Monday, December 20, 2004


My holiday wish this year is to not hear anyone's holiday wishes.

Newspapers play into charities' game these months toward the end of the year. Column inches are filled with heart-tugging stories and photos about poor little Billy who needs a train set and oh-so-sad Emma who wants a Barbie.

I understand this season sees more charitable donations than any others. I understand that many charities depend on it to make their budgets meet. But is it really the role of a newspaper to perpetuate this dysfunctional, cynical embarrassment?

Look, big cities (and the smaller ones, too) bulge with the needy. They stand on the street corners with shopping carts full of possessions. They wait in lines for soup. They ask pedestrians for change. And they do this 365 days a year.

I see these folks every day. In December, yes, but in January and February too. They don't just magically appear for this single 31-day span. Newspapers do them a disservice by acting as though they only exist for this. Yes, that little homeless boy would love toys this month. But he would also like to have a place to live, and food to eat, and other toys to play with, and a life worth living for the other 11 months of the year.

If those in the journalism profession want to spread the word about how their readers (and viewers) can help the less-fortunate, they should take a longer-term, more realistic approach. They should stop trying to assuage their guilt and focus on true solutions. Charities need help, of course, but their game is not ours.