And like all good Christmas stories, it begins in a bucolic town filled with busy, happy, essentially good people who are sometimes too busy to realize their good fortune. It will include a Scrooge, because all good Christmas stories do, and it will end, as they must, with an uplifting scene. Let’s call that town Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Our story opens on a gray December day. The fine people of the town are busy preparing for the coming holiday. They are planning the Christmas feast, shopping for just the right present for little Cindy Loo Who and generally hanging their stockings with care.
Well, most of them.
There is another man in town. We’ll call him John, because that is his name. He is aggrieved. John has seemingly always been aggrieved. He buries the city in public records requests, looking for something to rail about online. He champions recalls and videos hours of public meetings in hopes that a political opponent will slip up.
As you might expect, John isn’t particularly enamored with the local newspaper. It doesn’t do enough to comfort the afflicted, which is often John himself. It can’t be trusted. It must be on the take from the Powerful People who are out to get him.
And so on this particular December day he emailed the editor of the newspaper and told him to blankety-blank off. (Actually, “off” was one of the words he used. The other began with the letter “F.”)
Then he did so a second time for effect. At which point I recalled Dr. Seuss:
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
may have been that his heart was two sizes too small. …
The holidays are the most difficult time of the year on the editorial side of a newspaper. There are more ads, so there is often more news hole to fill. Our sources disappear to be with their family and friends. Officialdom largely goes into hibernation, which makes coverage difficult. The schools, regular sources of news and photos, close for the season. The hard-working people on staff would like to carve out a day or two for their own celebrations, meaning fewer hands on deck. Add in a year-in-review special section, and, well, you get the picture.
Then you get profanity-laced emails from the local Grinch telling you that you suck.
Here’s my holiday prayer for you, dear editor and reporter: May you keep perspective this time of year. May you find the time you deserve to celebrate your blessings with your families. May you remember to be kind to each other in the face of your own December workload. May your readers find their own holiday cheer and may they shine some of that goodwill your way. And may you know you are appreciated by untold unspoken voices because you are doing democracy’s work.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy holidays.