TOP STORIES OF 2009: Obama inauguration and the economy
December 21, 2009
*The convoluted American economy — restoring windfalls to a lucky few while leaving millions jobless and distraught — was the top news story of 2009, followed closely by the inauguration of President Barack Obama, according to U.S. editors and news directors voting in The Associated Press’ annual poll.
The economy, which has superseded other issues as Americans’ No. 1 concern, received 61 first-place votes out of 117 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. A related saga, the tribulations of the U.S. auto industry, was voted the No. 4 story.
In 2008, the top story was Obama’s election as the first African-American president. His inauguration this year was No. 2, receiving 45 first-place votes, while the bruising battle in Congress over a health care overhaul was No. 3.
For the first time, the AP also enabled members of the general public to select their list of top stories, setting up a separate vote on Facebook. Those voters, 1,410 in all, reversed the order of the editors’ and news directors’ top two stories — placing Obama’s inauguration first and the economy second, but the two Top 10 lists had eight stories in common.
One notable difference was that Michael Jackson’s death was No. 3 among Facebook voters, instead of seventh on the AP members’ list.
Here are 2009’s top 10 stories as voted by the U.S. editors and news directors:
_1. THE ECONOMY: Despite a $787 billion federal stimulus package, much of the U.S. economy continued to sputter throughout the year. The jobless rate topped 10 percent, scores of banks failed, the federal deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, and stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997 before rallying. Yet investment banks’ profits surged, triggering public anger and efforts in Washington to crack down on Wall Street bonuses.
_2. OBAMA INAUGURATION: Inauguration Day in January was a moving moment for many Americans, as the nation’s first black president took the oath of office. But Obama soon confronted the sobering realities of governing as he struggled to get the economy back on track and win support for his ambitious legislative priorities.
_3. HEALTH CARE: A sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system, extending coverage to millions of Americans now without it, was a top priority for Obama and majority Democrats in Congress. But Republicans were almost unanimously opposed, leading to complex, bitterly partisan showdowns in both chambers.
_4. AUTO INDUSTRY: It was an immensely challenging year for America’s Big Three automakers. General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner was ousted by the government, and Chrysler was pressured into an alliance with Italy’s Fiat. Ford avoided bankruptcy, but its worldwide sales — like its competitors’ — fell sharply.
_5. SWINE FLU: Swine flu struck tens of millions of people worldwide, worrying governments as supplies of vaccine failed to meet demand. In the United States, according to federal authorities, swine flu sickened an estimated 50 million people, hospitalized close to 200,000 and killed 10,000.