Tuesday, December 24, 2013

OH in the newsroom: "Santa is here!" by Leah St. James

Before I worked for a newspaper, I used to think the clichéd image of a hardened, cynical journalist was just that – a cliché, convenient for story-telling. Since then I’ve come to learn the truth:

Experienced journalists can be hardened. They can be cynical. It can take a lot to get their attention. But in my perception, they've been forced to that condition by a non-stop flow of individuals who claim to have the story of the century to tell, and if the newspaper doesn’t want to write about them, they threaten to take that story to the local TV station. (I suspect many have already gone the TV route before coming to the paper, but that’s beside the point.)

The point is: Many people want a public platform for either a personal grievance or a public outrage, and newsworthiness is often in the eyes of the beholder...or editor. :-) After a while, it seems like you've heard it all.

So when a bunch of journalists hop up from their desks to check something out, something special is going on. That’s what happened just the other day. I was stuck on the phone (the “why” escapes me right now), when I heard a distinct sound coming from the elevator area: jingle bells. Others heard it too, and heads started popping up around the newsroom.

Then a cry of, “Santa is here!” and a whole bunch of "hardened, cynical" reporters hopped from their desks to check it out.

They didn’t have to go far. Within seconds, Santa himself rounded the corner – big-bellied, red-and-white-costumed, and grinning behind the long, Santa-white beard. Mrs. Claus, also appropriately dressed, trailed behind – one would presume to make sure he wouldn’t stumble or do himself any injury before the big day.

Eyes lit with excitement. Laughter erupted. And a crowd gathered around the happy couple.

Seems we were writing a story about Santa and he’d come all the way to our humble newsroom for a photo shoot. I’d say that was pretty darn accommodating of Santa so close to the biggest day of the year.

He’d left Rudolph and the other reindeer at home for the trek, choosing to travel in his minivan, its sides custom painted with said reindeer pulling a sleigh…of course! Staff members begged, and were granted, personal photos, which were immediately posted on Facebook. After a few minutes, the reporter who had actually snagged the interview yanked Mr. and Mrs. Claus away, and eventually the room settled down.

Reporters went back to their desks, smiling, in better moods for at least a little while. And when the editor, who'd been at an off-site meeting, returned and heard about the visit, I heard, "I can't believe I missed Santa Claus!!" :-)

Santa visits the Daily Press newsroom, Newport News, VA.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Press.
Click here to read the real story. You can also find a brief video of Santa talking about the joy he gets from visiting with special-needs children.

On behalf of all the “strumpets,” wishing you the merriest of Christmases, and a 2014 filled with joy, peace , health and prosperity.

By day, Leah works as a mild-mannered book blogger (among other things) at her local newspaper, but in the early morning hours, she lets her imagination run wild, crafting stories of romance, suspense, murder, mayhem and love. Always love.

Leah blogs about life in the newsroom the 4th Monday of each month. Learn more about Leah at LeahStJames.com.


  1. What a cool and timely blog Leah, and a lovely incident to share. I love the unexpected more than anything else.

    1. Thanks, Elvy! We do get to have some fun!

  2. What a wonderful experience. Sorry I didn't get here to read this until today, but I think it means I'm getting "extra innings" - a family tradition for us. I guess it's true that there's a little kid inside of each of us and things like this prove that point. Glad you had such a wonderful holiday experience! Belated Merry Christmas!

  3. You too, Denise. Santa is fun whenever. :-)