You ranked them: 10 top stories in America in 2013

Here are 10 top stories Americans followed in 2013, ranked by respondents to a Monitor/TIPP poll according to the percentage who said they followed the story very closely.

9. Edward Snowden and the NSA (36 percent)

Glenn Greenwald/ Laura Poitras/ Courtesy of The Guardian / Reuters
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. This still image was taken from video shot during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Snowden, who is wanted in the United States on espionage charges, has obtained temporary asylum in Russia.

In June, a stream of news reports describing global surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency began to appear – based on top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. Mr. Snowden, now a fugitive in Russia, may have leaked as many as 200,000 documents detailing surveillance programs with code names like XKeyscore, PRISM, and CO-TRAVELER.

So far, documents show the NSA collecting "meta-data" on virtually all US phone calls for the past six years and about 5 billion cellphone records per day from overseas, including some of Americans. They show the agency filtering global Internet traffic, including Google and social media.

Snowden's crusade has spurred debate about privacy rights and surveillance: Congress is examining NSA practices, privacy lawsuits have been filed, and a White House panel would modify NSA practices.

Foreign governments are furious, while in polls, 74 percent of Americans say the NSA violated privacy. Snowden says he is "neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American." Others say he should be jailed for life.

– Mark Clayton, Staff writer 

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

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