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We Sort Out Political Headlines Using A March Madness Bracket


You know, sometimes in 2017, we'd say, wow, that story would normally be the biggest headline of the day, you know, if it weren't for these other three stories. It's been that kind of year, and our political editor, Domenico Montanaro, wanted to rank the top political stories of 2017, so he created a March Madness-style bracket. Domenico is with us. Hi, Domenico.


GREENE: Were you just bored over the holiday or what?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) A little bored, but, you know, what actually happened was that I'd been serving people around the newsroom and friends and on Twitter what they thought were the biggest stories. And so many continued to pile up that, you know, I was like, what am I going to do with all this? What's the best way to kind of get your head around it? And I'm sort of a March Madness junkie, and said let me try to put it into a bracket.

GREENE: Well, that's awesome. OK, so you have, like, 64 stories, and you seed them, right? So the top seeds, in theory, would be the ones that you feel like, OK, these are the clear favorites for top political stories of the year.

MONTANARO: Yeah. And, you know, the No. 1 seeds overall, the top seed overall, is the fallout over sexual harassment charges across the country. You know, this has touched every industry from politics to everything else. The other three seeds, though, are also pretty important but going to be tough to beat sexual harassment - James Comey being fired, the ensuing Russia probe then that happened, conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller and, of course, the tree that almost everything in 2017 stems from - Trump's inauguration.

GREENE: Yeah, certainly a defining moment. OK. So those are the big - the clear, big stories. What about sleepers? We always talk about during March Madness, you know, what teams are going to emerge as influential in the brackets when you never expect them to, the lower seeds.

MONTANARO: So I've been asking a lot of people for their brackets. They've been sending it to me on Twitter, and what I've started to see roll in from these brackets that have come in is that a lot of people are starting to pick deportations or no action on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, at number five - as a number five seed - over Trump's inauguration in the Sweet 16. You know, there's never been a 1-16 upset in the men's college basketball bracket. But there was one in the women's bracket in 1998 when Harvard beat Stanford.

GREENE: Yes, indeed,

MONTANARO: Yes, there was. But will there be a 1-16 upset in our bracket? The one that continues to kind of crop up but it kind of feels like trolling to me is Trump looks at eclipse over him being inaugurated, so I kind of doubt that one.

GREENE: (Laughter) Trump looking at the eclipse - that is a big political story some might say. OK.

MONTANARO: Right. And then the other one that people can't seem to let go - you remember, Anthony Scaramucci spent 10 days in the White House. He ironically - I did not do this on purpose - comes in as a 10 seed (laughter).

GREENE: All right.

MONTANARO: And that upsets from a lot - in a lot of people's brackets seven seeded New York truck attack, which is obviously far more serious and important. But that's what happens when you let people decide.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, I mean, people deciding probably too based on, like, personally how they internalize a lot of these stories and how they influence them. Can we - can people do this? We can actually do the bracket?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. So people can go to my Twitter feed - @DomenicoNPR. It is pinned to my Twitter feed. Download the bracket there, submit it to me by noon today. Do that and I will score them. There will be Twitter polls on each one, and I'll announce the winner on Friday.

GREENE: Sounds perfect. NPR's Domenico Montanaro talking about the biggest political stories of 2017 using a bracket. Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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