WOSTER: We've entered the ‘breather’ after the stormWe’re entering the time of the year I always refer to as the “breather.” When I was a full-time newspaper guy, I used the phrase to mean the time between the Christmas season and the start of the annual legislative session in early January.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
We’re entering the time of the year I always refer to as the “breather.”
When I was a full-time newspaper guy, I used the phrase to mean the time between the Christmas season and the start of the annual legislative session in early January.
It wasn’t a free time, but it was generally a little lighter for news demands, so a person had more opportunities to push away from the keyboard now and then and catch his breath.
I stole the idea of calling it a breather from an old radio friend who introduced me to the concept in maybe 1970 or 1971. He might correct me if I’m misremembering this, but the general idea was that between Christmas and New Year’s, businesses could take a quick breath before getting into the swing of the coming year of sales and so on. My friend used to host a pretty relaxed get-together one evening during that breather week.
He called his event the breather, and he invited customers and prospects and workers and friends to take a deep breath after the hectic Christmas season.
Now, a story goes that one year when my friend’s radio station sent advertising copy down to the local newspaper, the radio sales person scribbled on the bottom of the page below the ad copy something like, “Annual breather (time, place) be sure to come see us and bring a spouse or friend.”
Well, sure, that part got in the newspaper along with the actual, intended advertisement. I gather the attendance was quite high that year.
The time leading up to Christmas Day was a pretty crazy one in the newspaper business. That’s partly because news doesn’t pause for many holiday seasons (and even if there isn’t much news, the paper always likes it best when the edition that goes to a reader has all the space on each page filled with words or pictures.)
The need to fill the news hole was compounded in the holiday season by the fact that nearly every reporter with whom I ever worked failed to space out vacation leave throughout the year. When December arrived, a bunch of reporters were looking at a lot of unused time. Yeah, me, too, I’m afraid.
It may surprise you that I didn’t plan carefully to make my accumulated leave and the months of the year work out to zero. It wouldn’t surprise my wife, and it shouldn’t surprise any editor who ever worked with me. It’s a reporter thing, I guess.
The result was, we worked several staff writers and editors short during the last weeks of each year. The pressure to compensate for the vacationing reporters — and to fill the daily news holes — was intense at times.
The managing editor tried to give each of the reporters and copy editors some time off, but not everyone could have Christmas Eve as vacation, although sometimes we were pretty short-staffed that day.
It wasn’t such a bad day to work, Christmas Eve. Everyone who was working that day wanted to get gone early. The press runs were set early, which backed up production and editing and reporting deadlines.
By 2 or 3 in the afternoon — at the latest — most years, the reporting was finished. How bad is that? You’re still home in time for a meal, opening gifts, cleaning up the wrapping and ribbons and boxes and making it to either Midnight Mass or sleep (once in a while both) at a decent hour.
I may have mentioned that my first year in the newspaper business, I worked Christmas morning.
The newspaper was an afternoon edition then, and we staffed until about noon, maybe not quite that long. There weren’t many of us in the newsroom that morning, and the Christmas cheer was nowhere in evidence. I worked the obituary desk that morning. It might not have been the oddest news assignment I had in more than 40 years, but it’s on the list.
Still, I was young and intent on becoming a newspaper guy. Somebody had to work. Why not me? And I had the breather after that — even if we didn’t call it that yet.