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Looking forward to The Herald-Mail's holiday traditions

December 03, 2011|Meg Partington

With only three weeks until Christmas and 16 days until the start of Hanukkah, we are officially in the heat — or shall I say glow? — of the holiday season.

It's a tradition-filled time of year.  

Families adorn their homes with decorations passed down through generations or collected over the years.

Ovens and stoves emit smells of treasured holiday recipes sweet and savory. The shopping frenzy is in full swing as people strive to find gifts that will make lasting impressions.

Newspapers are in an awkward position during this event- and sentiment-filled time. There are countless activities that could be covered, many of them annual fetes.

Should we continue to cover the events that typically draw large crowds or should we pay more attention to an event that's in its infancy? Do we continue running stories that people expect to see about holiday safety, cooking, gifts and travel, or do we dare to venture into unchartered territory?

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We want to stay current, but we also want to be part of our readers' traditions by providing what's expected, what makes them want to curl up with us in paper form or online while they sip hot chocolate. 

On Halloween, The Herald-Mail's executive editor, Jake Womer, forwarded to the newsroom staff a link to a story on The Poynter Institute's website about cliches to avoid using during the holiday season. The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based school trains current and future journalists, and enlightens the public about journalism.

The item included a list of journalistic no-no's compiled by John McIntyre, master copy desk chief at The (Baltimore) Sun.

Among them:

  • Never use "'tis the season" in stories or headlines.
  • Avoid using "Grinch steals." While it's tempting to use these words in reference to someone nabbing children's Christmas toys or vandalizing holiday decorations, we were advised to resist doing so.
  • Allusions to "Yes, Virginia." That is a reference to the 1897 editor's letter printed in the New York Sun in which an 8-year-old girl named Virginia asks if Santa Claus is real, a piece that has been reprinted countless times since.
Reading the warnings rattled my Scrooge-like chains a bit, as I know I'm guilty of using those trite phrases in the past. It also got me thinking: Aren't some of those references, plus all things Kringle and merry, part of the holiday tradition?

Over the 14 years I've been here, I've grown to expect — and look forward to — certain things The Herald-Mail serves up between Christmas and New Year's Day. I'm hoping readers feel the same way.

For instance, the Lifestyle section's Cookie Exchange is marking its 20th year. Area cookie bakers create their finest treats for judges, who nibble their way to a decision on who gets the top monetary prize. Read all about "It's cookie contest time!"

On New Year's Day for the last dozen years, we have named The Herald-Mail's Person of the Year, a Washington County resident who has done notable things for the community and whose story is always inspiring. That custom will continue with a front-page story about this year's honoree on the first day of 2012.

Between now and Jan. 1, there always seem to be plentiful stories about people being generous and kind to each other. There also tend to be more reports of stealing, as the pressure to provide gifts ratchets up several notches.

While there's bound to be many new topics covered in our newspaper and on our website, I hope you turn to us for some of the features you've come to expect from us during this festive time of year.

Yes, Virginia, with a click or a page flip, you will find evidence of Santa's existence in The Herald-Mail.

No Grinch could take that cliche from my journalistic repertoire!
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