Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Give me a break from the c-word

I don’t want to sound mean-spirited but if I read another headline in my local paper with Christmas in it, I’ll cancel my subscription and buy Watchtower. The latest edition of festive fonts in seasonal serif reminded me why I handed out humbugs to my staff at an editorial conference many Decembers ago.

My objection has nothing to do with political correctness, just an assault on the senses.

Page lead after page lead managed to shoehorn in the c-word. Apart from the usual round-up of seasonal events for local prisoners and patients and an interview with a Christmas card maker, we had a court report which told us a thief will be behind bars for Christmas, stolen ponies recovered in time for Christmas and a teacher retiring as the children broke up for Christmas.

Ok, there was a Citizens Advice piece on seasonal credit card debt, a picture of the local MP judging a Christmas card competition, but - get this - the sports pages carried headlines about the rugby team looking for a “points-filled Christmas” and a leading football club being in good shape for “the festive period”.

Even the splash came gift-wrapped. Under a sprig of holly in the masthead, the usual “seasons greetings”, puffs for a Christmas TV guide and a festive quiz sat a good yarn about police using a new law to close a drugs den. The headline? Christmas joy as police close crack house.

Christmas joy? Do I now have to look forward to “Happy Easter as jobless totals fall again? May Day delight as porn baron jailed? Rate rise means Solstice hell for shoppers?”

Memo to chief subs: a story is a story whatever the time of year. Which is what I told my young guns on one local weekly all those years ago. They weren’t best pleased: We can’t use Christmas in any headlines? What if the Arndale reports record Christmas sales? “Record sales” is fine, I said. People know what day it is. What if Father Christmas is mugged in his grotto? Use Santa it’s shorter, and more vulnerable. And if a single mum phones to say burglars have stolen all her starving children’s Christmas presents on Christmas Eve? Do me a favour: after you’ve used gifts, trees and tears, you’ll run out of space anyway.

And so it went on. My ears were burning at the office party later but I did concede to a touch of masthead mistletoe and one “highly relevant” 18pt s/col top:

Christmas chemists’ rota.

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