For the press and audiences alike, the BP oil spill stands out as the year’s biggest story. There was a lot of competition, as the Obama White House pushed through sweeping reforms that riled citizen groups and state governments. A sputtering economy had us stuck on many fronts, from finding a job to foreclosing on a home. A midterm election year intensified the nose-to-nose politicking, although the bickering in America at times paled in comparison to European strikes in response to austerity measures — which helped to make “austerity” a word of the year.
Extreme weather and natural disasters brought life to a standstill throughout the world. Manmade disasters, beyond BP’s, also inflicted their toll on the nation’s confidence in workplace standards and technological prowess. In a troubled year, though, survivor stories stood out all the more, especially that of 33 miners who emerged after a record 68 days, a triumphant testimony to a country’s single-minded devotion to its workers.
Sports was a consistent highlight in 2010, which started off right with the Olympics and continued through with the World Cup. Quirkier moments sometimes proved more irresistible than scores, like the cigar-smoking Tiger Woods bystander who became an instant Web celebrity. And in pop culture, everything from red carpet triumphs to unexpected farewells captured attention. One more time, let us look back at the Yahoo! News stories that resonated most in 2010.
• Haiti earthquake: The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck January 12, crippling a nation already dealing with poverty and corruption.
• Golden Globes: Yes, Sandra Bullock won best dramatic access for “The Blind Side,” but really, that dress? Good thing you can always rely on Halle Berry.
• Olympics. The drama wasn’t all restricted to Canadian slopes. In “the moment you weren’t supposed to hear,” NBC cameras caught coach Bud Keene giving a potty-mouthed pep talk to Shaun White. White won and NBC announcers apologized.
• Chile earthquake: A scant six weeks after Haiti’s temblor, Chile suffered a quake so powerful, it may have shortened the planet’s day by a microsecond. About 500 died, yet the country’s building standards, compared to Haiti’s, were deemed a success.
• Oscars. Kathryn Bigelow made awards history winning Best Director, and she also elbowed aside her ex as “The Hurt Locker” won for best pic. But again, just what were people wearing?
• Secret millionaire. When you live through a true depression, you know how to save. Readers were fascinated by the largesse — and kindness — of frugal secretary Grace Croner, who died at 100 and bequeathed an investment worth $7 million to her alma mater.
• iPhone 4 leak. So an engineer walks into a bar … OK, OK, readers wanted to go right to the punchline and find out who found the not-yet-released iPhone 4 and sold it to gadget blog Gizmodo. Brian Hogan, outed by his roommate, offered his regrets through his lawyer. The leak helped to inflame an already obsessive frenzy.
• Gulf oil spill. The April 20 explosion of the BP-leased oil rig was the year’s worst manmade disaster. Frustration and fascination drew people to understand the science behind the fixes (and failures), as well as a Katrina-haunted political fallout that threatened to consume Obama.
• Gary Coleman dies. Kidney disease gave Coleman his blessing and his curse: Medication had stymied his growth and made him a perpetual child star for TV fans, even as he grew into a man with adult-sized problems. His death at 42, brought on by a brain hemorrhage, shocked his Gen-X followers.
• Facebook woes. The more we couldn’t do without it, the more we fretted about its fitful changes. A furor over privacy started the social networking site’s tumultuous year. Even as more befriended the site (and watched its origin myths unfold on the big screen), many wanted to know how to tread carefully. But all could be forgiven if its founder proved contrite — and if manning up could make him Time’s Person of the Year.
• World Cup. Not just a tournament of nations but a cultural tour de force, the event gave the world a summer break, with some sideline distractions. Many took the time to mourn with one of South Africa’s greats: Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old granddaughter died in a car accident after a World Cup concert.
• Huge sinkhole. Sinkholes are more common then you might think. Yet the massive one that cracked open in Guatemala — 66 feet wide and 100 feet deep — appealed both for its aesthetic symmetry as well as for its miraculously scant damage: Only a clothing factory suffered.
• The LeBron sweepstakes. A $5 garage sale find made for a feel-good story when VaNeisha Robinson found that the LeBron jersey pendant was worth $10,000. That was before the original owner accused her of theft and Robinson filed a lawsuit. Then again, anything to do with the basketball player, who left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, brought out the haters: He even got booed at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding.
• Tiny-house man: In a downsized era, people were heartened by former grocery store clerk Jay Shafer’s love for his mortgage-free 8 x 12 foot home Tumbleweed, and how it launched small living.
•Emmys. Once again, in a competition that’s decided by insiders, the readers weighed in on the sartorial standoff.
•Michelle Obama’s vacation. Hugging the Queen may have been a diplomatic misstep, but an overseas trip to Spain caused a few news writers to bash the First Lady for a Marie Antoinette move.
• Venus Williams dress. Kim Clijsters and Rafael Nadal won the U.S. Open, but Venus Williams’s pink, sequinned dress distracted the spectators and maybe the lady herself.
• What not to say when you’re pulled over. Chatting with a cop can be awkward, but MarketWatch kindly gave etiquette tips.
• Chile mine rescue. How to describe the most moving moment in 2010, when 33 miners, buried underground for more than two months, rode the Phoenix capsule to freedom? Like the moon landing, people around the world stopped to witness the miners’ emergence, and closely followed their celebration and gifts– down to the Oakley sunglasses.
• Ryder Cup miss. A lucky shot by a Daily Mail photograph captured Tiger Woods hitting a ball straight at the camera. That optical illusion, though, was upstaged by instant meme-in-the-making Cigar Guy, revealed to be Rupesh Shingadia, a 30-year-old London investment analyst dressed as golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez.
• Midterm elections. The last time one party lost the House but kept the Senate was during the Great Depression. A “chastened” Obama promised compromise, but he viewed the “shellacking” as voter impatience with process more than with policy.
• Black Friday deals. Could Santa save the economy? Well, not quite, but people sought out hot buys and leaked tips, triggering a season of “solid sales.”
• Man behind the WikiLeaks: Julian Assange dropped secret dispatches from wars, but those diplomatic cables really put him in the spotlight. Revelations were plentiful, but the light burned bright on Assange himself, who didn’t exactly keep mum.
• NFL sidelines trip. Astroturf became the kindergarten sandbox when New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi deliberately tripped Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll.
• A time-lapse decade: Just in time for Old Man Time to make way for Baby New Year, a viral video surfaced of a girl named Natalie from birth to age 10, testimony to a dedicated father’s love.
–Senior Editor Vera H-C Chan is the editorial lead for Yahoo! Year in Review, and she is beat after 2010. Her writings can be found throughout Yahoo!, including her Shine blog Fast Talking Dame. Follow the Dame on Twitter.