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Hark, the holidays have ended

The barrage of holiday festivities at the end of each year is generally a welcomed respite among the working folks – a little time off for merrymaking with the family followed a week later by another day off to recover from hands burned lighting sparklers or minds burned by overindulgence – but those of us who call the news our business are scarcely among them.

Sure, we celebrate like everyone else and appreciate the brief escape, but the holidays bring with them the sort of inactivity that drives a newsman mad – schools are closed, businesses are closed, meetings are cancelled and the day-to-day flow of happenings grinds to a near halt, sending stir-crazy writers into a frenzy looking for facts to divulge to a holiday-entrenched readership.

So, it was with cynical enthusiasm that the writers in the Times-Journal newsroom bid an official farewell to the holidays Monday, welcoming with opened arms the return of council meetings, commission meetings, school board meetings and the constant flood of information on new laws, new buildings, new businesses and so forth.

In the newsroom, we have a large wipe-off board where we scribble in mismatched ink the various stories we have for the week – during the holidays, we struggled to cobble together enough information to fill the paper; come Monday, our board was nearly full with articles to be written throughout the week, which doesn’t even account for the incidentals that inevitably crop up.

Huzzah, the news has returned!

It never occurred to me that I would come to a place in my profession that I bemoaned distractions, a place where I cursed the arrival of vacations – not my own, of course, but those of the people I rely on for information – and longed for the daily trivialities that define a city and, as such, my work.

Make no mistake, I appreciate a bit of time away from work – I like reading books and playing music, I like reading to my kids and putting them to bed at night, I like getting out of town for the weekend, staying up late and sleeping in – but when I’m on the job, I’m interested in capturing and churning out as much information as possible in a 24-hour timespan.

It’s amazing how all activity seems to cease around the holidays, seemingly providing civilization with a desperately-needed break from the daily grind and a few days to focus on something other than eking out an existence, creating the interesting paradox of a fluster of activity and a lack thereof.

Plenty is happening during those two winter weeks when the machinery of society pauses its churning – church services, giving efforts, holiday parties, family visits, lavish meals, shopping sprees, holiday deals and concerts and a wide array of other festive occasions – but not all of those events are fit for the eyes of the press or, even more so, the public to whom it reports.

Those events, and indeed the entire holiday, are meant to be shared between loved ones, away from the eyes of bosses or coworkers or constituents and far from the responsibilities of the factory floor or cubicle or newsroom.

Indeed, the holidays have come and gone and we are all, however unwillingly or gracelessly, ebbing back toward the reality we knew before they arrived – time for a new year, a new decade and, most joyfully, a new news cycle.