The media love anniversaries.
At worse, they're a lazy way to generate copy. Predictable in a way real news isn't. And they attract the built-in interest of anyone who was around when the original event occurred.
Since Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S., we can expect a spate of stories over the next decade or so about things that happened in the 1960s and 70s.
Those tumultuous decades have all the elements for a steady stream of anniversary stories keyed around themes like "where were you when it happened?" (e.g., the Kennedy assassination) or "look what's happened -- or not -- since."
Today's front page story in the New York Times is a perfect example of the latter and anniversary wrting at its best. A retrospective on President Johnson's declaration of War on Poverty, which occurred 50 years ago come January 8, it's more than an exercise in nostalgia. It examines a full range of current controversies through the lens of history, including income inequality, Obamacare, food stamps, corporate welfare, racism, the minimum wage, globalization, the high cost of college, unemployment, and the future of Social Security and Medicare.
Those of us who practice public relations (or write about it) would be wise to consider the string of 50th anniversaries yet to be marked this year:
The Beatles landed at JFK for their first U.S. tour (Feb. 7),
Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in NY but no one in the nearby apartments reported her screams (March 13)
President Johnson launched "The Great Society," a set of legislative priorities aimed at eliminating poverty and racial injustice (May 22),
Three civil rights workers were killed in Mississippi after being released from jail (June 21),
President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act (July 2 ),
Race riots raged in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Pennsylvania (summer),
President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act creating a domestic Peace Corps (August 20),
President Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act (August 31),
President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act ultimately protecting 110 million acres of federal land from development (Sept. 3),
The Palestinian Liberation Army formed (Sept. 10),
The Warren Commission released a report saying that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (Sept. 27),
Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize (Oct. 14),
The U.S. Roman Catholic Church replaced Latin with English in masses (Nov. 29),
Lenny Bruce was convicted of obscenity (Dec. 22),
The U.S. Surgeon General linked smoking to lung cancer (June).
Not to mention the introductions of Ford's Mustang (April 17), IBM's System 360 (April 7), the first Arby's restaurant (July) and, at some point in the year, General Mills' Lucky Charms, PepsiCo's Diet Pepsi, and Hasbro's G.I. Joe action figure.
So there you have it: a preview of some of 2014's major stories. And, for some, the stuff of thought leadership, executive speeches, Tweeting, and -- if they still exist, news releases.