As we draw towards the end of another year, it's worth looking back on some truly momentous stories that dominated the UK media through 2010. (The charts of online news coverage, below, are all generated by Google Trends. They show only the timeline of each story as it developed and waned through 2010, they are not directly comparable to one another in terms of volume.)
1. Haitian earthquake
The earthquake which hit Haiti on 12 January claimed the lives of around a quarter of a million people and dominated headlines, creating a level of media coverage that was unmatched by any other single story during the year:
2. BP oil spill
The second biggest story of the year, dominating the summer months, was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which made a worldwide hate figure of BP CEO Tony Hayward whose botched handling of the crisis became almost as big a story as the natural disaster unfolding off the US coast.
3. The World Cup
England's poor performance in the World Cup provided plenty of ammo for the media as they filled pages with news from South Africa 2010 during the first half of June before tailing off during the latter, England-free stages of the competition.
The star of the World Cup, for the UK media at least, was undoubtedly the 'vuvuzela' a hitherto unheard of plastic trumpet which dominated both the airwaves and the lexicon of World Cup coverage. It speaks volumes of England's performance that the vuvuzela commanded more coverage than England captain Steven Gerrard during June 2010, as the following graph shows:
How the top three stories compare
The Haitian earthquake (blue line below) generated by far the greatest spike of news coverage although the greater longevity of the BP spill story (red line) in the minds of the media means it will have generated a greater volume cumulatively. The bulk of the BP spill coverage coincided almost exactly with the World Cup, though the latter event never managed the same spike of coverage as BP's natural disaster over the summer months.
4. Snow hits the UK
The British weather is the gift that keeps on giving for the UK media. Rolling news and pages upon pages of online and print coverage reliably informed us in both January and December of this year that winter is cold, ice is slippery and snow remains the Kryptonite of the transport network:
5. The General Election
A change of government, a coalition, an elderly "bigot"in Rochdale, the first ever televised leaders' debates and a questionable advert for 'tactical voting', the general election generated acres of media coverage in the Spring. But when a general election plays second fiddle in a list of the year's big news stories to snow, we have an answer to explain the low turnout at the polls:
6. The Pope visits the UK
The Pope's visit to the UK in September generated swathes of media coverage on everything from the tacky merchandise it inspired to the allegations of institutionalised child abuse within the Catholic church that it once again brought to the fore:
7. The Ash cloud
Travel disruption, stunning sunsets and a volcano nobody could pronounce (Eyjafjallajkull) made headline news for much of May. Airports across Europe ground to a halt for days on end as everybody in the media became an expert volcanologist:
9. The Apple iPad
The media's love affair with Apple gadgets reached a head in early 2010 when the iPad hit the shelves, sending editor's into a frenzy of multipage picture stories and SEO-driven iPad-inspired headlines:
The release of thousands of US government cables provided the media with an all-you-can-eat buffet of news all washed down with gallons of intrigue, insinuation and scandal around Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange: