For the journalists on Christmas

For my friends in journalism: You're openly hated, thick-skinned, and work for truth through this and many other holidays without (that much) complaining.

It's popular and necessary during the holidays to give props to the far-flung military, our local emergency responders, and the medical professions that catch Christmas emergencies. It's also a populist move that corporations and nonprofits pull (See: The NFL). That's a rant for another day, though.

Often overlooked on holiday salutes are the people who put together the daily local news folks in PJs call up with unboxed iPads on Christmas morning. Or maybe you're the newspaper reader with a mug of coffee who looks forward to Christmas, with inky thumbs, reading section-by-section. Or you read because you want to know why you heard 2 a.m. gunfire down the street. Probably a domestic call.

Reporters put that together for you, editors pushed it through. Designers and copy editors and production staff and paper carriers (or online staff) to that story out. You don't have to call them heroes, though sometimes they are. But they are working through holidays and need their due.

My first Christmas at a paper was with an Iraq war veteran in Danville, Va. Being the cub in the newsroom, I just went ahead and volunteered for the shift. The officer was about to head out for another tour in a couple days, and I rode along. We went to a domestic call. And then hung out at one of the places he would radar for speeders - but more likely just do paperwork after a call. Much of a cop's job is waiting.

Another year in the late 2000's, I just rode the scanner - listening for any major calls in Greensboro, N.C. Afterward I got some beer and watched a DVD at home. My family and I met up for Christmas the following weekend.

In Knoxville a few years back I went to a bus station and found the best story I could. Not all Christmases glint through tinsel and mist. Last year I hung out with the police scanner. Reporters and cops both like it when there's not much to do around holidays. Not because we're lazy - far from it. When it's a calm day, that means people are getting along.

Whether embedded in a foreign bureau, or just working through their career, the reporters and editors and others in news also miss their families on holidays. And just as many - especially the reporter at your local daily paper - likely doesn't have the money to visit back home. It's not a high-paying profession. Unless you live on the East Coast, advancing often means moving far from your home to further a career.

This is no call for sympathy. Few people shoot at us, though it does happen. In the U.S. we're far more likely to be personally insulted, or grouped in with some abstract idea of "media" - whatever that is. We work with just as much volunteer spirit and pride in our country as those who are more quickly called heroes (and in many cases, rightly so). For us, to be a patriot is to question those in power - the legislature, the judicial and the executive. Corporations, and cults of personality, and big figures in sports and entertainment. Sometimes we question our own employers.

I digress. So many of my buddies in journalism will never catch a whiff of CNN airtime, or even run a column in the local daily. They'll just keep banging out stories with an ignored byline at the top. Because they know it's not about them - it's about their communities.

And they're sacrificing time with their families on this holiday to do it, knowing that there's a cold beer or three waiting at the end of the shift for them. Even if they're drinking alone for this one.

So thanks for your work.

And, above all, thanks for reading.

Currently listening to: "Christmas at the Zoo" - The Flaming Lips