The Santa Lie Is a Reporter’s Downfall

There’s really just one guiding rule of journalism: tell the truth. Every other one – be unbiased, be observant – comes back to that one.

And yet, there’s one time when it’s officially acceptable to bust that rule. And as a proud member of the Sullivan County Democrat staff, I am prouder still to say I’ve done it. I’ve smashed it to smithereens.

Folks, I’m talking Santa. You know, the big guy with the white beard and the belly that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly. We all know he can’t make it to every place in the world to visit our kiddos, and so we all know that the guy you’re taking photos of at this event in Callicoon or that event in Jeffersonville is not the same dude. My kid, on the other hand, doesn’t know that. She’s been schooled in the magic that is Santa’s ability to clone himself, and that’s all she needs to know. Well, that, and does he have the means to bring a LaLaLoopsy doll to our house this year?

The news that a television anchor in Chicago spilled the Santa beans in the middle of a newscast a few weeks back left me indignant on the behalf of the entire profession. It’s an ethical decision, one I tend to believe should be taught in journalism school.

As I sit down to type up a quick caption for the photo of your little darling sitting on some random fat guy’s knee (oh, I know, it’s all fake stuffing Mister), I cannot bring myself to be the one who breaks that news to the kids.

Because what do parents do when they see a photo of their child in the paper? First we smile, then we shriek, and then we call the kids over to get a look. And with my little voracious reader, I’m more than a little aware that the caption is part of the whole shebang.

I’m sorry, journalism diehards. My apologies to Edward R. Murrow and the rest of the gang. I refuse to be the one who breaks a child’s heart at Christmas.

If that makes me a liar, well, he can bring me coal this holiday. I’ll take my lumps!

Would you want a reporter to tell the truth about Santa? Really? 


  1. Hear, hear. Also, here, here.

  2. I think you just 'Spilledlook the Beans' in your dribble "I won't be the one to spill the beans about Santa"

  3. Eh, I'm in the it's a silly tradition camp – we chose to tell our kids that Santa was the spirit of Christmas and that anyone could be a Santa. From very early ages (3ish) they were allowed to be a secret Santa for the neighbor, a teacher, or a friend. They loved being in on the "secret" and doing for others.

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