Every year end, many journalists cannot escape wondering what the news of the year is. This time of the year is upon us again. I am a non-believer in the concept of news of the year, or person of the year, for the following reasons, however.
The notion of news of the year entails a belief that we can all agree on a common priority as to what is important – which is very presumptuous. Nay. If you are a South Korean, the news of the year 2022 will most probably be that of the tragic stampede in Seoul’s Itaewon district, which led to 156 deaths.
If you are a Briton, it could be the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. If you are a Ukrainian, it would most certainly be the Russian invasion and how resilient Ukrainians are fighting back against a much bigger enemy. Well, if you are a Russian, it could be a year of reclaiming some of the historic Slavic lands in Ukraine or how Russia is becoming an international pariah, depending on your political viewpoint. What about if you are an Argentinian? Well, winning the FIFA World Cup Championship sounds like the definitive news of the year.
In Thailand, candidates for news of the year are plenty, depending on what you accord importance to and according to your social milieu and ideological inclination.
How about the return of normalcy after COVID-19? What about Thailand welcoming back 10 million travelers? Or the tragic sinking of HTMS Sukhothai with six confirmed dead and 23 still missing accompanied by tales of a lack of adequate life vest for all its crews?
The decriminalization of marijuana for medical purposes and its resultant use for recreational purposes could also be the news of the year. If you are a royalist, the sudden illness of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha last week, who remains unconscious, must be news of the year. If you are critical of the lese majeste law and want monarchy reform or more, 2022 is a year of continued widespread prosecutions of those charged with insulting the monarchy. For an environmentalist, maybe the news of the year is how 2022 is the start of the mainstreaming of elective vehicles in Thailand.
However, if you happened to be a homeless person in Bangkok, maybe there is no news of the year at all while the persons of the year may be the generous people who thought about your hardship and drop by near your area to offer you free hot meals week after week.
That we cannot and should not agree on what the news of the year is or who the person of the year is as it is an acknowledgement that the world we live in is diverse and composed of people who have different interests, worldview, concerns, and priorities in life.
The realization that we may have different priorities in life, even within our respective societies, beg us to be more curious, empathetic, and get outside our social milieu, outside our comfort zone and transcend our own worldview. It is to acknowledge that what we think is important may not be irrelevant to others.
In the end, it is a case of “tell me what you think is the news of the year or the person of the year and I will tell you who you are.”