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Yes, Virginia, NORAD's 'Santa Tracker' Is On

The view Friday morning on NORAD's "Santa Tracker."
North American Aerospace Defense Command
The view Friday morning on NORAD's "Santa Tracker."

Some critics — perhaps others would say Grinches? — don't like the North American Aerospace Defense Command's annual online "Santa Tracker."

At WBUR, author Ethan Gilsdorf writes that "real-time digital imagery of Santa and his route, or calculations of the loot he's delivered, take the imagination out of Christmas."

An advocacy group, the , is particularly critical of a promotional video NORAD produced that shows Santa being tracked by fighter jets and all sorts of other military gear. It's "a back-door way" to market the military to children, the group's spokesman says.

We suspect that the tracker's fans will say "bah humbug" to all that.

We'll let others debate the Santa Tracker's merits. We just want to make sure that if you or your children are interested, .

And for those who might wonder, NORAD includes this in its FAQs:

"How many people support this effort, and are they active duty military personnel?

"More than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time on December 24th to answer the thousands of phone calls and emails that flood in from around the world. In addition to the support provided by our corporate contributors to make this program possible, NORAD has two lead project officers who manage the program.

"How much money is spent on this project?

"The NORAD Tracks Santa program is made possible by volunteers and through the generous support of corporate licensees who bear virtually all of the costs."

Oh, and about our "Virginia" reference in the headline. Most readers will know what we're talking about. For those who don't, and for those who might enjoy re-reading it, here's a link to the Newseum's posting of the New York Sun's 1897 editorial known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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