A peek at the process of picking Top 10 stories

jsoutherniconThis is what happens when you reach the end of December, schools and most government offices are closed and nothing much is happening in the way of news.

Every December we look back on the year that was and quite subjectively pick the top 10 or 20 news stories of the year. It’s what we in the media do because a) we’re bored, and b) we like starting arguments.

On the front page of this week’s paper is a list of stories that we feel are the biggest news stories of the year. Rather than picking the top stories and ranking them from 1-10 based on my own, biased perspective, I engaged a much more thorough and scientific approach to picking the stories. (I asked my colleagues here at the Star which ones they thought were the top stories.) What you see is the result of much thought and countless hours of market research to determine which stories had the most impact on our readers. (Actually, I hastily sent out an email with some suggestions.)

I usually consider two things when trying to pick top stories of the year. First, how did it impact the readers? Second, what was the “wow” factor; what were people talking about?

Based on that, I have to believe that the top story of the year is actually two stories – the two floods we had last spring. The floods most definitely impacted lives and it generated a ton of buzz.

From there, I think the next three stories are pretty interchangeable in terms of importance. They are the Sugar Land Skeeters championship, the opening of the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, and the elections.

The Skeeters winning it all was certainly buzzworthy but it really didn’t impact the lives of readers. It impacted the organization and is certainly a feather in the city’s cap, but it didn’t move anyone to action (aside from buying tickets and merchandise). The opening of the Smart Financial Centre is the culmination of 10 years of work from conception to completion. It has gotten people talking, but its real grand opening is next year and that’s when its impact will be felt.

The elections made a lot of news but it’s too soon to say what impact they will have. Sugar Land has a new mayor in Joe Zimmerman. Fort Bend County voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton at the top of the ballot, but went solidly Republican down the ballot, including replacing Democratic County Commissioner Richard Morrison with Republican Vincent Morales.

Of the few Democrats who did win, one passed away just before Election Day, and another is a convicted criminal in deep financial trouble. I do not make light at all about the passing of Pct. 2 Constable Ruben Davis, whose service and integrity transcended party lines. He was running unopposed and deservedly so. Our condolences go to his family and the community for his loss.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds is returning to Austin for another term. While his re-election was not a surprise, he is yet another in a long line of politicians taking a seat with a criminal history and facing bankruptcy. The attorney was convicted in 2015 of barratry (ambulance chasing) and has settled several lawsuits against him from clients who accused him of keeping their portion of legal settlements. He has lost his license to practice law in Texas and filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Despite all of this, voters here overwhelmingly returned him to office. To me, that makes the story more about the voters than it does Reynolds.

As for the rest of the Top 10, you’re welcome to read about them on the front page and debate them all you like. I’d be happy to hear your opinion. At this time I’d like to do some inward reflection on 2016. I know a lot of people think it was a terrible year, but for me it was one of the best years of my life.

From a family standpoint, my two oldest children completed their formal education this year. Heather earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado and my oldest son, Wesley, became a certified machinist and lives in Florida. My wife, Sandy, is working on her masters in health administration and has just one semester left. Backing up a couple months into 2015, I gained a fantastic new stepmother when my dad re-married. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Barbara for the past year.

On a professional front, I have this wonderful new job as the editor of the Fort Bend Star. I love my colleagues and the community and feel very fortunate to be here. Being here for the past 10 months has afforded me some incredible opportunities. One of my greatest passions is sports photography and I’ve been able to cover the Skeeters throughout their championship season. I’ve also been able to cover the Houston Texans. Photographing NFL games is a lifelong dream come true!

This world is full of amazing opportunities and I’m excited about the coming year and everything that can be done and accomplished. I hope that you, too, are optimistic about what the new year will bring.

Thank you, dear readers, for such a great 2016. I sincerely hope it will be a good and prosperous 2017 for all of us.

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