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STORIES OF THE CEENTURY
1900    2000
[[image: photo of the Titanic]]
[[caption: Movie magic? Titanic ranked high, at No. 13; under-35s ranked it even higher, at No. 11.

[[image: black & white photograph of President Lyndon Johnson and Jaqueline Kennedy]]
[[caption: JFK's death is No. 5, while the 1958 famine that killed 20 million in China is No. 97]]

[[image: black & white photograph of Martin Luther King Jr.]]
[[caption: King's "I have a Dream" speech, No. 38 overall, was a top-5 pick among black voters.]]

[[image: color photograph of President Clinton]]
[[caption: The invention of Plastic (No. 28) ranked ahead of the Clinton impeachment (No. 31).

The public's top 100 stories (overall)
Rank    News event
1  U.S. drops atomic bomb (1945)
2  Japan bombs Pearl Harbor (1941)
3  Men first walk on the moon (1969)
4  Wrights fly first airplane (1903)
5  JFK assassinated (1963)
6  Antibiotic penicillin discovered (1928)
7  U.S. women win righ to vote (1920)
8  U.S. stock market crashes (1929)
9  New polio vaccine works (1953)
10 DNA's structure discovered (1953)
11 Nazi Holocaust exposed (1945)
12 Einstein conceives relativity (1905)
13 "Unsinkable" Titanic sinks (1912)
14 Ford creates assembly line (1913)
15 World War I begins (1914)
16 Berlin Wall falls (1989)
17 Computer chip patented (1959)
18 Deadly AIDS identified (1981)
19 Lindbergh flies Atlantic solo (1927)
20 Radio signal spans Atlantic (1901)
21 Soviet Union Dissolves (1991)
22 World Wide Web invented (1989)
23 Allies invade France on D-Day (1944)
24 U.S. celebrates V-E Day (1945)
25 ENIAC: world's first computer (1946)
26 Roe vs. Wade legalizes abortion (1973)
27 Official U.S. debut of TV (1939)
28 Plastic revolutionizes products (1909)
29 Birth-control pill OK'd by FDA (1960)
30 Court ends "separate but equal" (1954)
31 President Clinton impeached (1998)
32 Scientists invent transistor (1948)
33 Martin Luther King Jr. slain (1968)
34 Congress OKs Civil Rights Act (1964)
35 U.S. enters World War I (1917)
36 Communists take over Russia (1917)
37 U.S. radio broadcasts begin (1909)
38 King delivers "Dream" speech (1963)
39 President Nixon resigns (1974)
40 Panama Canal opens (1914)
41 Germany invades Poland (1939)
42 FDR's New Deal begins (1933)
43 Shuttle Challenger explodes (1986)
44 Shepard first American in space (1961)
45 Silent Spring warns of eco-danger (1962)
46 World's nations form U.N. (1945)
47 Scientists clone sheep (1997)
48 Soviets launch first satellite ( 1957)
49 World War I ends (1918)
50 Gagarin first man in space (1961)

51 Israel achieves statehood (1948)
52 U.S.-licensed TV begins (1941)
53 U.S. tests atomic bomb (1945)
54 Robert F. Kennedy slain (1968)
55 Hitler named chancellor (1933)
56 Flu epidemic kills 20 million (1918)
57 Glenn first American in orbit (1962)
58 Gates, Allen start Microsoft (1975)
59 Robinson integrates baseball (1947)
60 U.S. troops leave Vietnam (1973)
61 Quantum theory proposed (1900)
62 Secret project to make A-bomb (1942)
63 Interstate highways approved (1945)
64 GI Bill of Rights approved (1945)
65 U.S. escalates Vietnam War (1965)
66 Gandhi stars non-violent reform (1920)
67 First "test-tube baby" born (1978)
68 World crisis over Cuba missiles (1962)
69 Quake, fire devastate San Francisco(1906)
70 Apartheid ends in South Africa (1993)
71 Apple II first mass-market PC (1977)
72 Beatles tour USA (1964)
73 Alabama bus boycott begins (1955)
74 Scopes trial: creation v. evolution(1925)
75 First jet plane takes off (1939)
76 Hitler launches Kristallnacht (1938)
77 FDR defeats President Hoover (1932)
78 Marshall Plan unveiled (1947)
79 Pathfinder sends Mars photos (1997)
80 Friedan sparks women's rights (1963)
81 Babe Ruth hits 60 homers (1927)
82 U.S. warns of smoking hazards (1964)
83 Churchill leads Great Britain (1940)
84 NATO established (1949)
85 Chernobyl nuke plant explodes (1986)
86 Berlin Wall does up (1961)
87 Mao starts communist China (1949)
88 Watergate engulfs Nixon (1973)
89 Gorbachev begins "glasnost" (1985)
90 Freud interprets dreams (1900)
91 Airlift saves Berlin (1948)
92 U.S. defends South Korea (1950)
93 Soviet famine to kill 25 million (1928)
94 U.S. rejects League of Nations (1920)
95 Standard Oil trust busted (1911)
96 Congress passes voting act (1965)
97 China famine to kill 20 million (1958)
98 Riots at Democratic convention (1968)
99 North Vietnam takes Saigon (1975)
100 Gulf of Tonkin resolution OK'd (1964)

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Top 5 stories for black voters
1. JFK assassination
2. MLK assassination
3. School desegregation
4. King's "I have a Dream" speech
5. Hiroshima
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younger generation experiences history through film and photographs," says historian Goodwin. "The images sear into their hearts and minds."

Younger voters and people of color ranked civil rights stories high; older voters and white voters ranked them lower. "They're saying, "this affected me directly in a way that the atomic bomb, as significant as it is, doesn't.'" says Julian Bond, a lecturer author and chairman of the NAACP. School desegregation finished a surprisingly distant 30th on the public's overall list. That doesn't make the story less important to those who voted for it.

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Top 5 stories for journalists
1. Hiroshima
2. First moonwalk
3. Pearl Harbor
4. Wright brothers
5. Women get vote
[/red box]]


Public agrees with journalists

In this era of media-bashing, it is perhaps the most surprising of all to learn that the survey respondents tend to agree with, of all people, journalists. For better or worse, America's public and its journalists share cultural values. Earlier this year, a panel of journalists and historians selected a list of top 100 stories, which became the ballot for the public's vote.

For the top stories of the century, journalists chose:
1. The A-bomb
2. The first moonwalk
3. The attack on Pearl Harbor.
4. The Wright brothers' first flight.
5. Women winning the vote.
6. The JFK assassination.
7. The Holocaust.
8. World War 1.
9. School desegregation.
10. The 1929 stock market crash.

The public agreed with seven of
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those 10 choices. The Holocaust, World War I and school desegregation didn't rank in the public's top 10.

Another story the public had its own opinion on: President Clinton's impeachment. The public made it No. 31, while journalists ranked it 22 places lower, at No. 53. Clinton himself objected to being ranked on the journalists' list behind the invention of plastics (No. 46). Tongue in cheek, he asked: "What does a guy have to do to make the top 50?"

[[red box]]
Top 5 stories for people under age 35
1. First moonwalk
2. Hiroshima
3. JFK assassination
4. Wright brothers
5. Pearl Harbor
[/red box]]

 "Events gain or lose significance the further we get from them," notes Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel. "The challenge for the journalist - the person writing the first rough draft of history - is to try to capture that significance on deadline."

[[red box]]
Top 5 stories for people age 55 and over
1. Pear Harbor
2. Hiroshima
3. Wright brothers
4. Penicillin
5. First moonwalk
[/red box]]

Journalists look for stories that symbolize trends or turning points. Syndicated political columnist Jules Witcover of the Baltimore Sun, for example, sees the major story of the millennium, for the nation and the world, as not a single event but a running story: the "victory of freedom over totalitarianism."

Will historians agree?

The debate over the most influential stories itself is illuminating. It shows what Mitchell Stephens, a New York University journalism professor and author of A History of News, calls "the strange quality of news." Journalists favor the famous, the bizarre, the close-to-home - leaving it to historians to sort out the big picture later. That can cause us to expect the story of one person's death to dominate the front page, when that person is JFK (No. 5), and at the same time cause us to react slowly, if at all, to the deaths of 20 million victims of a secret famine in China (No. 97). 

What is considered momentous today may not necessarily land in the history books. In centuries to come, notes Stephens, "It's entirely possible historians will look back and consider the top story of the 20th century something that is not on anyone's list right now."

Even historians today disagree. For example, Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, concurs with the overall vote naming the dropping of the atomic bomb as the top story. "War, famine, disease, racism...they are as old as time. The nuclear bomb was new. We could blot up the planet."

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Top 5 stories for people ages 25-54
1. Hiroshima
2. First moon walk
3. Pearl Harbor
4. JFK assassination
5. Wright brothers
[/red box]]

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. of New York believes Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon was the most important because it is what "we will most remember 500 years from now."

Says Stephens, "News doesn't happen in scientific laboratories. It happens in people's minds. One person's drama is another person's dud."

Personal drama dictated the vote of Rachael Morrow, 24, of Springfield, Mo. "My parents were married the same month Americans walked on the moon," she says. "It's something they always talked about. For me, it redefined the possible. It defines the human spirit."
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ERIC NEWTON, The Newseum's news historian says Hiroshima was the 20th century's top story of the next century. His latest book, Crusaders, Scoundrels, Journalists, will be published by Times Books in January.


ON DISPLAY AT THE NEWSEUM
Look for a Stories of the Century exhibit at the Newseum, the interactive museum of news in Arlington, Va. It will run Jan. 20-March 6.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ON PAGE 6
USA WEEKEND magazine commissioned activist-artist Barbara Kruger to create a special image for the Stories of the Century poll results. A retrospective of Kruger's work is now in Los Angeles as the Geffen Contemporary branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and travels to New York in February.

What will be the top stories of the 21st century?
Technology will transform our lives
"Life spans will extend childbirth at 50 and even 60 will be common. Many will have three or four careers as well as at least one chapter as full-time parent and another as philanthropist."
[[image: photo of Candice Carpenter]]
[[caption: Candice Carpenter, co-founder and CEO, iVillage.com


The United States will have a new face

"Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, African Americans and European immigrants (e.g., Armenians) will alter the classic 'American character; and give the USA a new type of American."
-- Fernando M. Torres-Gil, associate dean and professor, UCLA School of Public Policy


Medicine will create moral dilemmas

"The big stories of the 21st century will have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the changes in health and technology and the moral decision humans will be confronted with having to do with life and death."
-- Cokie Roberts, ABC News correspondent and USA WEEKEND contributing editor.

The divorce rate will drop

"By adjusting our expectations of the opposite sex, men and women will achieve greater intimacy and happiness, thus strengthening the family unit."
-- John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

First black president will be elected

"In the past 100 years, African Americans have made tremendous strides to become full partners in society. It's just a question of the right person running for office."
-- Robert Johnson, founder and president, Black Entertainment Television

Programs for old will threaten economy

"As more than 70 million baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare, these programs will run operating deficits in the trillions of dollars, imperiling the entire economy."
-- Richard Thau, president, Generation X think tank Third Millennium
-- Evelyn Poitevent

CLICK ON THE WEB
Visit the Newseum Stories of the Century site at www.newseum.org

USA WEEKEND * Dec. 24-26, 1999       11
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