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Five Reasons to Work on Christmas

-first posted at RTDNA.org on December 22, 2009

So the title of this blog might be a bit of a downer for a lot of you.  You enjoy the holidays and hate to think of those times when you get stuck working.  But I’m writing this for all those newsroom managers out there who’ve been pulling their hair out trying to deal with holiday vacation requests while still having enough people to keep the shows on the air this week and next.  Here’s a handy, pocket—sized guide (if you print it and fold it up) to whip out and drop on your holiday-loving employees.  It’s a list of a few of the best reasons to work on Christmas—reasons news people can stay sane after working all the days everyone else has off.

Reason #1: Short commute to work. With nearly everyone else in the country taking the day off for Christmas, your trip to work will be free of the regular traffic snarls and honking headaches you find most days.  Leave home a bit later.  You’ll still be on time.

Reason #2: You’ll have pretty much the whole building to yourself.  Once you do get to the station, there will only be news, production, and master control people around.  The building will be quiet and you’ll have the run of it.  Go sit in the public lobby and pretend you’re waiting to complain about a story you saw.  Go take the $ sign keys off all the computer keyboards in sales.  Go back to programming and replace the Jay Leno show with something people will actually watch.  No one will stop you.  You’ll have the run of the building.

Reason #3: Big stories happen on Christmas Day (really).  What day did Mikhail Gorbachev resign, setting the end of the Soviet Union into motion?  Why, December 25, of course.  What day did Apollo 8 end its orbit of the moon after sending back those dramatic pictures of Earthrise over the far side?  That was Christmas Day.  And what day did President Andrew Johnson pick to pardon all Confederate soldiers—OK, I might have gone a little far back for that one.  But news does happen on Christmas.  Each of you can probably remember some big story that broke on Christmas Day in your market.  A serious oil pipeline break into a local river comes to mind for me.  The people working that day had great news to cover—all because they didn’t take the day off.

Reason #4: Traveling at Christmas can be awful.  Just look at this year.  That big East Coast snowstorm has left many holiday travelers stuck at home—or worse yet—in the airport or train station. Buying a plane ticket to go anywhere north of Tallahassee in December is like buying your new newsroom automation system from a guy on craigslist.  You’re asking for trouble.  Why take the risk that your trip to see friends and family will be cut short due to weather problems.  Safer to stay close to home and turn those weather problems into great stories.

Reason #5: Why should you take a day off just because everyone else is?  I’ve never been much of a holiday guy anyway, but the idea of set holidays from work has always made me bristle just a little bit.  Why should I take the same six days off every year as everyone else?  Maybe I don’t want the first Monday in September off.  But most companies call that a holiday and tell their people not to come in.  I’ve always liked the notion born and bred in newsrooms that Thanksgiving is just another Thursday.  Let me take my “holidays” when I choose to take them for my own pleasure.

So there you have it, a list of five reasons why there’s no good excuse to stay away from work this or any Christmas.  Sure, I had a little fun with it.  But this really is serious business.  Managers have always struggled to keep enough warm bodies in the newsroom this time of year.  And if you’re just now starting to hire Millennial employees into your newsroom, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Millennials LOVE their holidays, placing a trip home and a few days off at Christmas at the top of their wants in their professional life.  So this is becoming a problem much bigger than a few managers who can’t fill their schedules easily.  I’ve actually met young Millennials who decided NOT to pursue a career in news because they couldn’t come to grips with working holidays.  And these were good people—not just some slackers who wouldn’t have cut it in the business anyway.  We have a serious problem as the next generation begins to fill most of the positions in our newsrooms.  Perhaps Millennial station managers will be quicker to cancel newscasts on holidays than our Baby Boomer bosses have been in our careers.  That would be one way to fix the problem.  But can that really work?  Doesn’t the web keep its demand even when the newscasts aren’t on the air?  It’s a very sticky problem.

So, to do your part keeping the rampant run to the holiday in check, you still need to fill your newsrooms with enough staff to fill some shows this Friday.  Print this list.  Fold it up.  Put it in your pocket until you see one of your holiday-loving staffers.  What have you got to lose?

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