Top 10 Stories of 2001

History has recorded many turning points—events that on account of their political or social magnitude have changed the world, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another....But very few times, perhaps never as on Sept. 11, 2001, have these events occurred in a matter of seconds, in the time it took a Boeing to slice through a steel and glass building and touch off a conflagration capable of bringing down one of the greatest structures ever erected by humans, while the whole planet looked on live and direct in speechless horror. Only one thing was certain: Something had changed forever....It is difficult to remember the events that were news this year, because what happened before Sept. 11 seems so far away in time.

Top 10 news stories - terrorism
The Associated Press
survey of U.S. editors

• Sept. 11 attacks
• War on terrorism
• Anthrax bioterrorism
• Recession in the United States
• Bush inauguration
• Execution of Timothy McVeigh for bombing of federal building in Oklahoma
• Israeli-Palestinian conflict
• U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont quits Republican Party
and becomes an independent, tilting control of the Senate
to the Democrats
• Power crisis in California
• U.S. tax cut

The Pew Research Center
U.S. news interest index

• Terrorism attack on the U.S. (10/17-21)
• Trade Center/Pentagon attacks (9/13-17)
• Identifying those who attacked the U.S. (10/1-3)
• High gasoline prices (May)
• Defending against future terrorism (10/1-3)
• Release of U.S. air crew from China (April)
• Building anti-terror coalition (10/1-3)
• Economic effects of terrorism (10/1-3)
• Possible U.S. military action (10/1-3)
• U.S. military effort in Afghanistan (10/15-17)

International editors rank the top 10 news stories - terrorism
The Associated Press
survey of international editors

• Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States and the
ensuing war on terrorism
• The anthrax scare
• Renewed violence between Palestinians and Israelis
• George W. Bush takes office as U.S. president;
American politics
• Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic arrested, taken to The Hague
• World economy weakens
• Europe hit by mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases
• Rising power of the European Union; introduction of common currency
• China admitted to World Trade Organization
• (Statistical tie) Unrest at G-8 Summit and massacre of Nepalese royal family

China Daily, Beijing, China
editorial board

• Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States
• Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated
• World economic slowdown
• China enters into World Trade Organization
• The United States withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
• Embryo cloning sparks heated debate
• Tension rises between India and Pakistan
• Royal massacre in Nepal
• Earthquake in India kills about 20,000 people
• Former Filipino and Indonesian presidents impeached and Arroyo and Megawati, respectively, become new presidents

The Japan Times, Tokyo, Japan
the editors

• War in Afghanistan
• Sept. 11
• U.S. recession
• Uncertainty in Indonesia
• Confusion in North-South Korea relations
• China: The World Trade Organization and 2008 Olympics
• India-Pakistan dispute
• United States withdraws from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
• Enron collapses
• Argentina defaults

Matichon Daily, Bangkok, Thailand the editors

• Sept. 11 attack on the twin towers, New York
• The swift U.S retaliation attack on Afghanistan
• Fear of anthrax
• The world economic downturn
• New eruption of violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
• China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization
• The birth of Princess Aiko to Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan
• The impeachment of President Estrada in the Philippines
• Earthquake in the western Indian state of Gujarat
• The massacre of eight members of the Nepalese royal family

Reporter, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Perica Vucinic, editor
• Sept. 11
• War against terrorism
• Closer relations between Russia and the United States
• Extradition of Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague Tribunal
• Social unrest in Argentina
• Protests against globalization
• Parliamentary elections in Kosovo
• War in (Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia
• International success of Harry Potter books and film
• Decision to give 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing

The News, Lagos, Nigeria,
Babafemi Ojudu, managing editor

• Terrorist attack on the United States
• Tiv/Junkun crisis claims lives of 19 soldiers
• Dec. 23 assassination of Chief Bola Ige, Nigeria’s attorney general and minister of justice
• Public hearings of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission
• Religious riots in Jos between Christians and Muslims
• War of the pastors and tension among Pentecostal churches
• The controversial electoral bill
• Nigerian Agbani Darego wins Miss World competition
• Massacre of hundreds of people in robbers’ attack on Akwuzu
• Arrest, prosecution, and acquittal of a Lagos socialite for child trafficking

La Nación, San José, Costa Rica, Eduardo Ulibarri, editor

• Terrorist attack on the United States
• Buildup of U.S.-led international anti-terrorist coalition and collapse of Taliban regime after U.S. and British military intervention
• Mapping of human genome and cloning of human embryo
• World economic recession
• Meeting of the World Trade Organization in Doha, admission of China and Taiwan, and launch of a new round of trade-liberalization negotiations
• Election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister of Israel and escalation of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians
• Constitutional crisis in Argentina following economic collapse of the country
• Escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan
• Major earthquake in El Salvador; 681 reported dead
• Capture, extradition, and trial of Slobodan Milosevic by the International Criminal Tribunal

The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the ensuing war on terrorism was the world’s leading news story in 2001. Journalists and editors abroad—including 75 newspaper and broadcast subscribers to the Associated Press surveyed by AP in 24 countries, and editors of publications in Bangkok, Beijing, Belgrade, Lagos, Manila, San José (Costa Rica), and Tokyo—agreed with their American counterparts that Sept. 11 was a watershed event with international repercussions.

“The greatest change produced by Sept. 11 was the unmistakable sensation that things had changed,” wrote Daniel Samper Pizano in El Tiempo of Bogotá, echoing the comments of many journalists abroad in their reviews of the year. “The sheer force of the strike...shattered the security and tranquility of the United States; it shook the foundations of the economy; it turned the international geopolitical map upside down; it stirred up xenophobia and religious mistrust, and it showed that the world was indeed round; in other words, what happens at one point on the globe can affect a point clear on the other side.”
Other major stories on international editors’ top-10 lists: the slowdown in the world economy accelerated by the events in September; fear of anthrax; renewed violence in the Middle East; China’s admission to the World Trade Organization; and the arrest of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic and his extradition to The Hague.

The inauguration of George W. Bush made headlines abroad, as did the impeachment of the Philippine and Indonesian presidents; the devastating earthquake in Gujarat, India, that killed 20,000 people; ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria; the mapping of the human genome and the debate over embryo cloning; and in Europe, the advent of the euro and the twin scourges of mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease. Two year-end stories also were cited by editors abroad: Argentina’s economic collapse and the rising tension between Pakistan
and India.

The 354 news editors and broadcasters surveyed by AP in the United States also selected the Sept. 11 attacks and the war on terrorism as the year’s most important stories, followed by anthrax bioterrorism, the recession, and the inauguration of Bush. The only international story on the top-10 list, aside from the war in Afghanistan, was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The biggest story of the summer, the media-driven obsession with the scandal involving California’s Congressman Gary Condit and the disappearance of Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy, had faded from memory. It seemed to belong to another time, the pre-Sept. 11 era—“an extension of the ’90s,” as Doug Ward wrote in The Vancouver Sun, “a bland, happy era when sexual indiscretion in the Oval Office was what passed for
historical drama.”

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which conducts monthly surveys of interest by Americans in major news stories, public interest in the news “was modest at best” during the first eight months of 2001. The rising price of gas and China’s release of a detained American air crew in April were the only stories followed closely by the majority of Americans. But in mid-September, 96 percent of those surveyed by Pew said they were following news about the Sept. 11 attacks “very closely” or “fairly closely.”

“The change in news interest in the post-Sept. 11 period was striking,” the Pew Center said. “On average, just 23 percent of the public paid very close attention to the typical news story before the attacks, which is comparable to yearly averages since 1990, but after the attacks that number more than doubled, to 48 percent.”

In a Pew survey in December, two-thirds of respondents agreed that they were now more generally interested in the news, with 53 percent tuning into cable television as their first choice for coverage of the war on terrorism.

Eight of the top 10 stories on Pew’s U.S. news interest index for 2001 related to the terrorist attacks and the U.S. military response. The year’s top foreign story, aside from the war against terrorism and the release of the U.S. crew in China, was violence in the Middle East, watched closely in December by 31 percent of Americans.

“The terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan have created a new internationalist sentiment among the public,” the Pew Center reported on Oct. 24. “There is much more support for a multilateral foreign policy than before Sept. 11, with roughly 59 percent [of respondents] now saying that the interests of allies should be taken into account by U.S. policymakers” and 61 percent agreeing that taking an active role in the world will become a more effective way of avoiding problems like terrorism in the future.

Indeed, as Tokyo’s The Japan Times wrote in its year-end wrap-up, about Sept. 11, “the world became infinitely smaller for Americans.”

—Margaret Bald

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