(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

For the younger Crikey readers -- you raving under-50s -- the term "silly season", popular in the Australian media, once meant this: with a combined Christmas/summer holiday and a MSM chokehold on news, the joint just shut down for five weeks.

Agencies spat out telexes from faraway places for the middle pages -- cities falling, foreigners blowing up planes and so on. But here, as everyone busked it out until a final blow-out on Australia Day -- the only meaning that day has ever found -- a skeleton staff promoted dogs who could howl "Up the Cazaly", or the armed robbery of a pizza joint in Thornbury to the front page. Each would get three days in a row. Then the dog would be taken to the pizza and lo, it was good -- for everyone except cadets sweating through their chocolate-brown, drip-dry nylon shirts wondering if there was going to be a paper tomorrow.

That was silly season. Now, with the world on a 24/7/365 rotation, "silly season" has become the process by which important decisions have to be made by tired people who are over it, never wanted to be there in the first place, and aren't much chop at it when they're at the top of their game. So silly season has swung to the very opposite of the spectrum, from the sort of story you fall asleep over on a banana lounge to the one that has you sitting bolt upright wondering if you need to put the family civil emergency plan into action.