 82 first-place votes out of 271 ballots cast for the top 10 stories.
The mortgage crisis, which roiled the U.S. housing market, was the No. 2 story and the war in Iraq placed third. Iraq was the No. 1 story in 2006 and has finished in the top three since 2002 — the year of the prewar buildup.
Here are 2007’s top 10 stories, as voted by AP members:
1. VIRGINIA TECH KILL-INGS: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, who had avoided court-ordered mental health treatment despite a history of psychiatric problems, killed two fellow students in a dormitory on April 16, detoured to mail a hate-filled video of himself to NBC News, then shot dead 30 students and professors in a classroom building before killing himself. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
2. MORTGAGE CRISIS: A record-setting wave of mortgage foreclosures, coupled with a steep slump in the housing market, buffeted financial markets, caused multibillion-dollar losses at major banks and investment firms and became an issue in the presidential campaign.
3. IRAQ WAR: The “surge” that sent more U.S. troops to Iraq was credited with helping reduce the overall level of violence. But thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of U.S. personnel were killed nonetheless during the year, and Iraqi political leaders struggled to make meaningful progress toward national reconciliation.
4. OIL PRICES: Oil prices soared to record highs, at one point reaching nearly $100 a barrel. The high prices, which burdened motorists and owners of oil-heated homes, nudged Congress to pass an energy bill that ordered an increase in motor vehicles’ fuel efficiency.
5. CHINESE EXPORTS: An array of Chinese exports were recalled, ranging from toys with lead paint to defective tires to tainted toothpaste and food. Despite the high-profile problems, America’s trade deficit with China was running at record-high levels.
6. GLOBAL WARMING: Warnings about the consequences of global warming gained intensity with new reports from scientific panels and a Nobel Prize to Al Gore for his environmental crusading that included the film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Across the U.S., many state governments sought to cap emissions blamed for global warming.
7. BRIDGE COLLAPSE: An Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour on Aug. 1, killing 13 people and injuring about 100. The disaster fueled concern about possible structural flaws in other bridges nationwide.
8. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: In a yearlong drama with shifting subplots, large fields in both major parties battled for support ahead of the caucuses and primaries that will decide the 2008 presidential nominees. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama led among the Democrats; some polls showed five Republicans with double-digit support.
9. IMMIGRATION DEBATE: A compromise immigration plan, backed by President Bush and Democratic leaders, collapsed in Congress due to Republican opposition. The plan would have enabled millions of illegal immigrants to move toward citizenship, while also bolstering border security. The issues remained alive in the presidential campaign.
10. IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM: Worried that the ultimate goal is a nuclear arsenal, the United States and other countries pressed Iran to halt uranium enrichment. Iran said it never had a weapons program. A U.S. intelligence report concluded there was such an effort, but it stopped in 2003.
Just missing the Top 10 were the Southern California wildfires and the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
The balloting reflected a diverse news year, with 27 different stories receiving at least one first-place vote. The mortgage crisis got 48 first-place votes, Iraq 40 and oil prices 25.
Write-in votes were cast for two events that occurred after AP’s ballot was distributed — the shooting at an Omaha mall that left nine people dead, and the Mitchell Report on use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Another write-in vote was for “cheaters and liars” — collectively addressing the many athletes and other public figures entangled in scandals.
Among stories about pop culture celebrities, the saga surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith got the most votes, finishing in 32nd place ahead of such stories as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the departure of Tony Blair as British prime minister, and the military crackdown in Myanmar.
“Anyone who picks the Anna Nicole Smith story in the Top Ten should be beaten with sticks,” commented Mike Bailey, managing editor of The Courier News in Elgin, Ill.
John Moeur, managing editor of the Daily Herald in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., suggested that 2007’s top development was broader than those on the ballot — and distinctly bleak.
“In our opinion, the top story must reflect the nation’s stifling problems and the inability of either the Bush administration or the Democrat-led Congress to find solutions other than bickering,” he wrote on his ballot.
Editor’s note: Polling for this story took place before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27.
Published in The Messenger 12.31.07