Wednesday, December 28, 2011

South Florida journalists put away Christmas cliches for another year

Leo. The "Miracle" Yorkie that beat the Grinch.
It's that time of the year again.

The one week between Christmas and the New Year when we take down the tree, load it in the car and drive it to the recycling center. After that it's time to dismantle the holiday decorations and store them in the garage for the next 11 months.

And in newsrooms across the country, reporters, editors and headline writers are engaged in a similar task.

They're busy packing up their hackneyed, Christmas-themed cliches and story ledes. The phrases and story ideas that never fail to make an appearance in newspapers and on TV news shows starting somewhere around the first or second week of December.

The most popular holiday headline appears whenever there's a Christmas crime story to in "Grinch steals Christmas - and family dog - from Morgan Hill family‎" or "Grinch Steals Family's Christmas." There are too many to count.

It's a cliche most headline writers find hard to resist. It's been in use for decades. And there's no sign it will ever go out of fashion.

I am happy to report that editors and writers at Miami's most trusted daily newspaper resisted the temptation to use the word "Grinch" in any stories this season.

However, last year it cropped up in a few stories.

The day before Christmas 2010, Herald sportswriter Joseph Goodman wrote, "[T]he Big 3 will hear enough boos Christmas Day at Los Angeles' Staples Center to make the Grinch envious..."

The "Grinch" was alive and well at Miami's TV news stations this year.

On Dec. 15, WSVN reported, "A South Florida woman is speaking out after a real-life Grinch stole her Christmas decorations."

CBS4 got an early start back in November with this line in a Black Friday story: "The Grinch is now trying to steal Thanksgiving and it won’t be much of a holiday for an unprecedented amount of people."

Next on the list of tired holiday themes is the sad, heart-tugging story with a happy ending.

Any other time of the year a sad story with a happy ending would be just that: a sad story that ends happily.

But a week or so before Christmas, a "happy ending" suddenly becomes a "Christmas miracle."

The day after Christmas, Channel 10's Roger Lohse reported...
A five year old Yorkie that disappeared during home burglary last week has been reunited with his owner.

The dog's name is Leo and if he could talk he could answer a lot of questions, like who broke into his owner's apartment on Friday and how he ended up on Miami Beach over the holiday weekend.

"It was like a Christmas miracle", said Leo's owner, Anita MacLannen.
Watch Lohse's report by clicking here. He trots out more cliches in his 2 minute report than most journalists use in an entire career.

Meanwhile, back at the Herald, at least one staffer managed to sneak a few Christmas cliches into his stories - two days in a row: "The NBA’s Christmas present to its fans: Allowing them to revel in the collapse of the Miami Heat one last time." -Herald sportswriter Joseph Goodman, Dec. 24, 2011

"Merry Christmas , basketball fans. It’s time to unwrap the NBA." -Herald sportswriter Joseph Goodman, Dec. 25, 2011

Here's one from sports columnist Greg Cote's Dec. 7, 2011 column: "What a remarkable time for South Florida’s major professional sports teams. It is Christmas season, and everywhere you look: Gifts!"

This year, the Herald managed to avoid doing a cliched, last minute Christmas shopping procrastination story...almost. "Some of the tents are still up, but all the merchandise is gone, and as Christmas Day creeps closer and closer, tree shopping procrastinators are running into a predicament: there’s nowhere to buy." -Jon Silman, Dec. 21, 2011

But, some references to Christmas in newspaper stories in December are inevitable.

Here are a few that were particularly well done: "The wish for a quieter Christmas Eve morning in the 1300 block of Northwest 66th Street turned deadly Saturday when a man allegedly stabbed the neighbor who asked him to turn down loud music, Miami Police said." -Elinor Brecher, Dec. 24, 2011

"A South Florida family got a big surprise on Christmas Day, but it wasn't delivered by a man in a big red suit." -Jared Goyette, Dec. 26, 2011

That's it for another year.

Will these tired cliches pop up in the media again next year? Is Santa fat?

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