Friday 30 December 2011

My big five news stories of 2011

I've been reading a lot of end of year reviews these last few days, so I thought I should look back at some of the big stories of the year. I've decided to make a list of my top 5 stories.

In no particular order the big stories for me have been the revolutions that have swept through the Arab world this year. 2011 will be seen as an historical year in the Middle East, similar to that of 1989 with the collapse of communist governments all across Eastern Europe.

In Europe we've had the Euro crisis, which removed Prime Ministers in Italy and Greece, and is still threatening to break up the Euro altogether.

In the UK, we saw some of the worst riots in over 25 years. When I think back the event was truly shocking, it felt as if the police and the government had lost control and the mob had taken over.

Sticking with the UK, I've been following the phone hacking story for a few years now, but it really blew up in 2011. When I first heard about the story I could never imagine it would mean the end of the iconic news paper the News of the World.

And finally, it seems ages ago now, there was the huge earthquake and Tsunami in Japan in March. What made this story so big and poignant for me is that Japan is a hugely advanced and sophisticated society that was brought to its knees by this natural disaster. I read somewhere that this was Japan's equivalent of 9/11 - I thought that was a great comparison.

There's my big 5, of course there's so many more I could have mentioned, the death of Osama Bin Laden, The Royal Wedding, the 99% movement, there's been too many great stories.

Let me know your big stories of the year.

The Arab Spring

What's stood out about this year's revolutions in the Arab is that they're not the result of Islamic extremists, the revolutions have been driven by the people who want greater freedoms and democracy.

For me the most iconic and perhaps disturbing image that sums up the revolution was seeing Colonel Gaddafi's bloodied and battered body just before his death. He was the classic type of dictator that you thought would never lose power of Libya.

The Arab spring story has now moved onto Syria, which is now on the verge of civil war. It's hard to see how President Assad can return the country to it's pre 2011 state. The wind of change sweeping through the region can't be pushed back.

The Euro Zone Crisis

If the Euro Zone crisis has taught me anything its this. A lot of the old certainties and beliefs that many of us living in Western Europe have had are perhaps over.

I get the feeling that we all just believed that our economies would keep growing and as nations we would keep getting richer and more prosperous.

We all had stable democratic governments which gave us an advantage over other countries in the world. By uniting together in closer economic and political union would only make Europe richer and stronger.

Well how wrong we were.

Europe faces years of austerity, lack of economic growth, jobs for young people and a decline in living standards for millions. This wasn't how it was meant to be at all.

Europe's political leaders have let their people down. They promised and created growth with unsustainable levels of borrowing, and now the party's over.

We've seen financial markets lose confidence in the ability of leaders in Greece and Italy to impose measures to reduce their country's debts, and now the likes of Berlusconi have now been removed from office. Hardly democracy in action; what about the views of the people?

Many people in Europe and also in the UK are going to feel poorer and when you look at the likes of China, Brazil, and India it feels like Europe is in decline and our economic power won't be the same again.

The London riots

I remember turning on my tv on Monday night back in August and seeing the town of Croydon, South London appear to be on fire. I thought' "What is going on?'

There's a view that says rioting is the way of people who don't have a voice to protest. I do agree with this belief, I just don't accept that there was any political motivation in this year's London riots.

Much of it was pure criminality and people making the most of a 'once in a lifetime opportunity' to rob and cause havoc.

Even though I don't believe the rioters had a specific message to say, the riots have raised a number of issues. We have a whole swath of people in this country who have been marginalized and alienated to the point that they're almost living parallel lives to the rest of us.

Many of the people convicted for rioting offences already had previous criminal convictions, it's likely that most of them have few if no qualifications, and have rarely held down full time jobs.

People like this have nothing to lose and don't believe they have any stake in society, which explains why they're happy to destroy shops and buildings in their own communities.

They're are so many things that need to be done to prevent similar riots taking place again, but I'd like to think that as a country we won't sit back anymore and happily ignore a growing underclass that has no hope or aspiration - then be surprised when start they rioting like they did in August.

Phone Hacking/Leveson Inquiry

The phone hacking is one story that refuses to go away. It's been around now for the last few years, but 2011 was the year it really made a break through in the public's conscious.

I keep hearing the opinion that when phone hacking centered around hacking phones of celebrities, people weren't too bothered. They're celebrities it goes with the territory seems to have been the view.

That all changed when it was discovered that the families of murder victims like Milly Dowler were also targeted. When I first heard about that story I immediately thought the press (well the News of the World) had gone too far!

That revelation was even too much for the Murdoch's and the News of the World was closed after 168 years! I admit I always used to read the NoW. For all the good and bad things you can say about the paper, it was a great part of Britain's press and popular culture history.

In the aftermath of the hacking scandal we now have the Leveson inquiry looking into press standards and ethics.

It's still on going, but if you asked me what we've learned so far, it's that there's a nasty, cynical, and bullying aspect to our tabloid press that's become out of control. It's been there for a number of years now, but I don't think it's been put in the spotlight in quite this way.

Despite the behaviour of our tabloid press, I still have a huge passion for journalism and the important role it can play in society. We shouldn't let one specific form of journalism taint the entire profession.

The Japan Earthquake

I traveled to Japan 9 years ago towards the end of 2001, I went to visit my cousin who lives out there.

I found Japan the most interesting and fascinating place I've ever been to. I find that whenever something tragic happens like an earthquake disaster, if it happens somewhere you're familiar with or have knowledge of, the story can have an even greater impact on you.

This is how I felt with Japan's earthquake. Here was one of the world's richest and most advanced countries facing its worst crisis since the Second World War.

Earthquakes are a feature of everyday life in Japan and there are always minor tremors, but nobody was expecting anything like March's quake. If that wasn't bad enough, there was then the Tsunami and the leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Despite some of the more critical reports in the Western media, I thought the Japanese handled the crisis remarkably well, and have dealt with disaster in a very Japanese, quiet and dignified manner.

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