As another year comes to a rapid close, some people among us will be counting down to midnight on December 31 a little more enthusiastically than others.
They have endured messy scandals, very public embarrassments, extraordinary PR backfires and even the sudden end of careers.
Across the worlds of sport, business, entertainment, media and politics, both here and abroad, these are the biggest losers of 2018.
Sick of hearing all about the private life of Today co-host and Channel 9 star Karl Stefanovic? He probably is too.
The fallen golden boy of Australian television has suffered through countless headlines about his current and former relationships over the past year.
Efforts to rehabilitate his image with turned-off viewers failed, and even Stefanovic’s glitzy wedding in Mexico was overshadowed by renewed whispers from within the halls of Nine that his job remains in peril.
“There’s no denying Karl has copped a beating this year in the headlines, from his personal relationships to that infamous Uber chat,” media commentator Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations, told news.com.au.
Then, after months of furious denials, Stefanovic was finally dumped from the show he co-helmed for more than a decade.
He was delivered the news in the week before Christmas, while on his honeymoon. Ouch.
Controversial radio shock jock Alan Jones is used to causing a stir. He probably thrives on it in many ways.
But reports indicate his bosses have just about had enough, after an expensive and distracting 2018 for the top-rating host.
Commentator Nic Hayes, director of Media Stable, said Jones “seems to have lost the plot” recently.
“His own even loose filter seems not to be working,” Mr Hayes said.
“Lawyers and boards don’t like paying out big defamation suits and his contract renewal might be a little difficult to sign off in 2019.
His attack of the Sydney Opera House boss for declining to broadcast the barrier draw of a horse race made for uncomfortable listening.
Public sentiment wasn’t on his side and the issue blew up, causing protests and even the projection of Jones’ personal mobile number onto the building’s iconic sails.
After he’s done sending all of his contacts his new digits, he’ll no doubt give this year a middle finger as it winds up.
It’s hard to imagine people who bank million-dollar salaries and oversee companies that rake in billions in profit could ever feel anything but glee.
But those at the helms of Australia’s banks and financial institutions have been dragged over the coals at the damning Financial Services Royal Commission.
Numerous scalps have been claimed thanks to almost daily revelations, and the final report and recommendations haven’t even been delivered yet.
“Given the poor performance by senior executives from the banking sector in the media (and at the commission), it’s not difficult to see how they got themselves in so much trouble as an industry,” Mr Hayes said.
From their harbourside mansions, they will no doubt bid farewell to 2018 with a couple of glasses of something strong.
But the pain is far from over, and rightly so. The banks have a lot of work to do to restore public faith and atone for their many, many wrongs.
Good luck to ’em.
ALMOST ALL OF CANBERRA
Politics — you can’t live with it, we’d probably do just fine without it.
What a mess of a year in the federal halls of power, with barely a day going by without some startling illustration of stupidity punctuating it.
There were dumb and ill-conceived policies, followed by embarrassing backflips. There was Barnaby Joyce with his extramarital affair, love child and resignation as deputy prime minister.
There was Bob Katter ranting about his Lebanese heritage and Fraser Anning’s reference to Hitler’s “final solution”.
A whole lot of time and money was wasted on the Section 44 dual-citizen mess and Labor was forced to come down from its high horse when it was snared by the constitutional fracas.
Somehow, learning absolutely nothing from all the ones preceding it, there was another leadership scuffle that saw Peter Dutton unable to count the numbers, Malcolm Turnbull dumped, Julie Bishop betrayed and Scott Morrison take an unenviable position.
“The politicians with the best seats in the house for the demolition of the ALP’s Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments were Turnbull, Morrison, Dutton and Abbott,” Mr Hayes said.
“Yet they learned nothing from the effect that this had on the constituents and their chances of winning government.”
And it’s clear the public isn’t enjoying a repeat of history, Ms Reaney said.
“With a recent poll showing 44 per cent of voters unsatisfied, Scott has been criticised for what appears to the public as sweeping statements and decisions.”
Labor now looks set to sweep to victory with a PM-in-waiting in Bill Shorten — despite polls showing not many Aussies like him.
But the troubles weren’t over as December marched to its close. Nationals MP Andrew Broad has been embroiled in a sex scandal, having allegedly found himself a “sugar baby” who claims he described himself to her as a bit of a “James Bond”.
Business as usual in the chaotic parliament, really.
From his robotic and awkward appearance before the US Senate to a campaign by Facebook’s board to unseat him as CEO, the billionaire has had better years.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal in March, in which it was revealed tens of millions of users’ private data was accessed, caused significant damage to the social network’s already suspicious reputation.
“The massive plummet in the stock price has shown the online juggernaut does have its weaknesses,” Mr Hayes said.
Facebook’s role in the spread of malicious fake news has also come under the microscope, for which he apologised and promised to do better.
But after almost a decade of after-the-fact apologies, users and shareholders — as well as regulators — seem fed up.
This Washington Post timeline of all the times he has said sorry puts things into startling perspective.
MICHELLE GUTHRIE AND JUSTIN MILNE
There’s a saying that politics is show business for ugly people, and in that vein, the ABC this year was a soap opera for people who can’t act.
Michelle Guthrie was sensationally sacked as managing director, which immediately led to a campaign of revenge against chairman Justin Milne.
Suggestions of political interference — Milne’s passing on of messages of upset about individual reporters and their work — sparked uproar at the ABC.
By the end of a very tumultuous week, Milne followed his foe Guthrie out the door.
“That very public fracas between Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne was a train wreck wrapped in an airline disaster,” Mr Hayes said.
Their appearances in a Four Corners special investigation into the matter were embarrassing to their professional reputations.
Respectively, they’ll no doubt be glad to see the back of 2018 — just as the staff at the ABC will be glad to see their backs.
THE SANDPAPER TRIO
Who knew a little piece of course paper rubbed on a ball could cause so much drama?
Australian cricket was plunged into disgrace after Cameron Bancroft was found to have tampered with a ball during play in South Africa.
It was revealed captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were complicit in the conspiracy and all three fell on their swords.
“With cricket at the heart of Australia’s sporting passion, this act drew global headlines,” Ms Reaney said.
Suddenly, the gentleman’s game was anything but and Aussie fans had to endure sledges from nations we ordinarily beat quite easily.
“While Smith, Warner and Bancroft copped the ban for 12 months, the real loser of this cricket scandal was the game itself,” Mr Hayes said.
“Our national sport was pulled from pillar to post, putting a spotlight on the culture, the leadership and the integrity of the individuals in control of the game.
“Australians hate cheats and when we are the protagonists of the cheating it was natural to see the wrath of public opinion turn on the game.”
Images of massive piles of strawberries being dumped and destroyed were heartbreaking.
Overnight, the livelihoods of family growers collapsed when dozens of needles or other bits of metal were found in fruit sold across the country.
A police investigation scrambled to find the culprit and send a message to apparent copycats, but the damage had been done.
On the flip side, we saw the best of the Aussie spirit when punters defied health warnings and fear to continue buying punnets.
“It was a great example of traditional and new media working together to save an industry with the #Smashastrawb campaign, to get people to buy strawberries while they were under attack from a needle scare,” Mr Hayes said.
“The people got right behind the movement and a struggling industry was helped. Social media can actually do some good. Who knew?”
Here’s hoping for a better 2019. And while you ring in the New Year — one growers will be welcoming with open arms — why not pop a strawberry in your glass of bubbly?
RUGBY LEAGUE’S IMAGE
Hardly for the first time and probably not for the last, there was as much attention on NRL players’ off-field behaviour than their on-field prowess.
Matt Lodge was welcomed with open arms by the Brisbane Broncos, who supported him despite allegations that he assaulted his former partner.
This is the same bloke who drunkenly terrorised a random family in their New York home in 2015 and only narrowly avoided prison.
Photos of Bulldogs players’ Mad Monday antics, vomiting, passing out and running around a restaurant naked, didn’t help the League’s tattered image.
And in mid-December, Dragons player Jack de Belin was charged with aggravated sexual assault.