After that, the print planning team gets to work. Well, they’ve already been at work: Josh Crutchmer, the print planning editor at The Times, leads a team of five that plots out a day’s, a week’s and sometimes, even a month’s worth of print coverage. He also communicates with The Times’s home page and digital teams.
“I joke with people who don’t know what my job is that my job is to know everything,” he said.
Mr. Crutchmer begins preparing for the holiday season in October, planning what will go where, and when, and adapting quickly when, inevitably, the plans change. In mid-December, Ms. Mitchell will hold a selection of stories that don’t have to run immediately and can be used in the last weeks of the year. Neither holds anything that is competitive in the news cycle; and they work closely with the desks producing the stories, like International and Business, in making decisions.
Though there are exceptions — like last year, when much of late December was spent certifying the presidential election results — the week between Christmas and New Year’s, they said, is usually quiet and thus requires this rigorous prep work.
There are, of course, events that don’t care if most of the country is off from work and sitting by the fire: the present Omicron coronavirus surge, for example, which is leading to new health guidance and planning for schools, airlines and businesses. Or, a natural disaster: In 2004, a tsunami crashed into communities along the coasts of the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, and Times journalists on holiday mobilized to get the news on the Times’s front page the next day.
But the major institutions that The Times regularly covers — the White House, Congress, a major drug company — are usually shut down for the week. And even if those organizations are open, “nobody wants to make a big announcement in the middle of Christmas week,” Ms. Mitchell said. “So suddenly, all those engines of news stop.”