Christmas Day, 2011 – Unfortunate Events & Personal Reflections On Journalism

Published On December 25, 2011 | By Mike Carroll | KCRA-TV, One-Man Newsman, The Next Book

Christmas Day, December 25, 2011

I’ve really been looking forward to this Christmas Day. It’s one of those rare Christmas Days where I actually have the day off. News is a 7-day-a-week business and Christmas is just another day. With the exception that you get paid double-time.

My schedule is Tuesday-Saturday. Christmas came on a Sunday this year so I’m at home with wife Bonnie and the kids—Alex and Ava, our two greyhounds, and Lucky and Tanner, two greyhounds that we’re fostering. Next year, 2012, is a leap year so in 366 days Christmas will fall on a Tuesday—and I shall be shooting something and running a live truck.

Bon and I started out the day taking the kids to a gated park that we have a key to so they could run around like the creatures they were meant to be. We got home and started doing some clean up and looking forward to making a nice Christmas lunch. We were looking forward to a nice, relaxing day because tomorrow morning we were taking Lucky up to a greyhound rescue ranch in Auburn to meet a couple of prospective adoptive parents.

Then the two Alpha males Alex and Lucky went charging after the same squirrel in the back corner of the yard and collided into each other. It lasted two or three seconds. And I could immediately see a patch of red on one of Lucky’s hind legs. In the collision one of Alex’s paws had come down on Lucky’s backside and a claw had opened up some skin.

“Bonnie! I’m taking Lucky to the vet!”

It’s Christmas Day so it’s going to be expensive. Yes, the greyhound organization covers all medical bills, but still—and it means that there goes a big chunk of the day. It was three in the afternoon before a mended and highly doped-up Lucky hobbled out of the vet center.

Fortunately, way out of the house I’d grabbed a printout of the final chapter of the new book, One-Man Newsman, to work on, so I had a few hours of forced concentration towards the writing to fill in some of that time.

Pages of my forthcoming book “One-Man Newsman” reworked while in the vet clinic waiting room.

After a while, though, and transforming a number of pages into mazes of rewrites, new paragraphs and other barely legible scribblings, I’d reached a limit and needed a break. I looked over at the stack of magazines from the past year and picked out the March 2011 edition of National Geographic. This is a magazine that almost all of us have grown up on, then go through lapses of time where we don’t pay any attention to it at all. I started flipping through the pages and the jawdrapping photojournalism on every page.

Looking at the photos on the National Geographic pages, I started thinking about my own work as a TV news photographer at KCRA-TV. Both of these are wildly different types of news and information, but they are common in that they are both providers of information. Every day tens of thousands of people in the greater Sacramento and Northern Central Valley region of California turn to TV news to find out what’s going on where they life and see video images of what is happening that day, just as around the world millions of people look through the pages of National Geographic to learn more about their own planet.

When you’re working, news seems just like any job: What all you have to do. What to eat for lunch? Will I get a lunch today? Either you’re too busy or it’s slow and you think you’ve forgotten something that’s going to come back to bite you come deadline time. And throughout the day you’re thinking about what else you’ve got going on in your own personal life: What you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home. Did I remember to set the DVR last night to record that thing I wanted two watch? What wine do I want to crack open tonight? I’ve got to remember to send an e-mail to so-and-so. You know—life.

Flipping through the pages of National Geographic, it made me think about the type of work I’m lucky enough—indeed, fortunate and privileged—to be able to do, to help to provide people with images and information about where they live.

Driving back from the vet’s with the unlucky Lucky and listening to the BBC World Service on NPR.

Finally, the unlucky Lucky was patched up and ready to go home again. We piled back into the van to head home. I put on the radio on the drive back, dialing to the local NPR station. The BBC World Service was just beginning. I listened, and again began thinking how just yesterday I was out covering the local news. What a pleasure it was for me to listen to the BBC, just as for many other people around where I live, tuning in the local evening news (and hopefully they’re tuning in to KCRA) to find out what else was happening in the place where they call home.

Driving back and the BBC World Service playing out of the dashboard stereo.

The unlucky Lucky riding home from the vet’s.

By 3:30 or so we were home again. Lucky had stitches and was doped up. I was finally ready for a shower and a tall glass of Cabernet, which Bonnie had put out to decant hours earlier. No glass of fermented grape was ever more appreciated. But the afternoon spent working on the book, looking at a few pages of great photojournalism, listening to the radio and some great world-class journalism, made me feel proud, and grateful, on this Christmas Day, for being fortunate enough to be a member of a profession that can inform, educate, and enrich the lives of so many people.

Merry Christmas to all. Happy Hanukkah. And thank you.