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Stories That Made a Diffidence 

The high-flown low-down on 2006's phat skinny.

In 2006, citizen journalists were again the news world's darlings, from cellphone-camera clickers to bloggers breaking big-deal stories.

If the non-professional scribe is a citizen-journalist, what does that make those of us paid to do this? Non-citizen journalists?

If so, we must be either resident aliens or royalty. Either way, 2006 has made us -- the editorial, not royal, we -- realize that more accountability is owed both to our readers and to the subjects who appeared in our articles, or at least to those who starred in the Corrections column.

Let us revisit, then, the newsmakers, and those whom this paper merely made into news, and see how they (and I) have fared at 2006's end.

∞Last month, I reported on one brave restaurateur's personal challenge to Allegheny County's upcoming smoking ban ("Choking Section," Nov. 8). Charles Remner's all-smoking establishment, which featured a menu made up entirely of cigarettes and liquors -- and, in its most inventive move, a nicotine-based liqueur -- is now closed. Surprisingly, it was the victim not of county officials or health code violations but of the tobacco lobby, which sued the owner. The lawsuit, still pending, contends that eating smokes by the carton, while advisable, does not result in federally mandated levels of addiction. A fuming Remner is still formulating his response.

∞As in past years, I once again set out to test the contention that being gay is a choice by choosing to be gay ("Pride Before the Fall," Aug. 21). Previously, I had always failed the entry test administered by homosexuality's governing body, the World Gay Council. This fall, however, with gay marriage, gay breeding and soon gay divorce verging on the commonplace -- and with a new essay portion added to the test -- I was able to pass in more ways than one. However, as I have since discovered to my chagrin, there is more to being gay than the yearly membership fees. There are also the lifestyle magazines to read. Next year, I pledge to be better prepared.

∞In October, I reported on the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's major shift in focus. During the summer, the Partnership had hired uniformed Downtown Ambassadors to make sure the homeless weren't acting too, well, homeless. By the time autumn's tinge had colored the menacingly prickly border shrubbery in our public squares, the Partnership was ready with a new, more positive strategy -- hiring more splendidly uniformed Downtown Ambassadors to make sure the rich living Downtown acted appropriately wealthy. The new program, paid for entirely by tips, had to be scratched when some Ambassadors, less skilled at scoring gratuities, ended up homeless.

∞In February, I profiled Fred Tarnish, who sought to increase the attractiveness of our War on Terror -- which has lost out in popularity even to the War on Whatever We're Fighting This Month in Iraq -- by creating a plush "Terry the Non-Terrorized Terrier" mascot ("Improvised Explosively Furry Device," April 29). By bringing Terry to classrooms and making it bark friendly commands to our future soldiers, Tarnish proved by this school year that, if war is not the answer, neither is stuffing.

∞My late January column headlined "Super Bowl Victory Sure to Result in Horrid 2006 Season" may still be ordered in glossy versions suitable for framing.

∞And finally: As the debate began in earnest this year about which casino plan was best for Pittsburgh, I tested all three proposals by going deeply into debt to bookies in each neighborhood where casinos might be built: the Hill District, South Side and North Shore ("As We Forgive Our Debts," March 6). Just in time for a winning bid to be picked this week, I can report that, while I have not been able to pay off all of my bookies, I have found that typing with one hand is more than possible.

It's almost 2007. Let the healing begin.

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