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‘Big’ news takes a while to sink in

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Still nine months to go and already a group of journalists have come up with a list of the top 100 news stories of the century.

The Newseum in Arlington, Va., polled 67 "prominent" journalists from around the country to get its list.It's not surprising to me that No. 1 is the atom bombs dropped to end World War II in 1945 or that No. 100 is the U.S. surgeon general's warning about smoking in 1964.

What is surprising to me is that journalists actually did this so far ahead of deadline.

A lot of the news stories on the list weren't exactly big news in the beginning.

When they first happened, people just kept filing their nails.

The No. 89-ranking story of the century, for instance, is Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run in 1927 to set a record that would last for 34 years.

But back then who knew it would last 34 years? In 1927 they didn't even know the stock market was going to fall.

When Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run, they figured he'd hit 61 the next year, 62 the next, and so on. The good times would never end. If you had polled sports fans in 1927 who would be the first to hit 70, Ruth or Mark McGwire, I'm betting they would have gone with Ruth. They also would have said, "Who's Mark McGwire?"

There are many similar stories on the list that only later on gained momentum.

How about No. 51: American scientists patent the computer chip, 1959?

Everybody knows there was no big commotion about computers in 1959, no stop-the-presses two-inch headlines.

In 1959, nobody believed they would ever be replaced by a micro-chip; 1969, either. Nobody thought computers would control bank accounts, grocery store inventory, airline flight timetables and tickets to Broadway plays. Even the people who patented the computer chip didn't think so. Otherwise, they would have programmed their chips so they would work past 1999, and the world wouldn't crash on Dec. 31 at midnight.

Also listed is "Sigmund Freud publishes 'The Interpretation of Dreams,' 1900."

So that's at No. 85? Hmmm. Wonder what Freud would say about that?

No. 19 is "Albert Einstein presents special theory of relativity, 1905." Yeah, right. Huge headline when that was released. Nobody else on Earth knew what he was talking about. Even now, 94 years later, only Stephen Hawkings is real sure.

This is a national list, so Utah, never considered a hotbed of national news, is not represented unless you want to count the fact that the atom bombs sent to Japan in 1945 left from an air base in Wendover. So we are No. 1, but do we want to be?

No real Utah angles in the rest of the top 10, though, which includes: 2. Man Walks on the Moon; 3. Pearl Harbor Bombed; 4. Wright Bros. Fly First Airplane; 5. Women Win the Vote; 6. President Kennedy Assassinated; 7. Holocaust Exposed; 8. World War I Begins; 9. Brown v. Board of Education Ends Segregation; 10. Stock Market Crashes.

It's been one competitive century for news; the list says that loud and clear. Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic only placed 30th, the Titanic not making it across the Atlantic comes in at 36th, the San Francisco Earthquake is just 68th and the fall of the Berlin Wall a mere 27th, a spot ahead of the debut of TV.

Watergate? Way back in 67th. Lewinsky-Clinton? A paltry 53rd. Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus placed ahead of that, at 47th.

The names of the 67 journalists whose opinions collectively formed the top 100 were not given, but whoever they are, they clearly aren't fans of modern news. Only 11 stories from the 1980s and 1990s made the top 100, and only five of those cracked the top 50.

Mark McGwire hitting 70 home runs in 1998 isn't anywhere to be seen.

Probably because he's getting ready to hit 71 this year.

Send e-mail to (benson@desnews.com), fax 801-237-2527. Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.