Several years ago there was a front page story in the West Australian that caused a great deal of consternation here. The headline read "Dullsville" and as far as I can recall it described how this was the term used to describe Perth in a foreign travel publication. It then asked readers if the tag (which had long been used locally anyway) was still justified.

This story became a hot topic of conversation and spawned many an outraged call to local talk-back stations. How could anyone say that about this city, the callers huffed. Perth was the most beautiful, livable and vibrant city in the country! As well as TV news items, there were several subsequent newspaper columns and articles about the controversy, and the letters pages ran hot with passionate missives on the subject for days, if not weeks, afterwards. 

At the time I remember thinking how ironic this all was. Surely the place deserved the derisive title of Dullsville when a report that this was how it was described was on the main local daily's front page! Could you think of a more extreme example of a "slow news day"?

Certainly, things have changed a great deal since then. Perth is a lot bigger, faster, and more exciting than it used to be -- and not just in good ways. There have been marked increases in anti-social behaviour, violence and crime. There are times when I think that if it keeps developing at the rate it has been lately it may well end up deserving the moniker "Stressville" instead. 

That said, there's a paradox at work. While you can't ignore the fact that Perth is now a big, bustling city with a helluva lot happening, it also retains much of its laid back, "big country town" character. The people are mostly easy going and friendly, the weather is as gorgeous as ever, the air is clean, and -- occasional shark attacks aside -- the beaches are just beautiful. Now, such a pleasant and relaxed lifestyle could easily be characterized as dull, depending on what your priorities are.

And at the risk of sounding snobby, "dull" could also be used to describe those who are insular and petty. And there are clearly many people like that in Perth, as evidenced by the kind of news items they find most compelling. 

Take this list of the most popular local stories in 2013 for WA Today. Some of them were genuinely dramatic such as the sad tale of the local woman who was scammed on a dating site and wound up dead in South Africa. Then there are items like this one involving local politician Eleni Evangel

Perth woman Kerry Jacobs received a letter from Ms Evangel's office written entirely in Chinese, sent to her because her maiden name was 'Chong'.

Mrs Jacob's parents are Malaysian but she was born in Perth, could not read the letter and was "really offended".

That such an insignificant event could have even made the papers is surprising. That it was one of the most popular stories of the year is utterly jaw-dropping

The term "Dullsville" still has quite some way to go, I'm afraid ...