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Monday, 25 December 2017

Fill the tubes with hours of flimflam

This post samples stories on TV (the “tubes”) and online (the “intertubes”) over the week leading up to Christmas, from Tuesday, 19 December to Saturday, 23 December inclusive.

It’s uncontroversial to say that in the holiday season to flag the annual end of routine the media turns to a catalogue of tried-and-true tropes, such as “best of year”, “last of year” and “what to look out for next year” stories. I also wanted to show that at this time of year some people are still watching the news despite the fact that others are tuning out of such run-of-the-mill things as politics. Not everyone is fascinated by the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, an event that along with the Melbourne test match had a large number of stories dedicated to it during the survey period.

I assigned one of three categories to each listed story: 1. Legitimate, 2. Community-building, 3. Flimflam. To finalise the figures, individual instances of some stories were added up, so if one TV segment aired three times in an afternoon that story was counted three times. But if a tweet on Twitter appeared with a news story linked in it, they were counted together as a single instance. You might notice there is only one story from Facebook, because not knowing people’s profile settings I couldn’t know if a story was published as “public” or not. So, I decided to err on the side of caution.


The following has the breakdown based on the method of dissemination of the story. It shows that there were as many stories made of flimflam coming from TV as there were legitimate stories coming from social media.


Collecting and classifying stories became a bit of a burden eventually and because I wanted to start to analyse the sample I pretty much stopped by mid-morning on Saturday, 23 December. (I was also doing laundry on that morning, and the noise of the clothes dryer made hearing the TV difficult.) I have maintained as far as possible the chronological order of the stories within categories.

Stories that were mere flimflam

There were 41 stories classified “flimflam” out of a total of 102, but the proportion of stories that fell into this category got less the closer to Christmas we came. Most of the stories in this category were from TV but not all, as you will see if you read on.

What is noticeable in the TV cases listed is that despite the fluffy nature of many of the stories, they still required time spent to make them, although a short segment at a zoo with a journalist spending half-an-hour with the keeper to ask a few questions is cheaper than a piece of investigative journalism, which is conducted mostly behind closed doors. And takes a lot of time. (And money.)

Altina Wildlife Park at Darlington Point in NSW’s Riverina region gave animals iced treats due to elevated temperatures, ABC News channel reported several times in the afternoon of Tuesday, 19 December. Some animals got to eat iced fruit, and others got to eat fruit encased in ice. Different animals reacted to the hot weather in different ways. The red pandas, we were told by journalist Rosie King, find the heat especially trying.

Australian author John Birmingham tweeted on 19 December at 6.53pm: “My $20 Uniqlo shorts have a hole in the arse. I can only wear them for a couple more years now.” Angling for a new pair for Christmas, John?

The Royal Flying Doctor Service got some advertorial on ABC News channel at 7.48pm on 19 December, and again an hour or so later, with journalist Steven Schubert accompanying a pilot-paramedic and a nurse on a flight to attend to a patient 500km north of Alice Springs. “On Christmas Day he could be flying anywhere to whoever needs medical help,” said Schubert. “It’s a long way from his family in Young, NSW.”

A story from the Sunshine Coast about drones being used on beaches appeared at 8.25pm on 19 December on ABC News channel, and then at 6.22am the next day, Wednesday 20 December. “The drone can fly up to 800 metres offshore,” said reporter Jacqui Street from the beach at Mooloolaba. Lifeguards can deploy floatation devices from drones and use drones to observe people in trouble immediately out of reach.

On ABC News channel for its News Breakfast show on the same Wednesday 20 December at 7.37am journalist Mark Reddie asked Sydney taxi driver Geoff Williamson some penetrating questions. The story repeated at around 8.50am. “And how do you deal with spending time away from family at friends at that time, I imagine that must be quite hard?” “I’m sure you get some pretty unruly behaviour in this cab, how do you deal with that?” “And how do you deal with increased competition from ridesharing services like Uber?”

‘It's already 30 degrees in parts of Sydney - and it's about to get hotter,’ said the link on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on the morning of Wednesday 20 December. And ‘Sydney weather heats up with temperatures to reach the 40s’ said the headline inside once you clicked. The story took the form of a live feed, with updates added when they occurred, as happens for breaking news like terrorist attacks and live shooter events. The latest update when I looked was posted at 8.05am.

“Christmas Day weather in Brisbane could be the hottest in 10 years,” tweeted Fairfax’s Brisbane Times at 3.30pm on 20 December. The story linked by Jorge Branco said, in part:
That spot in front of the fan or under the airconditioning looks set to be even more in demand than usual this year. 
And the annual exodus from the capital to the coasts is going to be a good idea for more reasons than just nan’s trifle and a chance to fight for your share of prawns.
Australian scientist Jennifer Byrne was named by Nature magazine as one of the 10 people who mattered in science this year for uncovering research fraud, as reported by ABC News channel at around 3.50pm on Wednesday 20 December. The report was repeated later in the next hour and again, for a third time, at 5.40pm. A story, ‘How Sydney cancer scientist Jennifer Byrne became a research fraud super sleuth,’ had been published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 January 2017, and a follow-up story was written by SMH journo Kate Aubusson and published on their website yesterday. “Certainly, around the world researchers are feeling more and more under pressure,” Byrne said on the ABC today. 

Business journo Rachael Pupazzoni reported that Australians spent $202 on toys this year, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. The story aired at 4.29pm on 20 December on ABC News channel.

As we try more methods of protecting ourselves from mosquitoes “this festive season”, we might use mosquito coils. Concerns are being raised over the health implications of this method of finding succour from the pests, reported ABC News channel at around 4.46pm on 20 December and later at 5.43pm. “In Australia we have no need to use coils” and can use electric emanators. “They’ve really got limited uses, they are old technology, we’ve moved on,” said Bryce Peters from the University of Technology, Sydney, in the bulletin. “It’s equivalent to someone smoking over 100 cigarettes in the same room.”

At 1.37am on Thursday 21 December a story appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald website titled ‘Prince Harry and Meghan Markle join Queen's Buckingham Palace Christmas lunch’. The story said that, “The Queen traditionally hosts a festive lunch for her family before leaving for her private Sandringham estate, where she spends the holidays.” The story was still featured at 9.36am.

At 6.40am on 21 December on ABC News channel reporter James Fettes interviewed a number of people involved in the collection and distribution of toys for children in Canberra who might otherwise go without at Christmas. He talked to two women, Reg Mitchens and Yvonne Nicholl, from UnitingCare Kippax among others.

Jenna Woginrich, a New York author and farmer, had tweeted three days earlier and the tweet was retweeted at 6.56am on Thursday 21 December by @NYFarmer: “Looking for an awesome last-minute gift? I sell pdf gift certificates that you can print and put in a card! The receiver gets a custom cartoon pet portrait to redeem later with the pets of their choice! A way to support a farm, an artist, and give a unique gift! DM to buy!” The tweet showed a drawing of a dog.


“Well folks as they say in the classics, that’s a wrap for 2017 for RICHO. See you all in 2018 for a bigger and better show,” tweeted yesterday Former ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson, who has a program on Sky TV. The tweet was retweeted on Thursday at 7.18am on 21 December by Melbourne consultant Tommy Ravlic.

“#Santa delivered early for me with this genuine 100 pound #MurrayCod...on surface lure in shallow water,” tweeted Australian ToTAL NaTIVE at around 8am on 21 December, a tweet that was retweeted about 15 minutes later by southern Queensland grain producer Brendan Talyor. The tweet came with a picture of a man holding a large fish.


Sociologist Professor Gary Bouma from Monash University fronted the News Breakfast show at around 8.12am on 21 December to talk about Christmas traditions. The interview was repeated at 10.17am. “There’s all kind of wonderful traditions but most of them come from the northern hemisphere,” he said. Saint Nicholas, a very wealthy man, apparently originated in Turkey where he would give gifts to girls who didn’t have a dowry, thus saving them from disappointment. In Holland the giving of gifts is done on St Nicholas Day on 6 December. 

At 10.09am on 21 December Andrew White tweeted, “spoiler: it’s a new kitten” and retweeted a tweet from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern which initially appeared yesterday. The video that came with the PM’s tweet featured a segment where the politician opened a “secret Santa” gift from a school student in Auckland. The gift was a painting made by another student named Zara, and Ardern said she would hang it in her office in the national capital of Wellington. “Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they give a gift,” according to Google.

A “Christmas special” edition of TV program ‘Gardening Australia’ got an ad on ABC News channel from 8.32am to 8.40am on 21 December. The intro featured an Australian native plant called warrigal greens. Costa Georgiadis came into the studio with a Santa hat on and spruiked his show to screen on Friday night. Warrigal greens were apparently employed by the first settlers to supplement their normal diet, which was otherwise deficient in vitamin-rich foods. “What else can we see in the show?” host Michael Rowland intrepidly probed.

Journalist Tom Cowie tweeted at 9.47am on 21 December: “My favourite story to cover in 2017 was the mystery of why people couldn't lock their cars in Carlton.” The link with the tweet led to a story published in The Age by Cowie on 25 June titled ‘The Elgin rectangle: why couldn't people lock their cars in Carlton?’

At 7.27am on 22 December on the ABC News Breakfast program journalist Mark Reddie was at the Sydney Fish Market. “We’re expecting 750,000 tonnes of seafood to be sold,” he said. He spoke with Bryan Skepper the general manager. “How busy are you expecting it to get over the next few days?” he asked Skepper, who has been working at the market for 40 years. Skepper said that white spot disease won’t affect sales because there are plenty of prawns from reliable local producers. “There’s plenty for everyone’s budget,” he added. “The smaller grades tend to be cheaper but they also tend to be sweeter.” They have an auction system for retailers buying fish that had just wrapped up when the interview went to camera. What will he have himself for Christmas lunch? He said that they will have smoked salmon, farmed medium raw prawns on the BBQ and a snapper. Reddie pointed to fish heads located in the shot – which he advised are good for soups – but said he would be staying with prawns. An abbreviated report on the Sydney Fish Market was recorded by Reddie and screened at 4.25pm.

At 8.36am on 22 December ABC News retweeted a tweet that had gone up from ABC Hobart six minutes earlier: “Get your giffy guide to coping with curly questions and judgmental relatives at Christmas lunch with @taliaualiitia [Tali Aualiitia] and @craabus [Carol Raabus] ab.co/2CTb8Xx” The link contained a story that went, in part:
It's the most wonderful time of the year; a time to gather with family and face the endless, probing and personal questions. Oh joy. 
"How's work? Why don't you have kids yet? Still renting? Why are you looking at me like that?" 
Asking questions is a vital part of having a good conversation, but let's face it, there are some things that are best left alone. 
The following three categories of questions might be asked with best intentions but can make the askee want to peel their skin off and run screaming into the hills.
At 12.54pm on 22 December on ABC News channel came an ad for ‘A Taste of Landline’ which was due to screen on Saturday. The segment showed what was going to be on the table for Christmas at the Australian Antarctic base. According to the history books, Douglas Mawson baked penguin and ate curried seal. “More than a century later the local wildlife is off the menu,” said the narrator. But fresh Antarctic-grown salad and vegetables are served these days. “Everyone appreciates seeing a little bit of greenery or a few tomatoes,” said the narrator. Roast duck and pumpkin with homemade pasta were to be served that evening by chef Adam Hargraves. A repeat of the segment screened on the channel at 4.49pm.

At 5.30pm on 22 December ABC’s The Drum tweeted: “It’s the last episode of #TheDrum for 2017! We're discussing the Flinders Street incident, as well as some of the good news from the last year.”

On ABC News channel at 6.10pm, 7.15pm and 8.15pm on 22 December a Christmas message from Anthony Fisher, the Catholic archbishop of Sydney, was broadcast to Australians. He said that while 2017 might be called an “annus horribilis” because of setbacks for people of Christian faith in the same-sex marriage and voluntary euthanasia debates, “freedom of religion in Australia put in doubt,” and because of “shameful crimes and cover-ups” disclosed during the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, there was light on the horizon nevertheless. “Christmas speaks of new hope,” he opined.

At 8.48pm on 22 December, ABC News channel ran a segment by journalist Sarah Hancock about Adelaide Zoo’s pandas getting special treats. The story also revealed that this was the zoo’s busiest time of the year.

Erecting Christmas light displays on houses in Darwin is becoming more and more popular, according to a segment on ABC News channel at 8.53pm on Friday 22 December and also on Saturday the next at 7.50am. “I love the lights, I love the colours. Just how we decorated it and put everything on,” said one girl. “Thousands of Territorians flock to the best-lit houses,” said reporter Henry Jones.

Stories that served to build community

There were 28 out of 102 stories that I classified “community-building” and the number of stories in this category increased as we got closer to Christmas. To explain this category: it’s true that celebrating shared things helps generate a sense of community, which can be especially important for people who for any number of reasons spend the end-of-year period away from family and friends.

Tokyo-based journalist Jake Adelstein tweeted at 8.18pm on 19 December: “When you’ve lived in Japan long enough, you take for granted that Christmas Eve is a night for lovers. I never wrote about it!” The tweet included several photos of Christmas trees illuminated at night in the city.

“Summer dresses are how I know god loves us and wants us to be happy,” retweeted Australian “Englishman” Andrew White at 8.57am on 20 December; it was a tweet from 21 June originally by a person named Will Jones.

“Warmest Wishes During This Festive Season!” from Scottish food institute @GROWobservatory, retweeted by Victorian agriculture advocate @IndiBlu at 9.21am on 20 December. “Thanks for getting involved with GROW Observatory in 2017 - in our stories, our courses, our soil experiments, in whatever capacity - and here's to even more activity in 2018!” The GROW Observatory (GROW) is a European project comprising growers, scientists and others. “We will discover together, using simple tools to better manage soil and grow food, while contributing to vital scientific environmental monitoring,” says its website.

ABC Canberra broadcaster Marcus Kelson tweeted at 2.48pm on 20 December: “chips and scallops (don't even) for lunch with son and grandson after a visit to the pool I first went to as a five year old in 1966, and Marley is five, and his dad Laurence was 5 when I took him - circle complete, washing away fat content with sav/blanc.”

Editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News UK Janine Gibson tweeted, “Thank you for your Christmas wish/Please unsubscribe me from this mailing list,” at 7.16pm on 20 December.

Mark Scott, the secretary of the NSW Department of Education, tweeted at 6.46am on 21 December: “A great time of year. It's the 21st of December. ow.ly/oWEu30hm3pL (I'm even going to miss Roger).” The link led to a song on YouTube, ‘Paul Kelly ‘How To Make Gravy’ – Christmas Special on Double J’ that had been posted on 8 December 2014 and had had 52,245 views by the time I watched it. The song is about a man who won’t make it to the annual family Christmas gathering because he’s in prison. “Who’s going to make the gravy now, I bet it wont taste the same,” sings Kelly.

“I LOVE Christmas... most probably my favourite time of the year!!! But I also remember that some people find this time of year extremely difficult. Your gift can be checking in on a mate or telling someone you care about them. Let’s get around each other this Christmas #ithelps” This tweet yesterday from Greg Hire, an Australian professional basketball player for the Perth Wildcats of the National Basketball League, was retweeted today at 7.09am on 21 December by NSW livestock grazier Angus Whyte.

Goulburn resident Candy J tweeted at 2.57pm on 20 December: “What do you call an obnoxious reindeer? RUDEolph.”

Journalist Mark Reddie visited Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney and the segment screened on ABC News channel at around 7.40am on 21 December and later starting at 8.41am. Reddie talked with volunteer Roger Williams. “Do you see more people here generally over [the holiday] period?” asked Reddie. Williams works in the kiosk and in the community support program, where he deals with men living outside the hostel who are capable of independent living but need help with things like Centrepay and the payment of rent for accommodation. Williams might also have a chat with the men because they don’t see many people. “What can we do as members of the public?” asked Reddie. Williams said that people can volunteer at any time.

The ABC News Breakfast show featured a “best and worst films” segment with regular film critic Zac Hepburn around 7.45am on 21 December. ‘The Snowman’ with Michael Fassbender was a bad film according to Hepburn. “But it’s Michael Fassbender!” protested one of the anchors. “There’s a first time for everything,” Hepburn replied. “One of the most incomprehensibly stupid films of the year,” he went on. He also panned the new Batman film with Ben Affleck and ‘The Emoji Movie’. The winners included ‘Get Out’, a horror film. “Certainly, one that has you on the edge of your seats,” said Hepburn. Another film he liked was ‘Bladerunner 2049’. “Absolutely a marvellous piece of filmmaking,” he said. But his favourite film for 2017 was ‘Call Me By Your Name’, a film by director Luca Guadagnino based on a novel by André Aciman.” This is I think probably one of the most beautiful films that’s been released for years,” Hepburn said.

At 7.07am on Friday 22 December IndiBlu retweeted a tweet that had gone up two hours earlier from Howdah, an Indian snack producer based in Manchester, UK: “Driving to family this Christmas? We're the perfect crunchy and punchy flavoursome snack for the road. Pick up some Howdah at @TebayServices or @glouc_services on your way!”


On ABC News Breakfast at around 7.45am on 22 December and later at 8.50am as part of a ‘Business As Usual’ series reporter Jesse Dawsett was shown visiting the Canberra RSPCA shelter where he talked with animal care assistant Sarah Scott. Scott, a volunteer, was shown giving gifts to dog Ranger. “This is their busiest time of year,” said Dawsett of the shelter. Roosters are hard to get people to adopt because they wake you up at the crack of dawn but there are lots of animals, he went on, “And that means prospective owners have plenty to choose from.” A room appeared in shot with two people standing with Scott, who had a kitten crawling on her shoulders. “Giving animals away is the most rewarding part of the job,” the voiceover went. “Those animals that are left still make a mess and still get hungry at Christmas.”

At 8.24am on 22 December a tweet by National Public Radio’s Ira Glass that had been tweeted seven hours earlier was retweeted by American author Susan Orlean: “David Sedaris and I talk Santaland Diaries today on @MorningEdition [NPR's morning news magazine]: n.pr/2zawBZu The full-length 34-minute version of Santaland Diaries: bit.ly/2BX5aYR” The first of those links went to a web page published on 21 December with the following:
It's been 25 years since Morning Edition listeners first met a very un-merry Christmas elf named Crumpet from "Santaland Diaries," the somewhat fanciful story of David Sedaris' time working as a Macy's department store elf. 
"Santaland Diaries" catapulted Sedaris into a career as a best-selling author and playwright. Twenty five years ago, Sedaris was a struggling writer who occasionally read his work in nightclubs.
In the recording on the page program hosts David Greene and Rachel Martin brought Glass and Sedaris back to talk briefly on-air about the original broadcast from back in 1992. The original recording was scheduled to replay the next day, and the second link in the tweet took visitors to the original recording.

At 10.08am on 22 December Guardian Australia tweeted: “Scott Morrison vows to stand up to 'mockery' of Christians trib.al/zrjFcFX” The link led to a story about the treasurer, which said, in part:
“It all starts when you allow religious freedoms [to be eroded], mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals – it always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke – just like most discrimination does,” Morrison told Fairfax. 
“And I’m just going to call that out. With what I’ve seen happen in the last year, I’ve just taken the decision more recently, I’m just not going to put up with that any more, I don’t think my colleagues are either.[“]
On the Sydney Morning Herald website time-stamped 11am on 22 December was a story titled ‘Dear Santa, make sure the Fender finds a good home’ about a mother whose teenage son’s prized bass guitar was stolen in broad daylight by a man wearing a hi-vis shirt. The first-person narrative was written by journalist Helen Pitt.

At 10.12am on 22 December Cutter Streeby, editor of @OjalArtsJournal, tweeted: “Daylight is dwindling and shops are closing, but our online store is always open! (illustration by Cerise Zelenetz) store.theparisreview.org pic.twitter.com/CniJroketz” The link led to a page where you can buy back-issues (for US$20) of the famous magazine, as well as such merchandise as T-shirts (US$25). The tweet came with an image.


At 5.35pm on 22 December Guardian Australia tweeted: “The 50 top films of 2017: No 1 Call Me By Your Name trib.al/msUlUG9” The link went to a page that was subtitled:
Peter Bradshaw celebrates a peach of a film about ecstatic submission to love – the united No 1 choice of our British and American critics
Food hampers were being given to victims of domestic violence in Brisbane, a news report on ABC News channel told viewers at 6.25pm and at 7.50pm on 22 December. This year, 500 Christmas hampers were being given out that included hams, puddings, fresh fruit, and even Vegemite. Some volunteers have been helping for twenty years. Volunteer Mary Nelson said, “They just need a little bit of extra help especially at this time of year.”

At 4.33pm on 22 December Melbourne man Matthew Hall retweeted a tweet from Melbourne woman @IngridElkner that had been posted the day before: “T'was the week before Christmas/And all through the Net/The adults were stirring/With existential regret.”

“Just realised that I have quite a few Xmas cards to write #joyofchristmas” tweeted UK-based Freelance journalist and editor Jayne Howarth at 7.57pm on 22 December.

At just after 9pm on 22 December the ‘Planet America’ Christmas special started and it was quite fun to watch the succession of memorable disasters that have befallen the Trump administration over the past year. The lack of success in the Congress is especially heartening, but the new year awaits. The show signed out with a Spanish rendition of a popular Christmas song, ‘Feliz navidad.’

At 6.01am on Saturday 23 December the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists tweeted: “Are you eagerly awaiting that holiday feeling? Here's how our team will relax this holiday season. bit.ly/2kYpvT2” The link led to a page that outlined what the people in the global team are planning to do over the holidays. The team members are based in Washington DC, France and Australia. What are some of the plans? Reading books, watching movies, and going skiing.

At 6.17am on 23 December Cutter Streeby tweeted: ““Looking at the Carolers’ open mouths, I try imagining beautiful ballad rather than pain or ugliness spilling from them.” The link with the tweet led to a blogpost on the Paris Review website dated 20 December 2013 by Titi Nguyen. The story is about Christmases in the family of a child of Vietnamese immigrants. Nguyen, who lives in New York City, grew up in the suburb of Germantown, in Quincy, Massachussetts and her parents were cleaners.

On Saturday 23 December a link appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald website’s front page leading to a news story titled ‘Driving it forward: Wollongong learner driver offers free car rides over Christmas.’ The SMH tweeted a link to the story at 8.01am as well. The story was dated 22 December and said, in part:
"The people I'm driving around have been great. They know I'm a L-Plater but are just so grateful. 
"I'm glad we are able to help people, especially at this time of the year when it is a bit more stressful for people." 
Chris and his mum are happy to drive people anywhere from Bulli to Shellharbour. 
"Those who would like us to do this need to visit the Paying It Forward Wollongong website or Facebook page," she said.
Cutter Streeby tweeted “Kierkegaard says make ’em; Nietzsche says be ready to break ’em. theparisreview.org/blog/2017/12/2” at 7.53am on 23 December and at almost the same moment Chris Wallace, a research fellow at the School of History at the Australian National University in Canberra, retweeted the same tweet from its source: The Paris Review. The link went to a page titled ‘Advice on New Year’s Resolutions from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche’ with a story that detailed how the two philosophers viewed the tradition. For Kierkegaard:
Without commitments, we risk disappearing into the existential abyss. A life that lacks purpose creates anxiety. A meaningful life, Kierkegaard suggests, is one in which we actively assert ourselves in order to live more fully.
And Nietzsche?
Why does a nonhuman animal not make promises? Most don’t have a conception of themselves as individuals or a vested sense of identity. Yes, some animals may experience guilt, but guilt is not the same as the shame of breaking a longstanding promise. Nietzsche’s suggestion is that we ought to keep making resolutions—heartfelt, honest-to-God promises—lest we devolve into an animal-like state. 
Nietzsche does not say, however, that we must keep our resolutions. Sometimes, many times, the cost is simply too high. To fulfill all promises unconditionally may be unwise, if not pig-headed and arrogant.
Stories that served a legitimate end

There were 33 stories out of a total of 102 stories that I classified as “legitimate”. Like the other categories, this one was entirely subjective. As with the “community-building” category, there were more legitimate stories the closer to Christmas we got. I think what is most noticeable about this category is that a lot of the stories in it seemed to come from social media, while TV served up more flimflam.

A story about spiders appearing on the web at around 6pm on the evening of 19 December was titled ‘Put down the pesticides: Why you shouldn't be spraying your spiders this summer’. The story by Justine Landis-Hanley in the Sydney Morning Herald included advice from pest experts about what to do for spiders in backyards and in houses in summer months when they emerge from their nests.
[Sam Yehia, owner of Sydney Best Pest Control] recommends dealing with spiders without upsetting their natural habitat by cleaning the gutters, and changing white outdoor lights to fluorescent lights to avoid attracting spider-food like moths and mosquitoes. 
To keep redback spiders away from children, he suggests putting their toys in a plastic bucket of water overnight. Homing two chickens in the backyard to hunt and eat ground spiders, like funnel webs, also prevents against infestations without disrupting the eco-system. 
If you are going to spray for spiders in your home, he says to "avoid spraying bushes or the fence line to avoid [unnecessarily] harming the spider life".
Guardian Australia film and TV critic Luke Buckmaster tweeted at 8.27am on 20 December: “This list was a year in the making. Me on the blockbusters of 2017: the best, the worst, and what these films mean.” The story on website Flicks.com.au began:
An eclectic array of characters graced the big screen in 2017 blockbusters, the vast majority of whom we had met several times before – a Spider-Man here, a Skywalker there. None of the ten highest performing films (with Star Wars: The Last Jedi inevitably about to push Dunkirk out of this list) were original stories; the closest we got were books that had never been previously adapted for cinema (Lion, and It).
At 9am on 20 December the SMH Twitter account tweeted: “Christmas' original significance as a religious holy-day has been submerged beneath an orgy of consumerism, materialism and over-indulgence, writes @1RossGittins." The link led to a story titled ‘No real gift giving: culture of Christmas must change’ about an Australia Institute survey with 1421 people asked about their views on Christmas presents. The story also included ideas from a new book – Curing Affluenza – by the Australia Institute's chief economist Dr Richard Denniss. In part, Gittins wrote:
Rich people like us need to reduce our demands on the environment to make room for the poorer people of the world to lift their material standard of living without our joint efforts wrecking the planet. 
This doesn't require us to accept a significantly lower standard of living, just move to an economy where our energy comes from renewable sources and our use of natural resources – renewable and non-renewable – is much less profligate.
US news service Bloomberg tweeted at 2.15pm on Wednesday 20 December: “2017 was bad for Facebook. 2018 will be even worse” The tweet was retweeted on Thursday by Australian futurist Mark Pesce. The link went to a page with a story subtitled, “The tech giant's carefree years of unregulated, untaxed growth are coming to an end.” The story was about the likelihood regulators will step in and start restricting what the company can do, especially in the light of inflammatory content posted by anonymous users, which is common on social media platforms. In some jurisdictions, as well, authorities are looking at the tax that the tech giants pay – or don’t pay, rather. The article read, in part:
Facebook is projected to boost sales by 46 percent and double net income, but make no mistake: It had a terrible year. Despite its financial performance, the social media giant is facing a reckoning in 2018 as regulators close in on several fronts. 
The main issue cuts to the core of the company itself: Rather than "building global community," as founder Mark Zuckerberg sees Facebook's mission, it is "ripping apart the social fabric." Those are the words of Chamath Palihapitiya, the company's former vice president of user growth. He doesn't allow his kids to use Facebook because he doesn't want them to become slaves to "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops."  
Palihapitya's criticism echoes that of Facebook's first president, Sean Parker: "It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other ... God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
The story was included by Argentinian journalist Gaston Roitberg in his Paper.li publication ‘The Gaston Roitberg Daily‘ and tweeted the next day at 8.24am 21 December.

BuzzFeed Australia journo Alice Workman tweeted at around 11am on 20 December (retweeted four hours later by Upulie Divisekera): “My last yarn of the year: The Father Of A Teenager Who Died Doing Work For The Dole Says His Son Was Made To Work With A Back Injury.” The link led to a story which reads, in part:
The father of Josh Park-Fing, the teenager who died on a Work for the Dole site, says text messages exchanged with his son hours before Park-Fing's death show the young man was injured, yet made to continue working in the program. 
18-year-old Park-Fing died from head injuries sustained when he fell from a flatbed trailer being towed by a tractor in April 2016. It's suspected the tractor slipped a gear and jolted, causing the teen to fall. 
At the time he was completing a Work for the Dole program at the Toowoomba Showgrounds arranged by employment contractor NEATO. He was earning $218.75 per week.
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources tweeted at 3.09pm on 20 December: “Visiting or returning to Australia this #Christmas and #NewYears holiday season? Remember your biosecurity responsibilities.”

“[T]he city is overflowing with ridiculously dangerous drivers today, it’s almost like everybody is going home early from boozy Christmas work lunches,” wrote Andrew White today at 4.01pm on 20 December on Twitter.

“This cartoon sums up 2017 pretty well...” tweeted London-based freelance journalist Simon Cullen at around 3.30pm on 20 December, a tweet that was retweeted by Australian Jenny Jarmane an hour later. The tweet had a cartoon attached which showed a putative game show called ‘Facts Don’t Matter’. The compere in the cartoon says, “I’m sorry Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours, so he gets the points.”

“2018: When #battery storage gets a grip on the grid,” tweeted Gippsland resident and Renewable Energy Party Secretary Peter Gardner at 7.21am on 21 December. The link with the tweet led to a story on the Renew Economy website by Giles Parkinson, which said, in part:
There are no prizes for predicting that there will be more batteries in Australia’s electricity grid next year: the trick is predicting how much. 
Longer term, the predictions are bullish – up to 80GWh from the likes of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and a more modest 20GWh from the latest AEMO document, the Integrated [System Plan Consultation.] 
What happens in the short term, in calendar 2018, is less clear, as battery storage balances on the pivot point of whether it is actually economic or not, and whether the anticipated cost reductions that would tip that scale arrive in time.
At 9.57am on 21 December Sandi Keane, editor-in-chief of michaelwest.com.au, tweeted: “Get the lowdown on lowlifes (sorry, tax avoiders). Buy yourself a Xmas present for $5 [per month] and help Westie nail this lot on his ‘Black List’.” The tweet retweeted another tweet by journalist Michael West: “Countdown on. Snide comments welcome. #2 on Big Tax List to be revealed shortly (3 years ATO data + metrics). EnergyAustralia got bronze medal.” West has been publishing on his website a series of stories about corporate tax avoiders in Australia.

At 4.40pm on 21 December Lefteo tweeted to Guardian Australian journalist Katharine Murphy: “What an absolute piece of gutter news from a pseudo journalist” in response to Murphy’s tweet of 19 minutes earlier, “What's going on inside the Victorian ALP? Gather round” which had a link to a story she’d published on the newspaper’s website. The story was titled, ‘Labor brawl in Victoria matters – it's a threat to Bill Shorten's leadership.’ The story ran, in part:
At its simplest level, what’s happening in the Victorian ALP right now is one of those kaleidoscopic shifts, except it’s not hypnotic, gentle and mildly mesmerising, but brutal and highly disruptive. As one insider characterised the fracas on Thursday: “This is Bill’s brilliant strategy for keeping Malcolm Turnbull in the Lodge.”
Murphy retweeted Lefteo’s tweet almost immediately, adding: “Merry Christmas.”

Three days ago Sydney journalist Miriam Cosic tweeted, “OMG! It's almost Christmas! What to get for someone who has everything: How about a donation in their name to @MSF's [Medicine sans frontiers] emergency fund? I've been topping up my regular donation with $50 times the number of people I usually buy for.” She retweeted the same tweet on the evening of Thursday 21 December at 8.01pm.

At 8.23pm on 21 December Melbourne priest Father Bob Maguire tweeted, “Spare a thought for a family member or friend who lost a partner since last Christmas. They may be walking alone for the first time [in] ages.” The photo attached to the tweet showed two old people walking together through a wood.

On Facebook early on the morning of Friday 22 December I saw an ad from WWF Australia as I was scrolling through the news feed: “Last minute Christmas gift? Adopt a koala now & download an adoption certificate to give on the day. The adoption gift pack will arrive in the New Year & includes a cuddly koala toy, adoption certificate, tote bag & more. Go for the feel-good option that’s unexpected, a little bit wild & incredibly meaningful.” The post came with a link to wwf.org.au where you can leave your details to complete the required transaction.


ABC News at 8.06am on 22 December reported that Pope Francis in his annual Christmas speech had told cardinals that some in the bureaucracy are part of plots. He has instigated a sweeping shakeup of officials, it was reported.

In the hashtag stream for #auspol at 8.10am on 22 December a tweet that had gone up 50 minutes earlier from Perth man Terrence Chester was retweeted by @vagueviking: “What Santa thinks of 1%ters that avoid contributing to #Medicare #NDIS #education #infrastructure #disabled #pensioners #SingleParents #Indigenous from avoiding paying taxation across the world #WealthTricklesUp #CorruptionTricklesDown #auspol Taxcuts for wealthy that don't pay” The tweet came with an image.


At 10.32am on 22 December Australian man Geoffrey Payne retweeted a tweet from 8.54am the same day by Australian freelance journalist Elle Hardy, “enjoying Channel Nine’s slow bastardisation of Uhlmann” that had a photo attached to it showing the ex-ABC journalist with co-host of the TV station’s Today Show, Deborah Knight, and a man in a Santa costume. Hardy’s tweet had been retweeted five times and had had six replies to it.


Melbourne-based @csfmtbation retweeted a tweet at 2.55pm on 22 December from about 20 minutes earlier that had been tweeted by Melbourne-based Andy Fleming (@slackbastard): “Shayne Hunter has taken an early lead in the 2017 'Australian Patriot of the Year Award'. A reminder that voting is COMPULSORY and polls close DEC 31 at 11:59:59pm. #ausvotes #auspol #STRAYA slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=42278” The link went to a page with an online voting tool soliciting choices for the putative far-right award. The blurb ended:
It’s your job to vote for the bestest and most patriotest; the winner of the 2017 Australian Patriot of the Year Award™ will be announced on STRAYA Day as the climax of Triple M’s Ozzest100.
One of the text entries outlining the backgrounds of candidates in the vote went like this:
David Hilton is a former high skool teach turned AltRight propagandist based in Brisbane. Formerly known as Moses Apostaticus, 2017 was a Big Year for David. No mere Spectator, David successfully stopped The Communist, The Jew and The Muslim from destroying Australian Civilisation As We Know It, won friends, and influenced many people. Australian Patriot Of The Year? We Report, You Decide!
At 3.06pm on 22 December, Sydney-based writer, social activist and minister Stephanie Dowrick tweeted: “Many followers of the inclusive, merciful teacher called Jesus protest the gross misery caused by ‘Christian’ politicians to those legitimately seeking care and justice. Isaiah 1:17.” Her tweet commented on and retweeted one from journalist James Massola that linked to a Sydney Morning Herald story: “'I'm not going to put up with it any more': Morrison vows to defend Christianity in 2018 smh.com.au/federal-politi… via @smh” Isaiah 17:1 reads:
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Political editor for news outlet @independentaus @ethicalmartini tweeted at 4.53pm on 22 December: “VOTE! for The 2017 Australian Patriot Of The Year! It's a tough call, there's more talent here than you might think slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=42278”

A link to story dated 20 December appeared on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald website on 22 December. The story by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, titled ‘Most Australians will still be in debt from Christmas next Easter,’ reported facts from a study looking at how long on average Australians will need to pay off their Christmas credit card debt. “Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a commentator and educator who presents her Smart Money Start, fun financial literacy incursion, in high schools around Australia,” according to the story’s credits.

At 8.16pm on 22 December Central Coast woman @fehowarth tweeted: “What history really tells us about Jesus' birth abc.net.au/news/2017-12-2… via @abcnews” The link led to a story, originally published on website The Conversation, written by Robyn J Whitaker, Bromby Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Trinity College, University of Melbourne, and a lecturer at the University of Divinity.
If we pare back the story to its biblical and historical core — removing the stable, the animals, the cherub-like angels, and the inn — with what are we left? 
The Jesus of history was a child of a Jewish family living under a foreign regime. He was born into an extended family living away from home and his family fled from a king who sought to kill him because he posed a political threat. 
The Jesus story, in its historical context, is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. 
It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power.
Melbourne man @timpoliti retweeted at 8.32pm on 22 December a tweet from Melbourne businessman and ALP devotee John Wren: “Given that Jesus was a socialist this will be interesting to watch @ScottMorrisonMP. #auspol” Wren had retweeted five hours earlier a tweet from Australian @AustentatiousMe: “In 2018 @ScottMorrisonMP pledges to start asking himself, ‘What would Jesus do?’ No word on whether he's likely to continue doing [the] opposite though #auspol.”

At 8.39pm on 22 December Gold Coast resident Ken Sekiya retweeted a tweet that had originally appeared from @dodo three hours earlier: “This guy wanted to surprise his dogs for Christmas, so he wrapped himself up — and they were SO excited to find out it was him.” The tweet came with a video showing two dogs going crazy when the “gift” in the kitchen turns out to contain their owner.


Canberra-based science communicator Will Grant retweeted at 8.58pm on 22 December a tweet that had appeared five hours earlier from Australian cartoonist Jon Kudelka: “Happy holidays discriminates against people who are not happy and also against people who are working.”

At 9pm on 22 December US Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University tweeted: “In 2018, maybe we should be publishing less to give readers more buff.ly/2ARscjL” The link went to a story by Ernst-Jan Pfauth about the best way to “do” news at a time when just getting eyeballs on stories doesn’t pay the bills anymore because the per-click value of stories to publishers in the global marketplace has plummeted. News organisations now need subscribers, and to keep them they have to give them better tools to help them navigate the news. 

San Francisco-based Politico writer Carla Marinucci retweeted at 6.55am on 23 December a tweet from Washington DC-based news outlet The Hill: “Science group expects more scientists to run for office in 2018 than ever before hill.cm/V74OlZO” The link led to a story on The Hill’s website that read, in part:
A group focused on recruiting and training scientists to run for office is eyeing two more key House and Senate races as it plans to ramp up involvement in the 2018 midterms. 
314 Action, named after the first three digits of pi, is closely watching the race for Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-Wash.) open seat and the Tennessee Senate race, which has garnered some national attention. But the group has yet to make endorsements in either race.
I retweeted the story and that tweet appeared as a story in the Paper.li publication that Guardian Australia’s audience editor, Dave Earley, tweeted a link to at 8.55am.

At 7.33am on 23 December ABC News tweeted, “How silly hats, crackers and quiet time can help you have a conflict-free Christmas ab.co/2BXBJG2” The link led to a story by Olivia Willis and Claudine Ryan that provides some helpful hints about how to negotiate the traditional family Christmas get-together.

At 8.13am on 23 December Geoffrey Payne retweeted a tweet from Australia’s deputy leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, that had originally appeared 18 hours earlier: “The news that some of our defence personnel will return from Iraq is the best Christmas present for many families. They were there at the invitation + request of the democratically elected govt of Iraq to help protect the people + territory from the murderous rampage of IS.”

At 9.19am on 23 December North Sydney resident Denise Shrivell retweeted a tweet by John Wren that had gone up two hours before: “I really don't get @ScottMorrisonMP. On the one hand he says he will fight the mockery of Christians, yet on the other, he himself mocks them by claiming to be one. #auspol”

At 10.50am on 23 December Marcus O’Donnell, director of digital learning at Deakin University, tweeted: “UC Berkeley economist argues for an economic system based on altruism, sustainability & a meaningful life. lionsroar.com/buy-less-live-…” The link leads to an interview presented by Melvin McLeod dated 13 December with economist Clair Brown. The first question is:
The starting point of your new book, Buddhist Economics, is that the goal of any economic system is to create human happiness. How does the free market system define happiness and how is the definition in Buddhist economics different? 
Professor Clair Brown: Free market economics says that everyone can increase their happiness and life satisfaction by buying and consuming more. That’s how humans become more content, happier, and satisfied—by consuming more. 
In Buddhist economics, happiness is defined by the concept of interconnectedness. All people, all beings, are interdependent with each other and with nature. Happiness comes from making sure people lead comfortable, dignified lives and interact with each other and nature in a meaningful, caring way.
At around 8.30am American farmer’s wife @birdfarmerswife tweeted: “My dad died in a tractor accident. My mom committed suicide missing my dad so much. Christmas is hard on everyone for one reason or another. This is my story at Christmastime.” @NYFarmer retweeted it later that day. The tweet came with a picture.


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