In the news business, a year like 1990 could rightly be called "slow" in the state of Utah.

There were no major airplane crashes, no religiously motivated bombings and no natural disasters. Southern Utah did not secede, gambling was not legalized in Wendover, Utah, and Merrill Cook was not elected to anything.So, how slow was it? Consider this:

- Ballots were distributed to more than 100 Deseret News writers and editors, but only 30 were returned.

- Two of the top three Utah stories happened outside of Utah.

- One of the top 10 news stories was a sports story, for crying out loud.

It's sort of an annual ritual for newspeople to attach some order of importance to what they spent a great deal of their lives worrying about. The Deseret News asked each staff writer and editor to vote for the top 10 Utah stories of 1990. A No. 1 vote got 10 points, a No. 2 got nine points and so on.

Here are the results:

1. Operation Desert Shield hits home.

Iraq is roughly 8,000 miles from Utah, but the shock waves of Saddam Hussein's Aug. 2 invasion of neighboring Kuwait were felt strongly in the Beehive State, where about 1,900 Utah reservists have been called up to active duty.

The call-ups, which included the Army's 328th General Hospital and the 144th Medical Evacuation Unit, have left some Utah hospitals and law enforcement agencies short-handed.

On a more human angle, men and women were called away from their families during the holiday season, which has been dimmed by the threat of war.

2. Democrats gain in Utah's congressional races.

Bill Orton, a newcomer to Utah politics, decided to run as a Democrat in Utah County, a stronghold of the Republican Party. After Karl Snow beat favorite John Harmer in the Republican primary, Snow appeared to be headed for victory in replacing Rep. Howard Nielson, a Republican who had chosen not to seek re-election.

But the momentum shifted dramatically late in the campaign toward Orton, who was the target of a Snow campaign advertisement that criticized his unmarried status. In the final election, Orton defeated Snow by a 58-37 percent landslide.

In the 1st District, young Democrat Kenley Brunsdale, also a newcomer, lost by only a 52-44 percent margin to veteran incumbent Jim Hansen, a Republican.

3. Provo man murdered in New York subway.

Brian Watkins and his family, from Provo, were in New York City for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in early September. On the night of Sept. 2, they were waiting in the 52nd Street 7th Avenue subway station when they were mugged by a gang of youths looking for some money for entrance to a nearby dance club. As the youths attacked his mother, Watkins, 22, stepped in front of them and was fatally stabbed in the heart.

The murder made national headlines, bolstering fears that violence against innocent victims in the Big Apple is epidemic. The Watkins family has since filed notice to sue New York City for $100 million, claiming the city "failed to provide a safe place for the general riding public."

4. Florida girl dies in Challenger wilderness program.

Kristen Chase, 16, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was hiking June 27 on the Kaiparowits Plateau as part of her experience in the Challenger Foundation, a 63-day wilderness odyssey founded by Steve Cartisano, who swears the "therapy" works wonders on wayward youth. All through the hike, she complained of dizziness and then collapsed, never to regain consciousness.

The incident attracted national media attention and a multijurisdictional investigation, which turned up numerous allegations of child abuse, resulting in 10 misdemeanor charges - including negligent homicide - against Cartisano, who was later forced out of business.

5. Congress passes bill to compensate victims of 1950s atomic development and testing.

After decades of legal battles, Congress passed a bill in October that awards $100,000 to each uranium miner who developed cancer while working in the mines. The government failed to warn the miners of the potential risks. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, also awards $50,000 to cancer victims who lived downwind of above-ground atomic testing in Nevada.

6. BYU quarterback Ty Detmer wins the Heisman Trophy.

For the first time in the state's history, football's most coveted award was given to a Utah player, quarterback Ty Detmer, who led Brigham Young University to national rankings and first place in the Western Athletic Conference.

Detmer set an NCAA record 5,188 yards passing. He owns 42 NCAA records and has tied five more.

7. School prayer comes under fire by the ACLU.

Arguing prayer has no place in government-run schools, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the Granite and Alpine school districts, which, like most other districts in Utah, have always allowed prayer during graduation services.

8. Wildfire kills two men in Wasatch County.

Blake Wright, 39, and Ralph Broadhead, 65, lost their lives Aug. 26 while fighting the year's largest wildfire, which burned more than 2,900 acres of mountainous terrain near Midway, destroying 18 homes and causing more than $1 million damage.

9. Utah continues quest for 1998 Winter Games.

Salt Lake City's bid to host the 1998 Winter Olympics suffered a major setback when Atlanta was chosen to host the 1998 Summer Games. But Utah's Olympics organizers took cheer when they learned they would be the last of six cities to pitch their case to the International Olympics Committee in England next June.

10. The LDS Church grows worldwide and remains victim of violence in South America.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened eight new missions, including three in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, which were previously closed to proselyting. The church also added 11 new positions to its ranks of general authorities.

Violence against the church continued, however, in South America, where two missionaries, Manuel Antonio Hidalgo, 22, and Christian Andreani Ugarte, 21, both of Peru, were gunned down Aug. 22 in Huancayo, Peru.

Other stories receiving votes were: teachers get a 6-percent pay raise; former governors Scott Matheson and Herbert Maw die; less-than-normal precipitation falls for third year in a row; and Gov. Norm Bangerter announces he won't seek re-election.

The ballots were distributed before the Dec. 18 traffic accident in which seven people died when the Greyhound bus they were riding collided with an out-of-control semitrailer truck. Also not on the ballot was the Dec. 22 double homicide in Summit County.



Utah's Top 10

Deseret News editors and reporters voted the following stories the most important of 1990:

1. Operation Desert Shield (265 points).

2. Utah's congressional races (219).

3. Brian Watkins murdered in New York (152).

4. Girl dies in Challenger program (145).

5. Radiation victims compensated (142).

6. Ty Detmer wins Heisman Trophy (140).

7. School prayer comes under fire (113).

8. Wildfire kills two men in Wasatch County (68).

9. Utah suffers setback in race to host 1998 Olympics (61).

10. LDS Church grows, opens missions in communist countries and mourns the loss of two elders murdered in South America (59).


Associated Press picks Utah's Top 10

1. Operation Desert Shield.

2. 3rd District congressional race.

3. Ty Detmer wins Heisman.

4. Brian Watkins murdered in New York.

5. Radiation victims compensated.

6. School prayer comes under fire.

7. Gov. Scott Matheson dies.

8. Wildfire kills two men in Wasatch County.

9. Girl dies in Challenger program.

10. Controversy continues over cold fusion.