Top Ten Stories of 2005

 Natural disasters dominated the news in 2005. A devastating storm, Hurricane Katrina, and its aftermath was the top story for the year. U.S. editors and news directors overwhelmingly picked the lethal hurricane and the deadly flooding which ravaged New Orleans, in The Associated Press' (AP) annual vote.

Many international editors concurred with their U.S. counterparts. The Daily Yomiuri of Japan picked the hurricane as its top international news story. The newspaper observed, "the Bush Administration faced severe criticism over delayed relief operations and dealing with such crimes as looting. African Americans suffered most as they lived in the hardest-hit areas. Some people say this highlighted the country's racial divisions and rich-poor gap."

The Pew Research Center found that the American public was gripped by news coverage of the storms. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led the list of 2005's top news interest stories, claiming the very close attention of nearly three-in-four (73 percent) in October—a considerably higher rating than was received by any news story in the past three years. Interest in the back-to-back storms not only matched the previous two-decade record for a natural disaster, the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, but came close to matching the attention accorded the 9/11 terrorist attacks (74 percent).

According to The Tyndall Report, which tracks coverage by the three major U.S. TV network nightly news shows, with Hurricane Katrina in the lead, the storms of 2005 attracted triple their average annual attention. NBC, whose new anchor Brian Williams was in New Orleans when the storm struck, made Katrina (522 min. vs. ABC 314 min. and CBS 317 min.) its signature story.

Fox News, which also made Hurricane Katrina their top story of 2005, noted that the disaster cost about $34.4 billion in insured losses. Their Rewind 2005 article succinctly stated, "Louisiana's economy was crippled and it remains to be seen if the Big Easy will ever fully recover."

Top Ten Lists

The Associated Press
survey of U.S. editors

1. Hurricane Katrina
2. Papal Transition
3. Iraq
4. Supreme Court
5. Oil Prices
6. London Bombings
7. Asian Quake
8. Terri Schiavo
9. CIA Leak
10. Bush's Struggles

The Pew Research Center U.S. News Interest Index

1. Katrina and Rita
2. High gasoline prices
3. Indian Ocean Tsunami
4. London bombings
5. Situation in Iraq
6. Social Security plan
7. Oil companies' profits
8. Condition of the US Economy
9. Hurricane Wilma
10. Vioxx pain killers

The Daily Yomiuri

1. Hurricane Katrina
2. Pope John Paul II dies
3. London bombings
4. Pakistan's earthquake
5. Crude oil prices soar
6. Riots in France
7. Discovery blasts off
8. Bush's second term
9. China's 1st death from bird flu
10. N. Korean nukes

The Tyndall Report: Year in Review 2005

1. Hurricane Katrina hits MS, LA
2. Iraq: combat continues
3. Iraq: elections, politics
4. Indonesia earthquake & tsunami
5. Pope John Paul II dies
6. London bombings
7. Iraq: reconstruction efforts
8. Terry Schiavo case in FL
9. CIA agent's name leaked
10. Iraq: suicide bombings

Fox News: Rewind 2005

1. Hurricane Katrina
2. Iraq's Push to Freedom
3. London's Sept. 11
4. Bush's Second Term
5. Supreme Court Hullabaloo
6. Michael Jackson verdict
7. Terri Schiavo
8. BTK Mystery Solved
9. Girls Gone Missing
10. Stinky Gas Prices

Doctors Without Borders: Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories

· Congolese ravaged by war and disease
· Chechens living in fear
· Haiti's capital wracked by violence
· No R&D for low-tech HIV/AIDS tools
· Civilian toll from clashes in northern India
· Urgent needs go unmet in southern Sudan
· Somalis endure conflict and deprivation
· Colombians trapped by violence and fear
· Insecurity worsens conditions in Uganda
· Crisis deepening in Ivory Coast

Global Language Monitor: Global YouthSpeak Words

1. Crunk
2. Mang
3. A'ight
4. Mad
5. Props
6. Bizznizzle
7. Fully
8. Fundoo
9. Brill!
10. S'up

Global Language Monitor: Top Ten words

1. Refugee
2. Tsunami
3. Poppa/Papa/Pope
4. Chinglish
5. H5N1
6. Recaille
7. Katrina
8. Wiki
9. SMS
10. Insurgent

There was no consensus second place story, but the AP poll and The Daily Yomiuri both had the papal transition at that position. The AP article observed, "John Paul II's death marked the passing of the first non-Italian pope in 455 years and ended a 26-year pontificate, third-longest in history."

According to editors of The Daily Yomiuri, "In his 26-year papacy, John Paul played a major role in ending the Cold War and made an effort to bring about reconciliation between Judaism and Islam. He strongly opposed the U.S.-led Iraq war and refused to change the Roman Catholic Church's stance against abortion."

Iraq War

The war in Iraq continued to garner worldwide attention, occupying a top five position in every list. David Crary, writing for the AP, notes, "As in 2004, news from Iraq ranged from the grim, including a devastating wave of suicide bombings, to the promising - Iraqis voting for new leaders and thrashing out differences on a new constitution. The U.S. military death toll surpassed 2,000."

The Tyndall Report's research suggested that while still very important, Iraq was gradually relinquishing its stranglehold on the news agenda. CBS (760 min. vs. ABC 582 min. and NBC 639 min.) stuck to the beat most tenaciously. However no Baghdad-based reporter made the Top 20 ranking.

Following a small post-election bounce, public approval of the president's handling of the situation in Iraq resumed its downward drift, hitting a low of 37 percent in October. But opinions on Iraq remain volatile, according to the Pew Research Center. Americans are nearly evenly divided on whether the decision to use military force was right or wrong, and more than half think it possible that the U.S. can establish a stable democracy in Iraq.

Liza Porteus of Fox News chose to put a positive spin on their second-ranked story of the year, stating, "Up to 15 million Iraqis went to the polls on Dec. 15 to select a constitutional parliament. U.S. officials hoped the new parliament would help quell the Sunni-dominated insurgency so that American forces could begin heading home."

Tragically, Reporters Without Borders reported that more journalists and media staffers have been killed during the Iraq war than during 22 years of conflict in Vietnam. A total of 76 journalists and media staff have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the group said. That was more than the 63 reporters killed in the 1955-1977 conflict in Vietnam, according to figures from the U.S.-based press advocacy group Freedom Forum.

Terrorism, specifically the July 7, 2005 London bombings, was a top story worldwide. The attacks on three rush-hour subway trains and a bus killed 56 people, including four bombers with ties to Islamic militants. The Pew Research Center noted that the bombings drew substantial interest with about half of the American public (48 percent) tracking the story with great interest, on par with peak public interest in the situation in Iraq.

Another natural disaster ranked among last year's top stories; an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter Scale which struck northern Pakistan on Oct. 8, killing about 73,000 people and leaving 3 million homeless in Pakistani Kashmir and surrounding areas.

In its Top Ten Good News Stories of 2005, altMuslim.com lauded the Muslim response to the Katrina and Kashmir disasters. The Web site reported that American Muslims held record-breaking fundraisers, pledging an initial $10 million for Katrina relief through the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and apparently raising $100 million for Kashmir quake relief. In addition to dollar donations, mosques and homes throughout the South from Baton Rouge to Dallas to Houston sheltered Katrina survivors.

Oil and Gas Prices

Spiraling oil and gas prices were a top attention-getter. Crude oil prices topped 60 dollars per barrel on June 23 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a record since trading began in 1983. Prices continued to soar, temporarily topping 70 dollars per barrel in late August.

The AP article noted that costly gasoline prompted some motorists to rethink their driving habits, and the beleaguered U.S. airline industry had to spend $9 billion more on jet fuel in 2005 than in 2004.

Drivers had to dig deeper than ever into their pockets to pay for gas as prices reached a high of $3.07 a gallon in early September after Hurricane Katrina damaged oil refineries along the Gulf Coast, disrupting fuel supplies, Fox News reported.

The American public was certainly tuned into news concerning the high prices, with the Pew Research Center reporting that following closely behind Katrina and Rita were prices at the gasoline pump, with 71 percent of Americans tracking their progress very closely.

George W. Bush's second term made several Top Ten lists. The Daily Yomiuiri struck a cautionary tone, stating, "Several problems, including the leaking of the identity of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative, has tarnished the administration which according to an opinion poll in November, showed its approval rating had dropped to its lowest point - 35 percent - since Bush became president in 2001."

U.S. editors in the AP poll elucidated some of the specific problems alluded to by The Daily Yomiuri by noting that multiple factors, including public doubts about Iraq, a flawed response to Hurricane Katrina and a failed Supreme Court nomination, drove Bush's national approval ratings below 40 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

The American public echoed the concerns about the Bush presidency. The Pew center's research ascertained that the president started his second term with less popular support than other recent re-elected incumbents, and saw his approval ratings further erode under pressure from public opposition to his foreign and domestic policies and new focus on alleged ethical lapses in his administration. In November, Bush's approval rating hit new lows when just 36 percent of the public thought he had lived up to his campaign pledge to restore integrity to the White House, and for the first time as many approved as disapproved of his handling of terrorism.

Among other news stories that made Top Ten Stories of 2005 lists were the issues surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court, the riots in France, concerns about the bird flu, and Terri Schiavo's death.

The Tyndall Report dubbed the comatose woman the "Most Newsworthy Woman of the Year," as Schiavo beat out outed CIA spy Valerie Plame by just three minutes in major television network coverage. Rejected Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers was third.

The "Most Newsworthy Man of the Year" was Michael Brown, the erstwhile director of FEMA's botched response to Katrina. As President George Bush said, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!"

The international relief organization Doctors Without Borders, in its Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2005, called attention to Congolese ravaged by war and disease; Chechens, Columbians and Ugandans living in fear; Haiti's capital wracked by waves of violence; no R&D for HIV/AIDS tools adapted to impoverished settings; clashes in northeastern India taking a heavy toll on civilians; urgent needs going unmet in southern Sudan and Somalia; and the deepening crisis in Ivory Coast.

Top Ten Words of the Year

Turning to the literary arena, Merriam-Webster's "Top Ten Words of the Year for 2005" based on online lookups were (in order): integrity, refugee, contempt, filibuster, insipid, tsunami, pandemic, conclave, levee, and inept.

The Global Language Monitor (GLM), a media tracking and analysis company, released a number of Top Ten lists for 2005 in its annual worldwide survey, including "Top Ten Words" and "Top Ten Global YouthSpeak Words."

According to GLM, the Top Ten Words for 2005 were: refugee; tsunami; Poppa/Papa/Pope, (Italian, Portuguese, English)—the death of beloved Pope John Paul II kept the words on the lips of the faithful around the world; Chinglish, CHINese + EngLISH; H5N1, a looming global pandemic that could dwarf the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages (and AIDS); recaille, used to describe youthful French rioters of North African and Muslim descent; Katrina; Wiki, an Internet buzzword; SMS, Short Message Service (text messages); and insurgent.

GLM's Top Ten Global YouthSpeak words were: crunk, a Southern variation of hip hop music; mang, a variation of man, as in "S'up, mang?"; a'ight, all right; mad, a lot; props, cheers, as in "He gets mad props!"; bizznizzle, the term for" business" credited to rapper Snoop Dogg; fully, in Australia an intensive, as in 'fully sick'; fundoo, in India, Hindi for cool; brill!, from the UK, the shortened form of brilliant!; and s'up, another in the apparently endless permutations of Whazzup?

"2005 was the year we saw a convergence of a number of sometimes contradictory language trends: the major global media became more pervasive yet actually less persuasive; the language spoken by the youth of the world is converging at an ever-increasing rate; and the Political Correctness movement become a truly global phenomenon," said Paul JJ Payack, GLM president.