A Christmas Story
And it’s been one hell of a haul, folks, especially for members of the Capital Region’s media, which has had a devil of a time keeping up with the go-go times of the Christmas season. At first blush, it might seem like a tall order covering all this holiday cheer, especially seeing as though the official season now spans more than a month. But they manage to do without fail every year.
In fact, some news agencies have more or less given up reporting news of any substance whatsoever. Take for example the hard news flow pouring from the studios of Capital News 9. Among the hard-hitting Christmas-themed stories this week, the “your news now” network aired a piece posing the real question about the holidays: Why do people string billions of Christmas lights on their homes? The answer to this and more coming up after this month’s news break.
However, News 9 is hardly alone in their nearly month-long break in reporting real news. In fact, there’s been a veritable cavalcade of media sources throwing out some of the quintessential non-stories this holiday season, as they did the previous year and the year before; the same stories, the same sources, the same everything except for the last digit in the year and perhaps where they were featured in broadcast or paper.
These stories include “the holiday mailing crunch” story out of a U.S. Post Office near you. Ever wonder what happens when several million people mail Christmas cards to 100 of their closest friends and relatives? Well look no further than the reports brimming from this year’s paper; ones that look oddly homogeneous when compared to those of previous years.
Then there’s the travel report, the most futile of Christmas stories. See, people tend to travel when they have a few days off strung together around the holidays; visit the in-laws, snowbird down to the Florida peninsula, fire back home for a few days of free living in mom’s nest.
Yet, there’s always a sense of amazement over this mass migration in the next day’s news; published a day later than it would be useful to anyone traveling. It’s almost as if there’s an all-seeing editor or producer that has been living in a locked newsroom vault for the last half century and might not be privy to the holiday gridlock that strikes modern transportation.
But never was there a more hackneyed account of the Christmas fervor than during the holiday spend-a-thon. From the Black Friday blow-by-blow accounts to the mid-season reports to the last-minute shopper stories, the local media obsesses with the greediest element of a holiday many proffer as a time of giving and caring.
As the clock ticks down to 6 p.m., television cameras and reporters are there to chronicle every last minute of shopping; where they’re spending, what they’re buying and how many packages they’re carrying. These reports tend to give up-to-date milquetoast reports about how holiday shopping might be affecting local business, using terms such as “business appears to be good” or that holiday shopping “might be the slowest” in five years. Of course, there is no barometer for this until all the receipts are counted sometime in late January. Yep, nothing like adding speculation to an article already suffering from an utter dearth of real news.
Meanwhile, the real story just seems to float over the talking heads and mindless publishers nestled in their news hovels around the Capital Region. In a time when the sub-prime mortgage crisis is threatening many with the loss of thousands of dollars –even homelessness in more dire cases –residents are still lighting up suburbia with expensive Christmas lights and going on unprecedented spending sprees with their credit cards.
The warning sirens are indeed sounding for a public that has become obsessed with outspending one another in the run up to Christmas, though few want to hear them while their loading up a financed SUV with a hodge-podge of over-priced consumer electronics purchased with a maxed out Visa. In a study that spanned from October 2006 until October 2007, The Associated Press reported credit card debt and delinquency has sky-rocketed among Americans.
The most telling are figures provided by the Bank of America, which is owed $5 billion from its delinquent card holders. The defaults represent a 200 percent increase over the previous year’s figures, and that’s without figuring in the shopping bonanza now taking place in the run up to C-Day. Merry fucking Christmas, America; grab a mug full of eggnog and worry about it in the New Year.
But why bother asking shoppers how they plan on affording a veritable treasure trove of presents? Why bother asking them about their angst or why they feel the need to purchase their way through a holiday that once represented peace and harmony among mankind, rather than the abject consumerism? Isn’t it better to just ask them if they still believe in Santa Claus?
Perhaps these are bleak questions to ask for a time when cheer is almost a societal mandate. Eventually, however, the public will need to awaken to the notion that Christmas spending continues to spiral out control. And maybe for once, the local media might consider focusing on something of substance, rather than gleefully heading out to the mall for a report on how much debt these jolly revelers will sink themselves into for an ounce of holiday cheer.