December 21, 2010

The Search For Christmas: For Once, After Decades of Reversals, a Bit of Improvement

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 9:23 am

A funny thing happened on the way to finding yet another year of media emphasis on the use of “holiday” vs. “Christmas” in describing the shopping season.

Google News searches conducted this morning at about 7:30 ET on “Christmas shopping season” and “holiday shopping season” came back with the highest percentage of “Christmas” results I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been doing these searches. Not that the result is yet impressive, but at least it’s an improvement:

Compared to previous late-December results (“holiday” v. “Christmas”), that result is indeed a noticeable uptick:

- 2009 — “Holiday” 88.0%, “Christmas” 12.0%.
- 2008 — “Holiday” 89.9%, “Christmas” 10.1%.
- 2007 — “Holiday” 88.1%, “Christmas” 11.9%.
- 2006 — “Holiday” 88.7%, “Christmas” 11.3%.
- 2005 — “Holiday” 88.8%, “Christmas” 11.2%.

Readers who are gluttons for punishment can arrive at 2008′s result from that year’s three posts (here, here, and here).

Given that Google News searches go back 30 days, and that searches done two weeks ago were more heavily weighted towards “holiday shopping season,” it appears that references to “Christmas shopping season” in more recent stories might have occurred almost 30% of the time.

So what happened? Maybe the pushback by organizations like the American Family Association (AFA) is working, and that’s fine. But one only needs to recall a couple of items I noted two weeks ago to be reminded how out of sync the press treatment of the season remains:

  • At Advertising Age — “This year’s NRF (National Retail Federation)/BigResearch survey found that 91 percent of consumers plan to celebrate Christmas, compared with 5% for Hanukkah and 2% for Kwanzaa.”
  • As carried at an AFA blog — “”According to the most recent Rasmussen Poll on the subject, 72 percent of all Americans prefer the greeting “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays,” the greeting of preference for just 22 percent of us. This is up four percent from last year.”

Thus, the 20% result obtained this morning, even if it’s the new “normal,” or even the possible 30% achieved in recent weeks, is still a long, long way from reflecting public tastes and traditions.

It’s worth noting that there was a time many decades ago when media descriptions of the shopping season were mostly in sync with the public. The following groups of Google News Archive and New York Times searches (all using quote marks) demonstrate how the divergence progressed:

HistoricalXmasShoppingGoogAndNYTsearches1210

Readers wishing to replicate the results above can start here at Google News’s archive, go here for the earliest Times search, and begin here for the other four.

As I reiterated in a NewsBusters comment two weeks ago after a NewsBusters commenter pathetically tried to claim that changes such as those just noted might be explained by an increase in economic reporting over the past few decades: “There is no reasonable alternative explanation (beyond dogged insistence on political correctness) … why the press preference has changed so radically, while the public’s preference essentially hasn’t.”

The commenter involved has apparently forgotten (or never knew) that newspapers have had robust business sections almost as long as they’ve existed.

There is also no reason other than blind allegiance to political correctness why the establishment press can’t get its Christmas season characterizations in line with the rest of the public.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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