The webcomics blog about webcomics

But Other Than That, How Was The Play, Mrs Lincoln?

Today’s post is not about spam in that it’s about something that actually is relevant to this page, but which was crafted so poorly as to make calling it out necessary.

Let me back up a moment and take a trip into history. There is an expression in the newspaper biz called burying the lede, where the lede is the leading idea of your story¹, the part you want the reader to take away. When you bury the lede, you hide that key idea in irrelevant information or fail to mention relevant information up front. The greatest possible example of such, the ur-buried lede, was promulgated by the Associated Press a little more than 150 years ago:

WASHINGTON, APRIL 14 [1865] — President Lincoln and wife visited Ford’s Theatre this evening for the purpose of witnessing the performance of ‘The American Cousin.'[sic, ²] It was announced in the papers that Gen. Grant would also be present, but that gentleman took the late train of cars for New Jersey.

The theatre was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act and while there was a temporary pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard, which merely attracted attention, but suggested nothing serious until a man rushed to the front of the President’s box, waving a long dagger in his right hand, exclaiming, ‘Sic semper tyrannis,’ and immediately leaped from the box, which was in the second tier, to the stage beneath, and ran across to the opposite side, made his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience from the rear of the theatre, and mounted a horse and fled.

The groans of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact that the President had been shot, when all present rose to their feet rushing towards the stage, many exclaiming, ‘Hang him, hang him!’ The excitement was of the wildest possible description.

It takes until the third paragraph to get to the fact that Lincoln was shot. Now, while what I’m about to share with you is not that bad, it’s a pretty poor way to write a press release. I received overnight an email with the following subject line:

Press Release: Los Angeles Resident’s Comic Strip Now Available on GoComics

Los Angeles resident sounds an awful lot like The Onion’s Area Man. The fun continues into the body of the release which begins:

GoComics, a part of the Universal Uclick syndicate family, is excited to announce the addition of “Drive” to its lineup of new and classic comic strips, including Big Nate, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, Garfield and Peanuts.

Created by Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett, the comic strip “Drive” is now available on GoComics. Kellett is an award-winning cartoonist and the co-director of the hit documentary “Stripped”, which includes interviews with more than 70 cartoonists.

The fact that Dave Kellett live in LA is not the relevant thing that we should be discussing, people. The fact that he’s a longstanding creator of multiple strips, has published a dozen collections, been nominated for the highest awards in comicking, and is an award-winning filmmaker who go the first audio interview with Bill Freakin’ Watterson in decades are not less important that the fact he lives in LA.

Note that all those things I brought up are in the release, three paragraphs later, in an attached PDF.

I hate attachments. Best case: I have to download and open and go rooting through to get the information I need to write my story (or, quite possibly, cut-and-paste). Median case: the attachment is a goddamn image (let me be clear, that did not happen here, but it has happened in the past) meaning I have to re-transcribe the information that you want to share with me so I will share it with my readers — making it more difficult for me to tease out this information makes me want to toss your press release (or mock it).

Worst case: you have some hideous virus on your computer and your attachment infects my computer, which is why every other press release I’ve ever received with the relevant information in an attachment has gone straight into the trash and the topic that was meant to be shared died unloved and unmourned. I took the risk in this one case so I could find out if the useful information actually appeared. This will never, ever happen again.

I don’t mean to shit specifically on GoComics (and I’m not naming the person responsible for this steaming pile of failure); I’ve gotten plenty of bad press releases from individuals, and from PR shops both large and small. I just didn’t expect this stunning level of profound skill-lack from a very large syndicate with decades of experience dealing with newspapers (who, after all, are the traditional targets of press releases).

Take a lesson, kids. Nobody cares that General Grant took the late train of cars for New Jersey. Although one good thing came out of this: from now on, I will always refer to the creator in question as Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett.

Spam of the day: See above.

¹ Not lead; newspapers developed the alternate spelling of lede because at the time presses used type that was cast from molten lead (the metallic chemical element, Pb) and they wanted to avoid confusion. Not that anybody would be burying hot type in the ground or anything. Look, it’s a charming artifact of another age, okay?

² The play is actually called Our American Cousin, but we’ll give the reporter and fact-checker a break after a century and a half.

Ha ha ha!
Know that Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett approves of being called “Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett”.

Ah, the man himself has commented, but I find
Los Angeles resident Dave Kellett
rather reminiscent of Helen Narbon referring to “MIT graduate Dave Barker”.

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