Editorial: Observe And Report: Black Friday

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Journalism is about gathering important information and preparing it for public dissemination. It should be interesting and unique, but sometimes it involves events like the shopping stampede known as Black Friday.

You, the reader, may have found yourself standing in line at a big-box chain on a Thanksgiving night, hoping to get a fantastic price on a flat-screen TV. Maybe you just did it one year as a lark; one of those masochistic things you do just so you can say you did it, like going to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Or perhaps you woke up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving one year, and you drove bleary-eyed and morning-breathed to the nearest mall to live out your Black Friday fantasy just once.

Working as a reporter on Black Friday affords one the opportunity to bounce around from store to store, interviewing customers of all ages and ethnic groups. We learn why they do it; who they are buying for; how much they are spending; and to what extremes they are willing to go to in order to get that perfect deal.

The answers, to be honest, are never interesting and are, at best, completely demoralizing. We learn that as a whole, the American consumer forgoes family and refrains from relaxation on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday simply because this national shopping holiday exists. The deals are dangled—setting into motion another season of maddening traffic jams, trampled retail employees and vicious confrontations between mistletoe-addled consumers.

You learn something else as a reporter on Black Friday: For the most part, people do not want to be out shopping. They want to be home on the couch eating a leftover turkey sandwich in their bathrobe. Not exactly front page news, but then again, neither is Black Friday.

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