Like all newspapers that are members of The Associated Press, we're offered the opportunity to vote in AP's annual surveys of the top stories of the year.
There's a survey of the top national or international stories of the year. And there's also a survey of the top state stories of the year.
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Actually, there are other surveys too, for top sports stories, for example, and for top entertainment stories.
How this tradition started, we don't know. For a variety of reasons, the last couple weeks of the year generally tend to be light for news so undoubtedly, editors of old encouraged this kind of thing as a way to make sure there was copy to fill up the news pages. (As a matter of fact, editors of today worry about that kind of thing too, and we at the Daily Herald are no exceptions.)
Whatever the case, the top-stories lists are a bit of fun and a bit of historic record-keeping, one of the aims of newspapering. And they also can be a bit controversial, as everyone knows from the annual debates over the Time magazine "Person of the Year" covers.
As of this writing, we don't know what the AP top stories of the year are. That will be coming out in a matter of days.
But we do know the stories we voted for.
And certainly, in both the national/international and state areas, there were major human tragedies that made the list. These were big, powerful stories that couldn't be left off a Top 10.
Our choice for the top story in each survey, however, reflected what we believe to be the far-reaching implications of the story itself.
On the national/international level, we believe the stories competing for that sport were the National Security Agency exposes, the national tide toward same-sex marriage and the inept early implementation of the new federal health care law.
A strong argument could be made for any of these three stories -- their lasting impact will extend far beyond 2013.
Ultimately, however, we voted for the NSA story as the top story of the year because of all it says about the level of personal monitoring our government now conducts, the challenges we have in reining that in and, paradoxically, the threats to our security that have been posed by the unauthorized leaks of this information.
On the state level, it was easy to narrow the final choice to two stories (despite our desire to put the Blackhawks championship there) -- passage of public pension reform and enactment of a law recognizing same-sex marriages.
But some of us were greatly torn between which of those two stories should be voted No. 1.
Our vote went to the pension reform story simply because of the implications it has related to Illinois' fiscal mismanagement and the frightening risk it carries for every single person living in Illinois and every single business operating here.
But that vote has not been without continued second guessing. How, after all, do you minimize civil liberties?
The same-sex marriage legislation is monumental, not just for the gay community but for all of us who cherish freedom. We don't know how you say the freedom of a people is second on any list.