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It's the economy, stupid: Pew unveils top news stories of 2011

The end of any year is not complete without the seemingly never-ending rollout of lists ranking everything from the best-reviewed movies to the worst performing hedge funds. While many are pointless, it is worth noting, as 2011 draws to a close, what news stories were the most popular - and what that says about contemporary culture.

After culling through headlines, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in 2011 the number one story in the American news media was - drum roll, please - the tepid U.S. economy . Pew researchers found that coverage of the economy actually increased substantially compared to 2010, when it still commanded the top position.

Americans were also captivated by events elsewhere around the globe this year, with coverage of the political unrest that enveloped the Middle East ranking as 2011's second most popular story. The 2012 presidential election was the year's third most popular topic among news providers, followed by the devastation left by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that battered Japan in March.

The May 1 killing of Osama bin Laden came next on the list, with Gabrielle Giffords' shooting, Afghanistan and Europe 's sovereign debt crisis taking the sixth, seventh and eighth places, respectively. The Obama Administration and healthcare rounded out the rankings.

To compile the rankings, researchers mined data from more than 46,000 stories published between January 1 and December 11, and analyzed trending topics on social media networks. One of the only significant differences between the 2010 and 2011 rankings was the precipitous uptick in international news coverage.

Even so, the economy remains the most pressing and newsworthy issue to Americans in the lead up to next year's presidential elections, which is surprising - and strangely refreshing - given how frequently Charlie Sheen's seemed to appear in headlines this year.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.