It's 1989, and judging by the lists of top 10 stories we published last week, 1988 was a sobering and reflective year.
Putting together a "top 10" anything is risky. We do it every day, ranking stories according to importance and impact, then weighing their relationship with other stories either available or anticipated at press time. It's a little risky deciding at 6 a.m. what you, the reader, may be reading about or watching by 6 p.m. There are always surprises. Breaking news knows no bounds.So it should be no surprise that the wire services, and others, who compile the "top 10" ballots get caught by a "December surprise" or two. Top 10 stories ought to run in January, after the December surprises are past and weighed with the surprises of January and July.
This past month we've witnessed the Armenian quake, Gorbachev's visit and hasty departure, President-elect Bush's Cabinet choices, the Pan Am disaster and Yassir Arafat's overture to the United States.
Locally, it's been the Chill of '88, the Singer-Swapp convictions, Frank Layden and the Jazz, and the Top Gun bandit, just to mention a few.
Therefore, it's not hard to understand why a top 10 list lasts about a week. The closer an event is to the actual balloting, the more likely it gets noticed. Is it any wonder movie makers hold their "Oscar" films until late in the year?
The calendar year change gives us time to look back and look forward, and also several weeks to learn to scrawl 1989 on our checks. The look back at 1988 was recorded last week, so allow me to take you ahead to 1989 and what you can look forward to:
- President Bush. The most anticipated event is the first 100 days of the Bush term starting Jan. 20. Traditionally, Congress lets the new president set his agenda on such things as budget and appointments. After the three-month "honeymoon" watch for the special interest groups to start squawking about proposed policies, or policies that are not being enforced.
- Anniversary anything. Watch for stories that have their basis 10, 20, 25, 50 or 100 years ago. That means we'll see and hear a lot about the events of 1979, 1969, 1964, 1939 and 1889. Reflect on those years - the Iran hostages, man on the moon, LBJ's "Great Society, " Hitler and "the State of Deseret."
- Seasonal offerings. You can bet by April we'll be writing about spring thaw and flooding in the South and Midwest. Also anticipate an update on the Utah water year and the spring flooding - or lack thereof. By late summer it will be forest fires, the start of a new fiscal year and teacher strikes.
- Political fun and games. Will Congress stop its 50 percent pay hike? What issue awaits the Utah Legislature? Will Utahns get to deduct federal income tax this year? The 101st Congress will be with us for two years; the Legislature just 45 days, plus assorted "special sessions." Oh yeah, a lot of the Legislature's handiwork takes effect July 1.
- Internationally, terrorism and the Middle East promise to be hot topics all year. There's an uneasy Israeli political alliance and growing pressure on the Jewish state from Arafat and internal unrest, not to mention from the United Nations. Gorbachev's reforms will keep both Soviets and Americans wondering if he can really teach the old Bear to dance to a modern tune .
- Elsewhere, crushing debt in both the Third World and in the United States will keep bankers and economists wary about spending and savings. The words "inflation" and "recession" will return to our vocabulary. Look also for "trade" and "deficit" to gain. Japan, Canada the the European Community will figure prominently.
Latin America could flare anew, as could South Africa, but the sleeping giants of Asia - China and India - may awaken. Also don't discount the Philippines or the Marcoses, either, and there's always Iran, Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
I won't prognosticate about specific events - I'll leave that to the tabloid psychics - except to say that by this time next year, there are bound to be several December surprises that didn't make the Top 10 stories of 1989.