Journalists yearn for hard news, and so do readers. It is a fail-safe cure for listlessness. In that sense, 2013 was a banner year, one in which the stories staked their claims on our attention effortlessly.

If you were heeding developments -- and it was hard not to -- the stories in the Bay Area touched our hearts, upset our composure, and kindled our hopes at a relentless pace.

As a whole, they defied our expectations, which is what made them news. Here are my top 10 stories of 2013:

1) SNOWDEN -- In Silicon Valley, the biggest development of the year involved the series of revelations by Edward Snowden, the former security contractor whose disclosures about National Security Agency spying profoundly rattled local companies.

San Mateo County firefighters and California Highway Patrol investigate the scene of a limousine fire on the westbound side of the San Mateo-Hayward bridge
San Mateo County firefighters and California Highway Patrol investigate the scene of a limousine fire on the westbound side of the San Mateo-Hayward bridge in Foster City, Calif., on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Five women died when they were trapped in the limo that caught fire as they were traveling. Four women and the driver were able to escape.(Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group Archives) ( JANE TYSKA )

Sensing their bottom lines were threatened by worldwide fears that government spying had invaded users' privacy, valley companies in December made an appeal to the Obama administration to limit NSA encryption-busting and secret collection of data. That request was validated days later by a federal judge's scorching opinion and a panel urging changes for the NSA.

The irony is that Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook make use of their customers' data to create profiles for advertisers. The moral: Privacy is in the eye of the beholder.

2) ASIANA CRASH -- Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was on a final approach to San Francisco International Airport on July 6 when the landing gear and tail struck a sea wall short of the runway. Three people died and 181 were injured.


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A prompt response by rescuers and a heroic effort by flight attendants kept the toll from being worse -- though one victim was hit and killed by a fire vehicle hurrying to the airplane.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board focused on the actions of the pilots, who brought the Boeing 777 in too slowly and without enough altitude.

3) SAME-SEX WEDDINGS -- The history of same-sex marriage in California features legal contortions that would flummox a crack law-review staff. While a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June was decided on relatively narrow grounds, the verdict let same-sex marriages begin again.

At stake was a ruling by federal District Judge Vaughn Walker in 2010 that said Proposition 8, the voter-approved 2008 measure that outlawed gay marriage, was unconstitutional. The high court's ruling had the effect of leaving Walker's ruling intact.

Beyond the legal squabbling was a profound change in our take on the issue: Polls showed that opponents of gay marriage would have trouble mustering a majority of California voters now.

4) TWITTER -- Twitter's initial public offering in November contrasted starkly with Facebook's muddled debut the year before. The stock soared 73 percent on the first day of trading -- and continued climbing toward year's end.

More important, the Twitter opening presaged a robust IPO market in 2014. Among the companies mentioned for potential offerings are Alibaba, an e-commerce giant, and Chegg, which rents digital and print textbooks to college students.

5) BRIDGE OPENS -- Seventy-seven years after the first Bay Bridge was dedicated, state and local officials opened the new $6.4 billion eastern span in early September with a low-key ceremony.

Onlookers look at the crashed fuselage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a Boeing 777 arriving from Seoul, South Korea, on runway 28L at San Francisco
Onlookers look at the crashed fuselage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a Boeing 777 arriving from Seoul, South Korea, on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday July 6, 2013. Two people were killed and more than 100 were injured. (LiPo Ching /Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )

Beset by political wrangling and engineering problems, particularly over bolts that had to be reinforced, the new bridge was hugely expensive and massively delayed.

In the end, its elegant single-pillar design and gentle curves won over critics. The span rivals the Transamerica Building as a Bay Area landmark.

6) LIMO FIRE -- It's hard to conceive of more horrific circumstances for accidental death: A bridal party of nine women -- laughing, bubbly, joyous -- was crossing the San Mateo bridge in a limo May 4 when fire engulfed the vehicle and killed five who could not escape, including the newlywed, Neriza Fojas, 31, of Fresno.

Investigators determined that the fire was caused by a failure of the rear suspension system, which caused a steel floor plate to rub against the drive shaft of the limo.

7) SHIRAKAWA -- In the biggest political scandal to hit the South Bay in years, it looked like the saga of ex-Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. would be resolved in March. The disgraced politician, the son of an admired father of the same name, pleaded guilty to five felonies and seven misdemeanors in connection with filing misleading campaign reports and misusing public money.

Then came a surprise: After uncovering DNA evidence, DA Jeff Rosen's office charged Shirakawa with sending out a phony campaign flyer that smeared Magdalena Carrasco in a San Jose City Council race in 2010.

Shirakawa went to jail on the first case in November. The second is pending. Ex-San Jose mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez was elected to succeed Shirakawa in late July.

8) BART -- In late October, the Bay Area's longest transportation nightmare of 2013 came to an end when BART settled a four-day strike with two of its employee unions. But the strife marked an ebbing of public sympathy for public employee unions.

To union partisans, the issue at the forefront was worker safety: On the day before the settlement, two men were killed by a BART train operated by managers in the East Bay.

To backers of fiscal reform, the debate centered on the sweet pensions and benefits of BART workers. While the unions agreed to pay more for both, employees will receive a 15 percent raise by the end of 2017.

9) AMERICA'S CUP -- It was greeted with shrugs, marked by tragedy, and redeemed by a thrilling finish: Defying the scorn for a rich man's sport, the America's Cup sponsored by mogul Larry Ellison ended with a come-from-behind 9-8 victory of Team Oracle USA over Emirates Team New Zealand.

The 34th America's Cup was plagued by safety questions about its huge catamarans, particularly after the death of British sailor Andrew James Simpson in the capsizing of the Swedish-backed Team Artemis craft in May.

But aided by a superb broadcasting effort and the majesty of the big boats on the San Francisco Bay, the comeback of Team Oracle in the late September finale defined inspiration for legions of observers who knew little about sailing.

10) COPS KILLED -- Santa Cruz police officers Loran "Butch" Baker, a 28-year veteran, and Elizabeth Butler, who had a decade on the force, in late February were carrying out a routine investigation of Jeremy Peter Goulet, a 35-year-old barista who reportedly made inappropriate sexual advances toward a co-worker.

As they approached Goulet's door in the 800 block of Branciforte Avenue, Goulet fired on the two officers, killing them before being shot fatally himself in a gunbattle with police a half-hour later.

Later, it emerged that Goulet had a criminal record for sexual peeping in Oregon and had beaten rape charges while serving in the military in Hawaii.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or sherhold@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/scottherhold.