Stop the Presses: Reporter Gets Christmas Off

William Conrad, the city editor delivering that dramatic “It’s a newspaper, that’s all…” speech in the Jack Webb newsroom movie “-30-,” appears briefly in this “Night Beat” radio series 1951 Christmas episode as the man reporter Randy Stone calls “the big boss.”

Five Days off for Christmas

The story opens on Christmas Eve with Stone telling how editor Sam Bullock’s surprise gift of a Christmas vacation took a dark turn that sent him looking for an injured boy and examining his own reportorial cynicism.

“Christmas Eve, jingle bells, silent night, boughs of holly. Yeah They say there’s a warmth about Christmas that spreads out like a fan and touches everyone. The holiday spirit they call it…”

“As far back as I can remember Christmas has been another workday for Stone…”

William Conrad as Sam Bullock, his boss, calls him in and gives him the week off as a Christmas present. His first reaction: “I’ll come back when you’re sober.” But the editor is serious, and Stone — apparently having no family outside the newsroom — starts thinking of friends to visit. It’s a disappointing quest, until…

While not quite “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th St.,” you will hear a hint of Dickens in this Christmas drama with a closing message about “happiness… a thing of the spirit, not the pocket.”

The “Night Beat” writers had a flair for catching newspaper business realities 60 years ago. This episode has the sounds of a newsroom office party, followed by lonely late-night teletypes echoing through the almost-empty room.

Stone, played by Frank Lovejoy, reflects on his daily-newspaper career, where “As far back as I can remember, Christmas has been another workday…” — and where he has written so many stories about people in need that he can’t recognize the name of one of them, or the fact that sometimes he might be the needy one himself.

If you listen to more episodes of “Night Beat” in the Internet Archive collection, you’ll hear Conrad’s distinctive baritone in a variety roles, from punch-drunk boxer to dying newsman. He was better known as the original Matt Dillon on radio’s “Gunsmoke,” and later as detective Frank Cannon on television in the 1970s. He also was a film producer and director before his death in 1994. (obit)

I’ll be posting more radio-newspaper-Christmas stories next week, and more of Night Beat in the weeks to come.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
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