A Look Back at 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31st and January 1st of every year are traditionally the days that we reflect upon the passing year and plan for the coming year.  While the latter is enmeshed in resolutions and possibilities, the former is concretely secure in the passage of history and the year 2011 provided plenty of that.

My collage above (courtesy of Zuma Press, NBC, CNBC, the AP, UPI and others) represents just a sampling of the biggest stories carried by traditional "mainstream" media outlets as well as the "new" ways we get our news in this second decade of the 21st century (Facebook, Google+, Twittter, Digg, Pulse, etc.).  Except for the killing of Osama bin Laden (depicted in the center frame) which I believe was the year's top news story, I did not rank any of the other activities/events of the past 12 months (clockwise from upper left):

There were plenty of other stories over the past 12 months but these, in my opinion, seemed to catch the attention of people across this country and, in almost all cases, around the world.  Depending upon their area of interest, one could easily fill a list solely on politics or sports or technology (and some of those stories appear on other's top stories postings).  The death of Steve Jobs, the Penn State child sex scandal and contentious relationship between the Obama White House and the 112th Congress are some that come to mind.  Since there is no formal ranking system or service, you will just have to take my word for it.

In yearly retrospectives, we also reflect back on those we lost during the passing year.  Since this is a blog about journalism, I thought I would limit this to those in the news business and the Newseum has a fitting memorial for 11 men who made significant contributions to journalism and/or the media.

One man who did not merit that level of recognition was Stanley Wright Case.  While lacking the fiery bluster of a Christopher Hitchens or the "curmudgeon" persona of an Andy Rooney, Stan's voice was recognizable to many radio listeners across the country and, through the American Forces Network, around the world.  Case, an Oklahoma native, joined the Cable News Network in 1985 where he did worked  on-screen on their Headline News television programming as well as as an announcer for CNN Radio where he was described as the "backbone" of that organization. He died as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Birmingham, Alabama on November 22nd (Stan and his wife, Angela Stiepel Case, were driving back to Oklahoma to celebrate Thanksgiving).  She was seriously injured but was expected to recover.

Stanley Wright Case (1952 - 2011)

As a satellite radio listener, I would frequently catch his 60-second updates at the bottom of the hour on several of SiriusXM's talk channels and probably heard one during the week of his passing.  His voice would take me back to the days when CNN was the only 24-hour news network and their Headline News outfit was only that--news.  Back before Glenn Beck and Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace, there was a bevy of news anchors (Don Harrison, Lyn Vaughn, Jane Akre, Toria Tolley, Chuck Roberts, Lynne Russell, Gordon Graham, Bob Losure, Bob Goodnow, Bobbie Battista, Brian Christie, Charles Zewe, Donna Kelley, Judy Fortin, Dave Michaels, Sachi Koto and others) that became familiar faces to news 'junkies' like myself who wanted up-to-the-minute updates on national and world news back in the 'pre-Internet' era.

Our world has advanced in leaps and bounds since this network's creation but hearing that multitone close at the end of each half-hour segment brings a smile to my face even now.  Perhaps future generations watching clips like the one below will evoke the same reactions that Douglas Edwards or Edward R. Murrow's early works did with me in my younger days (thank goodness for VCRs and YouTube for keeping these memories alive).

There is a phrase that is often (mistakenly) attributed to an ancient Chinese proverb that loosely translates to "may you live in interesting times."  From a budding journalist's perspective, this perceived curse actually serves more as a blessing.  If the pace and scope of 2011 is any indication of what is to come in 2012, I will have a very wide selection of stories to follow (and post about here).

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