Darker Saturday

24 11 2007

USQ

By Derek Beres

Waking up to this article in the NY Times, it’s sad but not surprising to see where the focus of major media outlets has gone. Within two days, from covering the continual web-driven and -sponsored debates by Democratic hopefuls and the continuing perils of oil and Iraq, all eyes turn on: Santa Claus.

When I began a career in journalism during college ’93-’97, and then full-time in East Brunswick and Princeton in ’98, you are taught that there has to be objectivity in coverage, meaning to take yourself out of the picture to cover the “facts alone.” What you learn, however, is that regardless of what you’re covering, there can never be true objectivity. That’s a very Cartesian idea, being able to remove yourself from the world around you to write about it. The reality is that you can learn how to write an article to make it seem detached, but what you choose to cover, be it yourself or your editor, denies any signs of objectivity. That the total focus of newspapers and television networks has shifted to what Americans are spending on the holiday season is indicative of the growing consciousness of an economy in turmoil, certainly, but also a condensed reality show passing itself off as news.

In this NY Times piece, industry analysts have dubbed this the “trade down” season because high-end stores are “losing” business to major discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. (How one can “lose” business that is never given eludes me.) Quoting shoppers saying “I don’t like to be seen here” and “this is two steps down for me,” is a sad display of the perpetual gossip one of the supposed top media outlets in the country has turned to. Yes, it is the true mindset of many, but again the focus of this as lead quotations is truly sad, but given journalist’s approach of seeing what’s “wrong” with us, instead of what’s right (besides the fact that analysts have said we are off to a “strong, but discounted” start in sales), provokes the constant guilt over worrying about the money, and not the love, behind our presents. When this replaces presence, there can only be confusion and grief.

I’ll be avoiding the chains and boutiques altogether, and once again shopping at the Union Square Holiday Market.  At least there, for the most part, I get to meet and talk with the people that are either creating the products or importing them. There’s something inherently special about that to me, making a direct connection with the creator of the craft, which in turn gets passed along to the receiver of the gift. Its something you can’t analyze or create into very dependable statistics, but it is also something that is felt more than thought about. And for some odd reason, I thought that sharing these feelings with friends and family was closer to the intention of the holiday in the first place.

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