The Daily Planet’s top ten stories of 2008

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It’s been quite a year in the Twin Cities, and the Daily Planet has been on the scene. With the help of our media partners and our tireless citizen journalists, in 2008 we published over 10,000 articles, blog entries, photos, and event listings. When we saw that the Minnesota Independent had tallied their top ten most-read articles for the year, we were inspired to check the stats and see what articles Daily Planet readers found most fascinating in 2008.

10. “As Ethiopia boils, Minnesota’s Ethiopians feel the heat” (Douglas McGill, TC Daily Planet, 7/8)

This year, veteran journalist Doug McGill probed into a number of issues concerning African-Minnesotan communities. This article featured comments from several African immigrants who are critical of the Ethiopian government’s attempts to “silence all opposition,” in the words of Robsan Itana. Many readers praised McGill’s reporting—“you are a voice for those who are voiceless,” wrote one—but a few argued that the government’s position was not adequately represented. “This is more Oromo propaganda,” wrote one reader who dismissed the article as “nonsense.” [Ed. note: The Ethiopian government’s human rights abuses have been documented by Human Rights Watch, and political exiles report that the Ethiopian government has operatives working within the United States whose jobs include attending forums, spying on human rights advocates, and defending the Ethiopian government in letters to the editor and comment sections.]

9. “RNC Welcoming Committee orders tasers for every protestor” (RNC Welcoming Committee, 3/13)

When the St. Paul City Council approved the police department’s request for 234 tasers, the RNC Welcoming Committee—one of the highest-profile groups organized to protest the Republican National Convention—bit back with a satirical press release announcing the organization’s intention to equip each of its members with one of the weapons. “The Welcoming Committee has no plans,” they noted, “to purchase machine guns, rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, concussion grenades, batons, water cannons or helicopters, all of which will be at the disposal of local police and federal agents in September.”

8. “The Big Lie being spread about EFCA” (Bill McCarthy, Minneapolis Labor Review, 7/29)

“The EFCA is about empowering workers,” writes Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. McCarthy’s argument for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of federal legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions, struck a nerve, provoking many comments—most of which were critical of McCarthy’s perspective. “EFCA would give bad unions the ability to walk over any employer or employees they wanted to,” argued one reader. Another reader pointed to the bigger picture: “Unions or no unions, manufacturers are still closing down.”

7. “New Sanctuary Movement emerging among churches near and far” (Anna Pratt, Minnesota Independent, 8/5)

Anna Pratt writes about churches’ efforts to give sanctuary to those without citizenship. Though houses of worship are not legally off-limits to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, ICE officials have said they wouldn’t enter the churches. “The mission of the church is to support and do what we can for those in need,” a parishioner of Risen Savior Catholic Church in Burnsville told Pratt. “If the church won’t stand up for people who are trying to make a better life, who will?”

6. “Ethiopian official defects to U.S., decries Anuak genocide” (Douglas McGill, TC Daily Planet, 6/24)

In another high-interest story about Ethiopia, McGill talks with Obang Oman, an Ethiopian government official who came to the U.S. as part of an official delegation attempting to convince members of the Anuak tribe that it’s safe to return to Africa. Oman, however, took the opportunity to defect, recanting his remarks about conditions in Ethiopia being safe and secure. He described those remarks as “lies” made under threats against his life.

5. “Imagine a pro-vagina world” (Shannon Drury, Minnesota Women’s Press, 5/1)

“No more nicey-nice,” sighs Shannon Drury in this opinion piece noting the harsh criticism faced by women who defend their right to take gender into account when evaluating presidential candidates. “Is wanting a woman to run the show selfish?” asks Drury. “Yes. I acknowledge that it is. So is wanting 50 percent of the members of Congress and at least three more Supreme Court justices to be women.” A flurry of impassioned comments followed. “Well,” commented one reader, “if we could just elect Hillary’s vagina and not the rest of her, that would be fine with me.”

4. “Rising food costs, gas prices raise inflation fears” (Lee Egerstrom, Minnesota 2020, 2/24)

Lee Egerstrom’s report painted a broad picture of the ailing national economy, but it was the telling details that really brought the point home to our readers. “What used to be a dozen cookies in a package may now only be six cookies,” Maplewood grocer Rich Horvath told Egerstrom. “The price doesn’t seem too bad until you figure out at the end of the month what you’ve paid for groceries.”

3. “An Ethiopian politician on the stump in Minnesota” (Douglas McGill, TC Daily Planet, 8/5)

With opposition rallies being banned in Ethiopia, what’s a politician to do when he wants to criticize the ruling party? He travels to Minnesota, where he can speak his mind freely. “We are ruled by a dictator who wants to cheat the U.S. and Europe by saying he is trying to democratize the country,” Bulcha Demeska told attendees at a U of M human rights conference. “But he is not trying to democratize at all. He is suppressing the nation brutally, and he is suppressing difference of opinion.” As with McGill’s other reports on Ethiopian politics, this one drew critical comments. “You are a very sad reporter,” commented one reader. “If you have been in Ethiopia and knew what the terrorist OLF is up to you wouldn’t have written such crap.” [Ed. note: McGill has been to Ethiopia.] Others praised McGill. “If this regime has nothing to hide,” asked a reader, “why does it not let international media into trouble areas?”

2. “A jubilant election night show by Bob Dylan” (Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet, 11/5)

Bob Dylan fans all over the world—and there are a lot of them—were jealous of those of us who were able to attend Dylan’s performance in his native state on the night of this year’s historic presidential election. As we learned via hundreds of text messages that Barack Obama had won the presidency, Dylan made some remarks that everyone seems to have heard a little differently—but the gist was this: “I was born in 1941. That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I’ve been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now.”

1. “Police break down doors in nighttime raid on anarchist meeting” (Mary Turck, TC Daily Planet, 8/30)

As the RNC approached, our readers anticipated a strong show of force by the police—and they expected that the Daily Planet would be there to tell the story. They weren’t disappointed. Mary Turck’s scoop on the police’s preemptory raid attracted national attention. Alderman Dave Thune summed up the general reaction: “This isn’t how we do things in St. Paul.”


Jay Gabler is associate editor of the Daily Planet.