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That Darn List! The Top 10 TV News Events

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Bernard Shaw and Peter Arnett from Baghdad in 1991.

When I finished the All-TIME 100 TV Shows list, I had so much leftover list-making energy that I came up with a sidebar list of 10 influential TV news events. The editors of time.com decided that was one more bell and/or whistle than the package needed. But waste not, want not: I give you the list here.

The idea: it’s not a list of the most important news events of the TV era. It’s a list of those news events in which TV was especially influential, or that were especially influential on TV. In chronological order, unless I screwed the chronology up:

The Army-McCarthy Hearings (1954). The first nationally televised congressional hearings lanced the boil of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anticommunist witch hunt.

The Nixon-Kennedy Debates (1960). Vice President Richard Nixon forswore makeup to debate the youthful Sen. John F. Kennedy. Ever since, would-be chief executives knew that appearances mattered.

The JFK Assassination (1963). The medium carried the country from shock to mourning and to a shocking denouement, as Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV.

The Moon Landing (1969). One small step for a man, one giant shift in perspective for mankind. At least for a while.

The Nixon-Frost Interviews (1977). The Watergate hearings were dramatic and Nixon’s resignation traumatic, but this cat-and-mouse game was one of the TV’s greatest moments of psychological theater.

The Iran Hostage Crisis (1979-81). The standoff dominated an election, and the marathon coverage launched one of TV’s greatest news programs, Nightline.

CNN’s Gulf War coverage (1991). The dramatic audio from the al-Rashid Hotel showed that cable–for better or worse–would be able to go wherever news was, and cover it in real time.

The Rodney King Beating and Riots (1991-92). The most notorious of citizen videos shocked Americans, as did the mayhem that followed when the jury did not believe what we’d seen with our own eyes.

The OJ Chase and Trial (1994-95). The bizarre chase and trial bared America’s racial divisions, ran from tragedy (the Goldmans) to villainy (Mark Fuhrman’s recorded racism) to comedy (Kato Kaelin), and defined the modern media circus.

The Sept. 11 Attacks (2001). Virtually all of TV was dominated by the tragedy, and the cable-news “zipper,” improvised that morning, became a symbol of a nervous nation desperate for–and agitated by–information.

Now, your nominations. But there’s a catch! For each news event you want to add to the list, you have to nominate one to delete. (They ain’t making new digits between 1 and 10, folks.) So tell me: what’s news to you?

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