I’ve been a proponent of, and practitioner in, citizen journalism for quite some time now.
I believe each, and every, one of us should express our POV EXCEPT when it:
- Espouses a doctrine of hate
- Takes a rigid ‘my way or the highway’ approach
- Regales me with tales of people, places or things that have no relevance in my life.
The latter proliferate at Christmas time in the form of ‘year-end’ family letters.
We all get these. Some come from friends. Others come from family members. The ones I receive almost always come from an acquaintance I once met when Ronald Reagan occupied the White House.
Typically, year-end Christmas letters are written by a member of the distaff side of the family (as in, ‘It was yet another amazing year for Bill, Bill Jr, Little Amy and me. We hope that all of our loved ones have a reason to feel as blessed as we do this Christmas’).
The letters also, always, make a few, mistaken assumptions:
- That I have first-hand knowledge of the protagonists (‘Nicole started a new physical therapy job in November.’ Awesome. Who’s Nicole?).
- That I’ve been following their family’s annual successes and setbacks, and will understand why Danny’s third root canal in as many years is a cause of concern.
- That I’m not appalled by poor grammar and spelling (‘Sebastian would of yelled at the admissions officer but me and Sebby, Sr., didn’t rase our kids to act that way,’).
- That I actually care what happened to these complete strangers (‘Well, after three years of waiting, Ted finally popped the big question to our dear, darling Mary Ellen. Words cannot describe her delight, or ours”).
I have a friend who created her own, faux Christmas family letter. It begins with the salutation: ‘Did you have as amazing a year as our amazing family did? Of course not. How could you? Your family simply isn’t as amazing as ours.’
And, I think that about sums up year-end family letters. They exist for one reason:
- To enable the author to remind herself, as well as her friends and complete strangers like me, how amazing she, and her family, are.
The best citizen journalists know how to engage a reader. One does so by making the written content crisp, concise and compelling.
Citizen Christmas letters, on the other hand, are bloated, befouled by bad grammar and beyond boring.
‘….So, let me tell you about my kids, Chris and Catharine, and the amazing things they accomplished in 2013…’