The camera pans across a sparkling Christmas tree, then zooms in on singer Clay Aiken, who begins to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”: “... and ransom captive Israel … that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear …”
So which holiday is that about?
ABC’s Kate Snow tiptoed around that question on the November 26 “Good Morning America.”
“We have a special treat for you this morning to get you warmed up for the holiday season,” she said, touting Aiken’s new “holiday” record (title: “All is Well: Songs for Christmas”).
In a new Business & Media Institute analysis, “Good Morning America” was the least likely of the network morning shows to refer to Christmas, mentioning it only about 31 percent of the time.
While retailers were taken to task for celebrating a generic holiday last year and are instead marketing a very Merry Christmas this year, journalists have not joined the Christmas party.
After pressure last year from religious groups many retailers made changes this year to welcome the Christmas spirit. Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Sears, Macy’s and Target are among the businesses recognizing Christmas this year, according to a November 30 article in the National Catholic Register.
But those in the media business are being much more Scroogelike. They preferred to use “holiday” or “season” when talking about Christmastime by a 3-1 margin between November 22-29, around the time the traditional Christmas shopping season began.
A breakdown of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today” show, and CBS’s “Early Show” resulted in nearly 300 references to the Christmas season during the week of November 22-29. Only 75 of them included the word “Christmas.” (The tally included only the comments made by reporters and anchors. Not included in the count were onscreen graphics or formal names.)
CBS’s “Early Show” mentioned “Christmas” the most often with 37.7 percent of the references being holiday-specific. NBC’s “Today” fell between ABC and CBS, saying “Christmas” 35.4 percent of the time.
O Something Tree, O Something Tree …
“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts mentioned a popular Christmas tradition on the November 29 broadcast: “And also this morning, we have an exclusive first look at the violent videogames you will not want to give your young kids as stocking stuffers this holiday season.” She didn’t mention what other winter holiday celebrations include stocking stuffing.
One particular ABC segment about “Holiday Rage” on November 26 used the word “Christmas” twice. In contrast, it used the word “holiday” 12 times and the word “season” five times.
“This is the season for skyrocketing sales, but with those sales come big crowds, and you know tempers are going to flare and the season has only just begun,” said reporter Andrea Canning.
Canning also called “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” a “holiday” movie and later referred to the “hustle and bustle of the yuletide season.”
The repetitive use of “holiday” instead of “Christmas” was most obvious when Canning used it three times in three sentences:
“There are a number of factors that contribute to angst around the holidays. Braving the crowded malls while trying to stay on budget, the average American spends $800 during the holidays and one in three will rely on credit cards. Four in 10 Americans blame holiday stress for incidents of road rage…”
But what “holiday” are shoppers spending all this money on? Chances are it’s Christmas, because 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, according to a 2005 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll.
Rasmussen Reports said on December 1 that 62 percent of Americans will decorate a Christmas tree this year. And in 2005, nearly 33 million live Christmas trees were purchased, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
“Good Morning America” co-anchor Diane Sawyer, however, was no politically-correct grinch. Sawyer alone provided half of the show’s specific mentions of “Christmas” during that week including wishing actress Kate Winslet a “happy Christmas” on November 27.
Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute