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From the Newsroom: ‘Top Stories’ lists signal year’s end

As we have talked about many times before, this is a new era of rapid change in the news media in general and for The Columbian in particular. So it is somehow reassuring to see some holiday traditions retained in our business.

Take, for example, the editorial cartoons. In the last seven days of the year, you can count on seeing at least one, and probably more, political cartoons featuring an old man wearing a sash of the current year and a baby wearing the New Year’s sash. Below it, there will be some witty and topical saying. On Thursday morning, I went looking for political cartoons for the weekend papers — Greg Jayne is on vacation — and found several to run.

Probably the biggest sign that the year is drawing to a close is the “year in review” stories. We can’t resist doing these staples. You’ll find them in newspapers big and small, and on every subject. By Thursday, a Google news search turned up 202,000 instances of “Top stories of 2019,” published by an array of media ranging from CNN to the Charlotte, N.C., Business Journal.

On Sunday, The Columbian will add to those search results with our own lists of top stories of the year. I think we have done a “Top Stories” story every one of the approximately 21 Decembers that I have worked at The Columbian.

Reporter Adam Littman put together this year’s feature. He started by looking at a list Web Editor Amy Libby compiled of the top-viewed stories on our site. We brainstormed more ideas, and Adam solicited more nominations from the reporters. We ended up with a list of 27 nominees.

Adam then put together one of those online polls and the newsroom selected the top stories of the year. Once Adam had the results, he asked the beat reporters with the winning stories to summarize each briefly, then glued them together into a cohesive Sunday package. We also asked readers to vote, and we will present your list, too.

We took the same approach for business stories, with Anthony Macuk taking the reins. Because we had a bunch of ties, and because we get to make the rules, we ended up picking a Top 15 list. Sports Editor Micah Rice and his team are putting together their Top Stories list to appear Sunday.

We don’t pick a top Life story of the year, because they are too dissimilar. So we run the photo department’s picks of some of their favorite pictures of the year.

Top stories of the decade

Some news outlets are running “top stories of the decade” packages this week. We aren’t planning to do that, so I thought I would offer my own subjective list.

1. Waterfront redevelopment. The Columbia River waterfront was marked for redevelopment as the decade began, but it wasn’t until the last two years that there was something there for the public to enjoy.

2. Columbia River Crossing failure. Ten years ago, planning was well underway for a megaproject to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. It was scuttled in 2013, and the political will to begin anew is just now being assembled.

3. David Madore’s reign. A wealthy businessman with no experience in elective office heads a government and, with the help of like-minded cronies, wreaks havoc on the system. Sound familiar?

4. Oil terminal flap. The consequences over the proposal for an enormous oil terminal ended up changing the Port of Vancouver’s leadership and even state election laws.

5. Downtown redevelopment. Hundreds of new apartments and a growing restaurant/bar scene made downtown an all-day destination with upgraded civic attractions including a new Vancouver Community Library.

Runners-up: Cowlitz Tribe builds, opens ilani; development along 192nd Avenue; homelessness and lack of affordable housing; legal sale of marijuana/privatized sale of liquor; Vancouver teen starts massive Columbia River Gorge wildfire.


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