Stuff Journalists Like – #86 Working Holidays


When they say news is 24/7, they, whoever they are, mean it. That is why whether it be Christmas, Fourth of July,Yom Kippur or National Hotdog Day (which is July 23 for all you non-hotdog enthusiasts) there will be a journalist toiling inside a newsroom.

Working holidays is just one of the sacrifices journalists have to make to have the privilege to report the news.

A typical holiday inside a newsroom consists of  the sole journalist on duty strolling in two to five hours later than usual and in attire even less professional than the journalist’s normal wardrobe. Then it’s on to checking the police scanner and rummaging through the office refrigerator seeing what people left behind during the long weekend. The editor on call then proceeds to give the journalist anywhere from two to 12 story assignments to fill the next day’s paper.

And if it’s a holiday that includes a parade, it’s a sure thing the journalist is covering it. After, it’s back to the desk to try to punch out an anecdotal lede about a four-year-old’s first time at a parade – as not to re-write the previous year’s anecdotal lede about an 80-year-old woman who has never missed said parade. And as the shift draws to an end, the working journalist just prays that nothing regarding shootings, stabbings or fatal car crashes comes across the police scanner as he or she makes it for the door.  It usually does.

Deciding who works upcoming holidays inside a newsroom is a battle of the excuses. Senior journalists will cry seniority while other journalists will argue they had to work the last 12 holidays. Without a valid argument or excuse, the duty typically falls to the last journalist hired.

Working holidays is a rite of passage for journalists. In addition to giving journalists another thing to gripe about, it makes them appreciate the one holiday a year they don’t have to work.

Mail carriers may work through rain, sleet and hail but come a federal holiday, ain’t no one getting their mail. But 365 days a year, readers demand their newspaper, news updates, blogs, RSS feeds and cartoon strips and journalists, obliging, will always be there, grinding out the news.


working holiday journalism


  1. AP says:

    It’s so true. And this is me writing from the newsroom on the Christmas overnight shift.

  2. The corollary to this is what I often call my “Advice to Criminals.”
    If you’re planning some dastardly deed around the holidays, my advice is to wait until about mid-January to do it. If you leave your loved one dead or missing on Christmas Eve, we will be so delighted that we have actual news to cover on the holidays that very soon your case will be at the top of all of the network tabloids.
    Imagine if Scott Peterson had waited until mid-January to off his wife and take up with the hussy from Fresno. What are the chances that the Modesto Bee, much less the national media, would pay attention to a murder involving a fertilizer salesman? But give us a missing pregnant woman on Christmas Eve and what news organization could resist? Same thing for Jon Benet Ramsey. The creepy pageant video might have been enough in that case but the fact that it happened over Christmas was the push that put it on the top of all the tabloids. And of course if you dress up as Santa and kill ten people on Christmas Eve, you’re pretty much guaranteed the limelight.
    So if you’re hoping to get away with a hideous crime, wait until after everyone’s back at work in January. As a journalist, of course, I hope you’ll ignore this advice and keep giving us juicy things to cover when nothing the hell else is happening in a Holiday newsroom.

  3. capital photo says:

    Pam– Yeah, I’m gonna have to ask you to work this New Year’s Day. Oh, and I’m going to have to ask you to work this Saturday and Sunday, too.–The boss guy in the movie Office Space.

  4. The Bolsavik says:

    And while the last one hired is looking for 4-year-olds at a parade, the senior journalist is lunching with a local legislator, back in town for the holidays and looking to buff up his or her image…. :-)

  5. ksteinhoff says:

    Hey, it ain’t just the holiday day that’s tough. I had a city editor in N.C. who never met a Christmas tearjerker he couldn’t milk.
    By the time I got through a month of shooting dying kids, the burnt-out family, the stolen Christmas presents, the laid-off worker with the sick kid and pregnant wife, ad nauseum, I was so depressed I LOVED working Christmas ’cause I knew he wouldn’t be there.
    The only thing worse than that was the drive back home on Christmas Eve where you couldn’t pick up anything on the AM radio except Christmas music for 10 bleeping solid hours. To this day, I can’t stand Xmas carols.
    Bah, humbug.

  6. Ron Prichard says:

    This is sadly true, but it also demonstrates the even worse role of copy editor as opposed to reporters. copy editors aren’t journalists? You write:
    “A typical holiday inside a newsroom consists of the sole journalist on duty strolling in two to five hours later than usual and in attire even less professional than the journalist’s Monday through Friday wardrobe.”
    Folks, while reporters debate which poor sap gets to work the holiday shift, there’s a full boat of copy editors trading life or limb for the one or two ‘off’ spots.
    Before you complain about having to do your time as a new reporter, consider the plight of the poor copy editor.

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