How do you capture a year?
I’m looking at a pile of newspapers that represent 52 weeks of work in 2018, bleary-eyed from paging through them several times searching for answers to that question.
In our annual Year in Review issue this week, we attempt to summarize the previous 12 months in words and photos. We hit the high points of news coverage, and re-publish many of our most impactful pictures. The year in sports gets separate treatment.
At best, it’s a Reader’s Digest version of actual events (although I suppose that Reader’s Digest isn’t necessarily a familiar reference for everyone). The year’s major happenings are condensed, summarized, analyzed and categorized. However, we typically don’t characterize them as “good” or “bad” — that’s often a matter of opinion — but rather as developments that affect this community one way or another.
Several weeks ago I started the Year in Review process by coming up with about two dozen stories to include on the ballot our readers used to vote on their choices for the year’s top 10 stories. Narrowing it down that much was a chore. Stories that might be especially important to some people may not have made the cut.
Then it was up to the voters — and we thank you each for participating — to further winnow the list down to 10. I suspect that was challenging for many readers. As it turned out, we ended up with an interesting mix of 12 stories on the final list, as there was a three-way tie for 10th place.
It’s instructive to look at how people voted, and how close the results were. Just missing the final list were Winthrop’s identification of a site for its new public library, and local election results. Some stories I thought might get more votes instead finished well down the list.
We introduced the reader balloting system in 2017. Previously, the Year in Review issue’s main story was a month-by-month synopsis of events. That was easier for us to do — it was basically stenography — but seemed to me like a tedious slog that made readers work too hard for closure on the year. Spoiler alert: There is no suspense associated with the Top 10 Stories list. It’s all revealed in one package.
As comprehensive as we try to make it, the Year in Review issue is just the tip of our news coverage iceberg (weird analogy, but there you have it). Throughout the year, I maintain a running list of the major headlines from each issue. They total hundreds of entries by the time December rolls around. Each had its individual importance. Only a relative few will rise to the top.
Putting this issue together is a complex process. I always fret about missing something, and I’m sure we did — for that we apologize. If there’s something you think we should have mentioned, please let us know. There were no deliberate exclusions, I assure you.
Other than jogging our memories, and filling a lot of newspaper space at the end of the year, what purpose does the Year in Review issue serve? To me, it represents the sum of this community’s interests, activities and enduring qualities, past, present and future. We are involved, active and persistent — some issues take years of effort and patience to resolve, and they don’t always turn out as we might hope.
As for 2019, the preparation for next January’s Year in Review issue starts this week. We expect it to be another engaging year with a few surprises. I’m not offering predictions, but I am hopeful that another summer of wildland fires won’t be among the stories on the 2019 ballot. That’s the kind of news we could all stand some relief from.
Whatever happens in the next 12 months, we’ll be closely chronicling it with energy and journalistic integrity. The gratification we get comes from looking at that pile of papers at the end of the year and knowing it represents our best efforts to serve this community.