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Woody: Yoga spreads to newspapers??? Naw!

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By LARRY WOODY

Oh, my. A newspaper in a town up north has started conducting yoga workouts for its staffers.

It's supposed to help reporters relieve stress.

I've got a news flash for them: If they're got a problem with stress, they chose the wrong profession.

Somebody who is afraid of snakes shouldn't take a job at the reptile sanctuary.

At least that was the way it used to be when I joined the ranks of the ink-stained wretches a generation ago. Back then, it was common for newspapermen to name their first-born "Stress." If they had twins, the other kid would be named "Anxiety."

I worked with a grizzled old proofreader named "Heartburn." He wore a green visor, chain-smoked Luckies and his hands shook so bad that he could barely hold his red grease editing pencil.

He was discovered one night lying face-down on the copy desk in a pool of Pepito-Bismol. The coroner ruled it death by deadline.

Now, back to yoga being in the newsroom.

I suspected this day was coming. The writing had been on the copy paper ever since the demise of, well, copy paper. Copy paper went the way of cussing, spitting in the waste basket, and stomping cigar butts on the composing room floor, all of which were part of the workplace ambiance back when I served my first sentence in journalism.

I was working my way through college and was hired to work weekends by Raymond Johnson, a gruff old sports editor at the then Nashville Tennessean.

Johnson rode trains, smoked stogies, and filed his copy by Western Union. He was a colorful character right out of "Front Page."

He taught me how to pound out a story on deadline.

He also taught me several descriptive verbs and adjectives that we weren't allowed to use in the newspaper. I never knew Johnson to resort to yoga in times of stress. He opted for a more physical release.

This is a true story: The most annoying thing that happens in a sports department is to get a call from a gambler when you're on deadline.

You know it's a gambler when he wants to know how William and Mary did. You're tempted to tell him William is up by two, Mary is driving, and hang up.

One Saturday night, Johnson was in the office uncommonly late, finishing his Sunday "One Man's Opinion" column. He strolled over to the editing rim to plunk down his copy when the desk phone jangled. Because everybody else was busy at the moment, Johnson made the mistake of answering it.

"Sports!" he growled. "What? Who? No, I don't know who the (bleep) won the (bleeping) San Jose game (bleep) it."

Pause. Listen. Shrill chatter at the other end of the line.

Raymond's face began to flush and redden. He was about to blow.

"Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you something, you," he said, as his veins were popping out on his forehead and he was sputtering. He couldn't get a cuss word in edgewise.

"Is that right?" he said, his voice higher. "Why, you..."

And with an even higher voice, he said, "Same to you pal!"

He slammed the phone receiver down so hard that a glue pot bounced off the copy desk and crashed to the floor.

They don't have glue pots in today's newspapers because they don't have copy paper to glue together before sending it up to the linotype operator.

They don't have linotype operators either.

Linotype operators went the way of the dodo bird and the manual typewriter.

But take my word for it. When a glue pot shatters on the floor, you remember it. Johnson stomped back to his office, sputtering and muttering. He slammed the door behind him, almost jarring an autographed picture of Babe Ruth at Sulpher Dell off the wall.

For several minutes we could hear him raging and thrashing around.

I'm pretty sure he wasn't practicing yoga. Newspapers were more fun back then.

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