Once upon a time: Pity those cartoon calendar publishers
Newspaper folks live in dread of a few things. One is getting some fact wrong. Careful though we may be, occasionally it happens.
Another dread is missing deadlines. We watch clocks constantly. Ironically, the most energetic newspaper reporter is a clock-watcher.
A third peril that hangs over our heads is being out of date by the time you read us. Events can pass us by when we least expect it — especially since we only publish once a week and news never sleeps.
But if events can pass us by in a week, pity the poor calendar publisher. Dates are dates and, unless the world ends during a calendar cycle — in which case there'd be nobody to call the publisher on it — they're pretty safe printing a year or two in advance.
But the kinds of padded calendars that sell well as holiday gifts are known more for the messages on them than the dates on which those messages pop up. That's where the timeliness of the calendar can come into play.
I got a Christmas gift calendar last year that I keep on my desk, more for the messages than the dates. It's a calendar of New Yorker cartoons.
Now, before you tell me that humor is timeless, let's look at a couple of these New Yorker cartoons and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The first, for Feb. 4 of this year, must be geared only for calendars sold in Florida, because it shows two children playing on the beach. As best I remember the North of my childhood, we spent very little of February in bathing suits — and that may even be true in New York.
But I digress. That's not the timeliness I was talking about. The editor just made a bad choice for February and that's that.
The problem is not the sand but the message in the sand. The kids have constructed a rather routine sandcastle at the shore. One turns to the other and says, "I hope we can flip it before the tide comes in."
Now, that would have been funny if flipping still existed. But long before Feb. 4 of this year the tide had come in and washed out the sandcastle flipping party on the real estate beachfronts of this country. That calendar page probably brought tears to more than one investor's eyes — and not tears from hearty laughter, either.
We flip ahead on the calendar to April 4, where we see a ski-masked gunman holding up a bank teller. As he asks for the money, he adds, "Throw in one of those brochures about refinancing my home."
Again, we're in a time warp. That was funny a few years ago, when the cartoon originally must have appeared in the magazine. It's now painfully out of date — if he did refinance the home, he's now robbing lots of banks to pay off the loan.
I haven't flipped ahead on the calendar past July. As a publisher, I sympathize with those who are hopelessly out of date and I don't want to grimace.
At least the calendar publisher has one consolation: the New Yorker's cartoons are safe from the rapid ebbs and flows of events in Miami-Dade County. Imaging how fast a calendar about local government would go out of date. The mind boggles.
But then, there's very little that's humorous about our local government. And that's the fourth thing about which a newspaperperson hereabouts lives in dread.