Mark Fox is Chief Executive of the Business Services Association and a former Parliamentary Candidate. He writes here in a personal capacity.
As many of us are enjoying a break over Christmas and the New Year there are some whose thoughts are focused elsewhere. These are groups of people who work on through the holiday period providing the services we take for granted. At this time of year, it is worth pausing for a moment to think about them and thank them for their work.
Around the world, on land, sea and in the air, members of the Armed Forces and security services are guarding us – monitoring, patrolling, taking action as necessary. Often far from home and away from their loved ones they stand ready for the benefit of all.
At home, those providing essential public services keep watch over us. The police, doctors, nurses, and fire-fighters immediately spring to mind. But care-workers, home-helps, visitors to the elderly, the road gritters, and many others continue to go quietly go about their duties.
It’s not just public servants, either. There are many in the private sector who continue to provide the services we rely on or just simply enjoy. The shopkeeper who opens up Christmas morning, at whose premises we can buy the milk we’ve run out of. Or the parcel deliverer who keeps going until late on Christmas Eve not because he has to, but because he knows it matters. There are the voluntary workers, too, who go on visiting, caring, helping supporting. And, of course, there are those in the churches for whom running their services and groups is a major organisational as well as spiritual exercise.
One way and another we can all rally around the idea that these large numbers of people all help to provide an enjoyable and safe holiday.
There’s another group of people though who we expect to provide a service at the touch of a button or the flick of a switch who mainly go unremarked and un-thought of. But whose service we expect to access ‘on-demand’ – news journalists.
For weeks now, news outlets have been preparing their ‘bottom drawer’. In newspapers – local as well national – features on cooking, travel, family, books, cinema, and music will all have been commissioned on Christmas and new year related subjects. The “How to cook your turkey in a power cut using nothing but a match”, or a profile of whoever Simon Cowell is projecting into the charts. Much of most newspapers over the next ten days has been prepared weeks if not months ago. The advent of 24-hour, 7 day a weeks TV news takes care of the news pages.
For TV and radio, the challenge is of a quite different order. The relentless need of the huge number of channels means a huge amount of material is required to fill the airwaves. Films, features, profiles, interviews, reviews of the year, ‘those we lost’ spots, and so on. But each hour the news will be delivered on TV and radio.
For local newspapers, TV and radio the task is even harder and lonelier, but perhaps even more interesting for us. We want to know about what is happening around us as much, if not more, than what is happening half way around the world.
News journalists work throughout the holidays to keep us informed, as an when we care to notice. It’s not particularly glamorous. Most of us most of the time don’t give these women and men a second thought. But they provide an essential service for us. One most of us value and appreciate.
Christmas and the New Year are meant to be quiet news periods. A time when a wise politician or public figure keeps their head down, because it’s the time of year when what would normally be a small story can be blown up into a big one because there is no other news around.
Often, however, big events do happen at Christmas time and they unfold as we enjoy our celebrations. Around the world an army of print and broadcast journalists are on the spot, with good local knowledge, ready to cover what happens. Like many others these men and women spend the holidays away from their families in order to do their chosen job and bring us the news.
Sometimes they are hurt, kidnapped or even killed. Earlier this year I attended a service at St Bride’s Fleet Street to mark and celebrate the lives of those journalists and their support crews who had been killed in the front-line this year. It was a salutary reminder of the risks and dangers journalists face to bring us the news and illuminate the issues.
So this Christmas and New Year spare a thought for those women and men who are on duty one way and another, and include in that thought those whose job and responsibility it is to keep us informed and who bring us the news.