Follow-up is a big word for journalists. We like to report on the after-effects, the tale behind the big headlines.
Nanjing Night Net

So I’m tipping my hat to colleague Fran Thompson, who recently highlighted a 121-year-old follow-up: the campaign The Newcastle Morning Herald began in 1891 succeeded in winning decent housing for the harbour’s pilot boatmen. Boatmen’s Row, you owe us.

Inspired by this and other examples (what if Joanne McCarthy had left it at just one local story about paedophile priests, eh?), I’m using this, my final column for the Newcastle Herald, to do a bit of catch-up of my own.

So, catch-up number one: all the puppies grew up healthy (that’s from my first story in 1975, about a dachshund that had delivered more pups than she had nipples for).

Closer to today, I can’t go out leaving my three end-of-year topics hanging, so here’s the latest.

Word of the Year, 2012: Sadly, it’s a bit early for the big guys. The people who began the WoTY quest, the American Dialect Society, won’t publish their decision until February 2013, and our own Macquarie Dictionary rarely comes good until January.

Other candidates don’t show until early December, when the crunch comes between the online dictionaries, which judge by hits on their particular site, and the statisticians, who rely on the number of times a word is fed into a search engine. So you’ll have to keep an eye out for those.

But at least I can offer a couple that were too late for last year’s column. Japan has spent 2012 celebrating “bond” – in the familial, not the financial, sense – and Germany’s choice was “stresstest”, which basically means what you think it means, but applied to banks’ financial strength.

While we’re on the subject of what you think it means, the Germans’ official borrowed WoTY was “shitstorm”, which, according to the academics who chose it, “fills a gap in the German vocabulary that has become apparent through changes in the culture of public debate”.

Why, exactly, there was such a gap is probably the most interesting part of this choice. Possibly Germans used to be more restrained than the rest of us in their discussion of public issues. Or maybe they’ve suddenly begun turning into Australians. Sorry, but I’ll have to hand this one on.

Conspiracy Theory of the Year: The American elections have brought us a beautiful late starter: Barack Obama is the bastard child of 1950s black activist and Communist Frank Marshall Davis.

This, apparently, proves that Obama is a Communist too because he got it through his DNA, and is therefore devoted to the overthrow of All That We Hold Dear. (It would also make him doubly an American citizen, but that doesn’t seem to rate a mention.)

However, first place must still go to the UN Agenda 21 theory, because that’s affecting the real world.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, Agenda 21 is a non-binding agreement from the 1992 Earth Summit, full of environmental idealism. But it’s been taken by some of the odder US pollies as a threat to national sovereignty. So they’ve been refusing funds for bicycle paths (after all, they’re approved of in the Agenda) and even for projects that encourage that dangerous aim “sustainability”.

Where, as granma used to quaver, will it all end? Well, let’s check out my third pet topic, the cyberspace crystal ball.

Internet psychic predictions for 2013: The Mayan calendar/Book of Revelations “World will end on December 21, 2012” forecasts seem to have died down completely, all morphing into “world will become different spiritually” then.

At least the industry can now feel more consistent about making any predictions at all for 2013.

They’re also consistent about predicting a win for Barack Obama in the US Presidential elections, though some seem to equate that with Armageddon.

Psychic research did lead me to an interesting Twitter detail: one Kevin Rudd MP follows New York medium Jesse Bravo.

Somehow I suspect that someone’s been pranking Our Kev. Maybe I should predict a Twitch-hunt.

The psychics are unanimous that the climate will be worse, a point on which they align with solid science. Among all the cyclones, tsunamis, bushfires and earthquakes, though, there’s a cute little bit of advice that in 2013, part of a developed nation will simply disappear. Not sink, or be swallowed up or blown away; just disappear.

If Tasmania goes missing, you heard it here first.

Fare thee well, netizens – Cheryl.

BEST CONSPIRACY: Is Barack Obama actually the son of Frank Marshall Davis?

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