Column: It’s not just Santa making a listWith 2011 coming to its inevitable end, publications both printed and digital are dedicating a lot of space to lists of things. The year-end list is a venerated tradition in the publishing business. Some will claim it dates back to Benjamin Franklin, the editor of one of this country’s first newspapers, who is believed to have published a list of the 10 best Founding Father sex scandals in the 1931 year-end issue of his Pennsylvania Gazette.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
With 2011 coming to its inevitable end, publications both printed and digital are dedicating a lot of space to lists of things.
The year-end list is a venerated tradition in the publishing business. Some will claim it dates back to Benjamin Franklin, the editor of one of this country’s first newspapers, who is believed to have published a list of the 10 best Founding Father sex scandals in the 1931 year-end issue of his Pennsylvania Gazette.
Some will argue that fact is entirely fabricated. But that’s for history to decide.
There are a few reasons to publish these kinds of lists. For one, human beings have notoriously short memories. How are we supposed to remember what music, movies or reality television feuds we most enjoyed in the previous 12 months if there is not a numerically ranked record of them to remind us?
More important, though, lists take up space at a time of year when journalists would really rather be Christmas shopping. Or singing carols. Or drinking egg nog. Or doing pretty much anything other than coming up with ideas for new stories. Journalists are lazy, after all, and the lazy writer has no better friend than the list.
In the past week alone I’ve seen lists of the best local music of 2011, the best video games, the best celebrity tweets and the best television shows, though the fact a list like that manages to exclude a televisual masterpiece like the wedding of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian seems to call into question its validity. There was no better work of fiction on TV in 2011.
One entertainment site I visit on occasion posted in just one day its lists of the biggest television disappointments of 2011, the best Saturday Night Live sketches of 2011 and the best on-screen couples of 2011. I can only imagine their list of the year’s most passionate televised animal kisses is upcoming.
Speaking of animals, perhaps the best year-end list I’ve seen so far in 2011 – we need more lists of the best year-end lists – focuses on the top 10 incidents of animals acting like jerks in 2011.
Animals get a free pass far too often. They cause trouble, but nobody calls them on it because they’re cute. Or because they taste delicious. Or because if we’re not nice to them they might bite our faces off. And that’s just the guinea pigs.
Consider, though, the bald eagles that played chicken in November with a Russian paraglider, knocking him out of the sky and sending him crashing through some trees. Or the antelope seen on video making like a linebacker and putting a hit on a mountain biker in Africa. Or, worst of all, the squirrel outside my house that I’m sure is plotting something against me. Nobody ever suspects the squirrels, but I know they’re up to something.
There are probably more lists to come in the days between now and the end of the year. It’s tradition. In fact, it’s probably one of my 10 favorite traditions. I’ll put together a list of the rest for you soon.