Mass shootings voted top 2012 news story by U.S. editors and news directors

By David Crary

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20 2012 9:09 p.m. MST

FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2012 file photo, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, is taken from the Centre County Courthouse by Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau, left, and a deputy, after being sentenced in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison, effectively a life sentence, in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The horrific massacre of 26 children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, along with other mass shootings, was the top news story of 2012, narrowly edging out the U.S. election, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The results followed a rare decision by the AP to re-conduct the voting. The initial round of balloting had ended Dec. 13, a day before the shootings in Newtown, with the election ranked No. 1, followed by Superstorm Sandy. The original entry for mass shootings, focused on the rampage at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, placed sixth in that voting.

In the new poll, updated to account for Newtown, the mass shootings received 68 first-place votes out of 173 ballots cast for the top 10 stories, compared to 65 first-place votes for the election — one of the closest results since the AP launched the poll in 1936. On a scale of points ranging from 10 for first place to one for 10th place, the shootings tallied 1448 points, compared to 1417 for the election. The second balloting ran Dec. 17-19.

Superstorm Sandy was third, far ahead of the next group of stories.

"After we completed our poll the news agenda was reshaped, tragically, by the Newtown shootings," said Michael Oreskes, AP's senior managing editor for U.S. news. "To chronicle that we conducted the poll again before releasing both results."

The U.S.-focused slant of the top stories this year contrasted with last year's voting, when the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was No. 1, followed by Japan's earthquake

tsunami disaster, and the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East.

Here are 2012's top 10 stories, in order:

1. MASS SHOOTINGS: Armed with a high-powered rifle, 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and shot dead 20 children — all ages 6 and 7 — and six staff members in the second-worst school massacre in U.S. history. Sadly, it was only one of several mass shootings, including the killing of 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. After the Newtown tragedy, President Barack Obama and many others, including some staunch gun-rights supporters, said it was time to find ways to rein in gun violence.

2. US ELECTION: Mitt Romney outcampaigned an eclectic field of Republican rivals, and bested Obama in their opening head-to-head debate. But on Election Day, thanks in part to a vigorous get-out-the-vote operation, Obama won a second term with a large lead in electoral votes and a solid advantage in popular votes. The GOP hung on to its majority in the House, but lost two seats to remain a minority in the Senate despite early-campaign projections of gains there.

3. SUPERSTORM: As a prelude, the storm named Sandy killed more than 70 people in the Caribbean. Then its high winds and high waters slammed into more than 800 miles of the eastern U.S. seaboard, killing at least 125 more people, and causing damage calculated at well over $60 billion — the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after 2005's Hurricane Katrina. New York and New Jersey were the worst hit, with several hundred thousand homes and businesses damaged or destroyed.

4. OBAMACARE: By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court upheld the core elements of Obama's much-debated health care overhaul, which even he embraced as "Obamacare." To widespread surprise, the decisive vote came from John Roberts, the generally conservative-leaning chief justice appointed by Republican George W. Bush. Romney, as GOP presidential nominee, vowed to repeal the law if he won, but Obama's victory ensured the plan would proceed, with complex ramifications for insurers, employers, health-care providers and state governments.

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