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Lyons: We're making a list; readers checking it twice

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make lists and those who don’t.

Ironically, those who don’t end up on a list anyway. And if the do-not-make-lists list is alphabetical, I’ll be somewhere in the middle.

Yet twice this week I found myself in the middle of compiling lists by voting for The Associated Press stories of the year and again in a Northwest Herald boardroom discussing our overall and local stories of the year.

It’s not that I find these exercises boring; actually, they can be quite interesting. Reflecting on a year of events and listening to why people believe they were more significant than dozens of others can be more engrossing than the list itself.

Sometimes there is passionate debate. Sometimes there isn’t. The act of defining events as significant and others less so is naturally divisive. Even two intelligent people from the same place could have five or more completely different events on the same Top 10 list, although a discussion might bring about more agreement.

How much different would a frequent FOX News viewer’s top 10 stories of the year be from someone’s who considers NPR their chief source for national and international news? Would a 40-year-old, suburban white guy’s list look the same as an inner-city teen’s list?

We’ll publish our top 10 stories of the year the weekend after Christmas in various categories: overall stories of the year abd local news stories of the year, as well as lists in sports, entertainment and business.

Expect disagreement. And feel free to disagree with our lists, although they aren’t completely arbitrary. Section editors at the Northwest Herald and anyone who produces news content make judgment calls every day, often several times a day. It’s an inexact science. You hope that you’re more right than wrong.

Is a single domestic violence murder one of the biggest stories of the year? Almost certainly not in Chicago, but it might be in McHenry County. Does a big change in the local political scene matter more than the closing of one of the area’s largest social-service agencies? It depends on whom you’re asking.

This is the time of year when you’ll see dozens of these kinds of lists, and many will look different. Just for context, I looked at one Wednesday compiled from Facebook traffic about the top 10 trending topics of the year.

Some of those topics were too obvious not to make our top 10 list, such as the presidential election and the shootings in Aurora, Colo., while others weren’t even part of our newsroom discussion. The death of Whitney Houston was No. 3 on Facebook and even Dick Clark’s death cracked its top 10.

Again, what will interest me more than the list itself will be the discussion it generates.

What do you think were the biggest stories of 2012? When it’s your own list, you can’t be wrong. Although, we probably could compile a list of 10 people who could tell you why you are.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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