The epic election that made Barack Obama the first African-American president was the top news story of 2008 — followed closely by the economic meltdown that will test his leadership, according to U.S. editors and news directors voting in The Associated Press’ annual poll.
The campaign, with subplots emerging throughout the year, received 100 first-place votes out of 155 ballots cast for the top 10 stories.
Two other political sagas — the history-making candidacies of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — also made the list.
The vast economic crisis, plunging the U.S. into recession and ravaging many business sectors worldwide, was the No. 2 story, receiving 49 first-place votes. The precipitous rise and fall of oil prices was No. 3.
The top story of 2007 was the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University by a mentally disturbed student gunman.
Here are 2008’s top 10 stories, as voted by AP members:
_1. U.S. ELECTION: Obama emerged from Election Night as a decisive victor and a symbol for the world of America’s democratic promise. But he reached that point only after a grueling battle with Clinton for the Democratic nomination and then an often-nasty showdown with the McCain/Palin ticket in the run-up to the election.
_2. ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The bad news kept coming — collapses of Wall Street giants; huge stock market losses; plummeting home prices and a surge of foreclosures; desperate times for U.S. automakers. It added up to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and will cost the federal government well over $1 trillion in various rescue and stimulus packages.
_3. OIL PRICES: The global economic angst produced hyper-volatile energy markets. The price of crude soared as high as $150 a barrel in July before crashing to $33 this month. In the U.S., the average price for a gallon of regular gas peaked at $4.11, then plunged below $1.70.
_4. IRAQ: The much-debated “surge” of U.S. troops helped reduce violence after more than five years of war, but Iraq is still buffeted daily by bombings, ambushes, kidnappings and political uncertainty. A newly ratified U.S.-Iraqi security agreement sets a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal by 2012.
_5. BEIJING OLYMPICS: China hosted the Olympics for first time, drawing praise for logistical mastery and condemnation for heavy-handed security measures. The games themselves were rated a success, highlighted by the record-shattering performances of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt.