This is an opinion column.

Never take Christ out of Christmas” is a valuable lesson my good friend Ben Shurett taught me 25 years ago now.

I was the managing editor for the Fort Payne Times-Journal in December of 1996, celebrating my first Christmas in town as I had only started working at the paper in September. I was incredibly excited about the tremendous opportunity Ben, who was the publisher of the paper at the time, had afforded me. I really loved the tremendous community we were a part of and serving. I was so happy I wanted to shout “Merry Christmas!” from the rooftops. Toward that end, I decided I was going to make “Merry Christmas” as big as physically possible on the front page of our Christmas edition.

Unfortunately, spelling out Christmas just wasn’t getting me the point size I wanted. So I dropped a capital X in instead and blew it up as big as the page would contain. That’s more like it, I thought to myself. No way anyone is going to miss that glorious message on the front.

Fortunately, they did miss it. In fact, everyone did. Because that front page never went to press. Ben was looking over the pages before we sent them, saw what I had done, and immediately came in my office, shut the door and told me “We never take Christ out of Christmas.” But I was just trying to … I started to say, to which he interjected, “I know what you were trying to do, but we don’t take the Christ out of Christmas. Ever. Change that right away.”

And I did.

Because he was right.

A quarter century later, I wish I had been in a position to have done the same for staff members at The Reporter. If I had seen the front page for the weekend edition before it went to press I could have had that important change made, and this very unfortunate misunderstanding with our loyal readers could have been avoided. I apologize to both the staff and our readers because, honestly, I feel like I’ve let both of you down. Rest assured, it will never happen again. Ever.

Also rest assured that neither I nor anyone at the newspaper is trying to cancel Christmas or even want to be associated with that movement. I’d like to think we’ve got a track record now, like putting the Bible verse on the front page for example, that lets you know where I and the rest of the staff stand relative to our belief system. We all share a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we desire nothing more than to celebrate His birth with you, our loyal readers, and our community.

I’m sorry if our mistake took away from our ability to do that in any way. We’ve learned a valuable lesson, and unfortunately, we’ve learned it the hard way.

Patrick Graham is the proprietor of The Reporter. He can be reached at patrick.graham@sandmountainreporter.com.

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