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The Top 10 Most Troubling Media Stories of 2005



You can tell we've reached the end of another year by the explosion of lists: Top 10 movies, Best TV Shows, Worst Celebrity Scandals - you name it, there's a list for it.

Because I'm off work for the next two weeks -- but I can't bear to leave my blog alone -- I'm going to join the crowd, counting down my list of Most troubling Media Stories in 2005, revealing a different entry every couple days or so.

Feel free to chime in with your own entries -- count down with me if you like -- as we excavate what has turned out to be one of the toughest years for media in a long while.

My first entry, technically my 10th entry, is (drumroll...)

Number 10: The Bogus War on Christmas

This is a topic I've wound up discussing on a few different TV/pundit shows, and it seemed good enough to land at the bottom of my Top 10.

A number of advocacy groups and pundits are complaining about a "War on Christmas" supposedly enabled by politically correct corporation and government types too cowardly to commemmorate Christmas in their retail displays and holiday cards (whoops! I've done it myself.)

(sign outside Without Walls church in Tampa/photo by Times staffer Brian Cassella)

It would seem a ludicrous idea -- that a holiday commemorated with weeks of sales, TV specials, a federal holiday and literally hundreds of years of celebration history could seriously be considered "under attack."

But this is just what Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson would have viewers believe. To make his point, O'Reilly has claimed a school district in Plano Texas and the township of Saginaw, Mich. both banned red and green clothing -- claims which real journalists have proven false. He claimed on his radio show that the Postal Service doesn't offer spiritually themed postage stamps -- another falsity.

O'Reilly also aired a year-old clip from the Daily Show as proof of the current assault, implying that the excerpt was from 2005 (Jon Stewart, ever up for a media fight, had the now-pregnant correspondent featured in the clip, Samantha Bee, on to show how old the story really was).

I could go on, but you get the point. In their quest to rack up sales for their books and ratings for their TV shows and allegiance from their followers, Gibson and O'Reilly have ginned up a conflict that isn't there. Beyond the oddity of demanding the commercialization of a religious observance and bullying the country into disregarding the holiday celebrations of Jews and Muslims, their claim that Christmas is being marginalized isn't true.

Generally, we depend on journalistic enterprises such as Fox News and even news commentator/host/pundit types such as Gibson and O'Reilly to expose such falsities and hypocrisies, not encourage them. Yes, we know the drill by now: these guys depend on riding such controversies to build their own fame and power.

Still, because Christmas is generally a slow news time and media outlets always need to fill pages or airtime with something, this controversy has spread across the news universe like a virus, spawning a host of stories, editorials and columns. Despite our better judgment, we media types have spent endless hours debating the significance of this faux conflict, to the exclusion of real news -- even in this space.

Reason enough to land as my 10th worst media trend in 2005.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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