Trump and Turnbull top newsmakers' list - but not for reasons they might like

There was only ever going to be one winner from the nominations put forward by Sydney Morning Herald and Age readers for global newsmaker of the year.

Yes, the US President came up trumps, despite - or more likely because of - the overwhelmingly negative sentiment many readers expressed towards him.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull topped the national newsmaker nominations list for his near-constant media profile, but again not always for things he'd want to be remembered by. (Former White House spokesman Sean Spicer rebranding Mr Turnbull as "Trumble" must surely rank among our PM's most forgettable moments of the year, along with that first testy phone call with the US President).

Mr Trump garnered 59 per cent of 1675 reader nominations, putting him streets ahead of the next nominee on the global list, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un with 12 per cent. In third place was the bold new French president Emmanuel Macron at 9 per cent, while Russia's Vladimir Putin and besieged Myanmar icon Aung San Suu Kyi limped far behind on 3 per cent. "None of the above" was the pick of 14 per cent of respondents.

Readers felt compelled to nominate Mr Trump for the sheer volume of stories he continues to generate. A newsmaker for "all the wrong reasons", one remarked, while another described him as a " human headline on a far greater scale than Derryn Hinch".

"Sadly, the most newsworthy tragedy of the year" was how another summed up the Trump phenomenon: "He is all you ever hear or read about." Readers expressed anxiety about the effects of Mr Trump's presidency not just on his own country, but on the global order. Many were frightened about where his war of words with the North Korean leader might end up. "He is one of two people in the whole world who have moved us closer to nuclear war since the Cuban [missile] crisis" one warned. It was striking that while just over one in 10 readers nominated Kim Jong-un, the erratic dictator was mentioned in 35 per cent of open comments. Others who opted to offer observations were distressed at the US President's decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord.

Trump's unpredictable and at times bizarre tweets created a seemingly inexhaustible supply of news fodder, many readers noted. "It is impossible to conceive of a more effective news-making arrangement than a voracious POTUS Twitter addict feeding into an insatiable global media industry," one observed acidly.

"Buffoon" is a word many reached for. Others labelled the President boorish, "inept", "narcissistic", "bullying" and "sociopathic". Overall the sentiment was markedly negative: 250 critical comments against 110 positive remarks from those who put in nominations and 75 who were neutral.

Among those who came to praise Mr Trump, not bury him, there were plaudits for smashing the business model of the political "elites", for "appearing to be himself, instead of having everything filtered through advisers" and for being a "disrupter to a system that needed disruption". With three-quarters of his term still to run, it remains to be seen whether 2017 will be seen as the time when Donald Trump still had his presidential training wheels on, or whether every year under this President will be another year of living dangerously.

The national newsmaker of the year was a closer run competition. Malcolm Turnbull came out on top with 22 per cent of nominations, followed by a tight cluster of 14 per cent for Liberal MP and same-sex marriage champion Dean Smith, 13 per cent for John Cameron, the Perth lawyer who upset the federal parliament's citizenship cart, and 12 per cent for Justice Peter McClellan, the head of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten garnered 7 per cent.

Mr Turnbull's ratio of positive to negative remarks was much tighter than Mr Trump's: around 115 negative to just over 90 positive and 50 neutral. Mr Turnbull got marked down for backflips (on issues like the banking royal commission), lack of conviction,and for being hamstrung by the conservative rump of his party. Disappointment in his leadership was a recurring theme, as reflected by the reader who described him as "the diminishing Prime Minister".

"Stymied at every turn," wrote another. Other readers, however, were more charitable, depicting him as a stoic figure trying to keep the ship of state on a steady course despite constant threats of mutiny below decks.

"Against all odds he is trying to provide a stable government that has been sadly missing over almost the last decade," concluded one sympathiser.

This story Trump and Turnbull top newsmakers' list - but not for reasons they might like first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.