Saturday, August 8, 2009


I send out press releases, and you never know what will "have legs" as a story. One harmless announcement we sent out was for a CD of polka music by two nuns, "Sisters in Sync," recorded at a local studio. The CD is not that impressive, though when a story came out in the local paper we sold all 100 copies we'd had made. Getting more copies gave us an opportunity to revise the pretty horrendous cover art that had been created, which was good.

We usually just send the press releases to a mailing list of about 40 local media outlets. This time, however, on a lark, we sent it to the national list. A reporter at the Catholic News Service thought it was interesting, and picked it up. He did a story, not much more than our press release had said, and infact leaving out the description of the types of music, which is not good because people think it's all spirituals and hymns, that appeared on their web site. And this week we hit the jackpot as these things go, when an announcement of the CD "in its second pressing" appeared in the National Catholic Reporter.

And that's about as big as it gets.

Two "viral" internet items have caught my attention recently. The first was a video of a wedding party dancing up the aisle at a St. Paul, Minn. church. I only watched it once someone told me the bride was a Grinnell graduate. And it was indeed quite well done. It turns out the groom is a graduate of St. John's University up the road. Next thing you know the wedding party were reenacting the dance on the Today show, and millions had viewed it on YouTube.

And yesterday I was kind of caught up in the story of the death of director John Hughes. I liked his movies and was impressed, like so many people, with the sheer number of good comedies he wrote. We recently watched Some Kind of Wonderful with Steve's daughters and even Steve was impressed that it was not at all "juvenile" and took on a lot of teen issues and treated them with proper seriousness. So I was looking out a bit for tributes and people sharing their movie memories. Late in the afernoon a friend posted a link to a blog on her Facebook page: We'll Know When We Get There, "Sincerely, John Hughes." It's well worth a read, and it definitely stuck with me. I found myself recounting basically the whole thing to Steve over dinner.

What is even more amazing is the way this thing traveled. The blog itself is very ordinary and not very interesting. It's honest and real, but after four years she's sort of lost steam. She has a little cartoon icon of herself, and in a way reading some of the entries reminded me of the cartoon "Cathy." She'd like to get the blog focused to help her in her career-- and it's very endearing that she can't bring herself to do the kind of power-branding of herself that the online media experts tell you that you should do. She reviews 2008 with some melancholy over the death of her grandmother and the loss of a relationship, and revels in hope for 2009. She posts some video related to Obama's election.

Someone read her entry on her correspondence with John Hughes and posted it in a more popular online media source. And it spread. The list of comments goes on so long you kind of don't want to work through it and look at other entries. Yesterday a Twitter update on the side of the blog said, "John's son just sent me a message thanking me for the entry. Now I'm a wreck." And her Facebook status also listed on her blog said, "250K people told me I touched their lives yesterday." It is a bit crazy, no? And nice. And 15 minutes from now, it will subside. But meanwhile I do think this is kind of the best of what the Internet does. Gives us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of real people sharing stories with the world.

What would the power-branders say?

If you didn't get a chance to see the wedding video dance, here it is...

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