2018 feels like it has lasted about five years, mostly due to the never-ending news cycle of madness coming out of the United States. But Iceland also had its share of news stories that either brightened or dimmed the general mood of the year.
The following are our personal favourite, and least favourite, Icelandic news stories of 2018, in no particular order.
1. Volcano news. Öræfajökull and Katla made headlines this year, both in Iceland and around the world. These stories are great fun to report, if for no other reason than the fact that volcanic eruptions are notoriously difficult to predict, prompting other media outlets (looking at you, DailyMail) to make wild and inaccurate speculations that we are more than happy to correct. Plus volcanoes are iconic to Iceland, so people always love reading about them, too.
2. The World Cup. It’s not often that Iceland gets a chance to compete on a global stage, but football is the great equaliser: no matter what country you’re from, if your national team has the talent, they can go all the way. Iceland’s odds-defying performance in the World Cup captivated football fans around the world, to the point where even supporters of national teams that Iceland defeated offered heartfelt congratulations, elevating the generosity and sportsmanship of the game.
3. Municipal elections. This was a great year for municipal elections for one reason in particular: rural Iceland. Sure, 16 parties were in the running for Reykjavík City Hall, but it was the elections in such tiny and far-flung villages as Árneshreppur that saw the real drama. In fact, the elections there—mostly centred around the proposed building of several hydroelectric dams—proved to be a national flashpoint, and inspired one of our most popular feature stories.
4. The official exoneration of the suspects in the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case. When the Supreme Court of Iceland dropped all charges against the five men accused in 1974 of murder in one of Iceland’s most notorious missing persons cases, there was a bittersweet feeling of relief. Sweet, because the court confirmed what many suspected to be true all along—that their confessions had been extracted under duress, and there was literally no real evidence to convict any of them. Bitter, because so much time had passed, and one suspect, Sævar Marinó Ciesielski, died utterly ruined before his name was cleared.
1. Anything to do with Hafþór Júlíus “The Mountain” Björnsson. It’s really hard to be excited about “man lifts the heavy thing and puts it back down again” as a news story, no matter who it’s about, but there was a time when being an Icelandic strongman at least meant you were a role model for children (see: Jón Páll Sigmarsson). Not so much the case when it comes to Hafþór, who has gotten himself involved in numerous domestic violence accusations.
2. The weather. We know for a fact that you love weather news. Even stories as mundane as “it will storm tomorrow” shoot up to the top of our ranks. But consider for a moment having to live under these weather conditions. We didn’t even get a summer this year on account of the low temperatures and persistent cloud cover. We’ve been hit by more storms than usual, necessitating having to rescue more tourists who ignore weather warnings, which costs us all dearly.
3. War games. Iceland is a NATO country, but has no military of its own, so in order to meet our obligations, we let other NATO countries patrol our airspace. This year, though, NATO kicked things up a notch by bringing hundreds of soldiers and ten warships to our shores to conduct drills here as a part of the Trident Juncture 18 exercises. Ironically, the party which leads Iceland’s government—the Left-Greens—has included in their platform the aim of withdrawing Iceland from NATO altogether, but no dice. And these soldiers drank all of Reykjavík’s beer, too. If that isn’t an insult to Icelandic sovereignty, we don’t know what is.
4. Foreign worker exploitation. This country would grind to a halt without its foreign workers, who more often than not do the kinds of jobs that locals don’t want to do but which are crucial to the economy. They comprise 20% of the total workforce despite making up just 13% of the population. So when the investigative news show Kveikur reported endemic exploitation of these workers, it was doubly sad. First of all, because foreign workers are entitled to the same rights as any other workers in the country, and second of all, because the Grapevine and others have been reporting on this situation for years, but people still reacted with shock and surprise at Kveikur’s reporting, as if it was the first they’d ever heard about the problem.