"Excuse me, Mr. White?" "Yes? What is it?" "Something strange is going on. I seem to be the only one who came to work at the newspaper today." "You are. Everyone else is off until January."

"I beg your pardon?"

"It's the holiday season. End of the year. We're on Holiday News Hiatus."

"But what if something happens? There's nobody around to report it."

"Won't happen. Newsmakers take off, too. Shopping, partying, sobering up. So it's a pretty good deal for everyone. They don't do anything, and we don't cover it."

"But what about the volatile international situation?"

"Here's your headline: 'War going fine, say top officials.'"

"Okay. When should we run it?"

"For the next six weeks."

"Excuse me?"

"Better make it eight. They need some rest too."

"So what do we put in the newspaper?"

"The holiday stories from last year. In fact, we run the same ones every year."

"We do? I never noticed that before."

"No one does. It's called Holiday News Amnesia Syndrome."

"I'm sorry?"

"H.N.A.S. for short. You see, something happens to everyone's memory right after Thanksgiving. We don't know if it's the L-tryptophan in the turkey or what. But they don't seem to notice when last year's articles start popping up again."

"Wait a minute. You mean, like every season we ask some guy at a Christmas tree lot how to keep them fresh, and he always says, 'Make a new cut and put it in water'?"

"That's the idea. We've run that every year since World War II, and people still hang it on their refrigerator like a breaking story."

"And Holiday News Amnesia Syndrome means no one ever catches on?"

"Never. Really saves us some legwork, too, although you do get a little lazy. Last year somebody accidentally ran a photo of Santa wearing an 'I Like Ike' button."

"But nothing new actually happens?"

"Not a thing. We'll run our annual story about dangerous toys, our annual story about embarrassing yourself at the holiday office party, and our annual story about holiday safety - you know, don't set fire to your house with frayed Christmas lights."

"Does that still happen?"

"Not since 1947."

"Shouldn't we update it?"

"Okay, make it bad eggnog."

"But what about these shopping surveys? How do we keep them current?"

"Just make up the name of some mall - 'Valley River Forest,' 'Canyon Creek Pine Tree,' whatever. The formula is land formation, body of water, and anything involving plants. Then have somebody named Betty saying, 'I'm on a budget, but I still plan to buy things. Golly, it's Christmas!'"

"Okay. What about the Internet?"

"Same as the last five years: 'Amazon.com expects to lose money, but says it's well-positioned for the future.'"

"So there's really nothing to do until January?"

"You could write up some weather forecasts."

"Any particular slant?"

"Lead with, 'Jack Frost nipping at your nose.'"

"Got it."

"Good. See you around Valentine's Day."

Copyright 2001 Newrite, Inc. All rights reserved. GLW's on WGN Radio 720 and (http://www.wgnradio.com).

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