Behind the screaming headlines
Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011
* The Associated Press often acts like a giant blogger by repackaging stories into little briefs. Too often, though, those briefs skew the story. For instance, this story is headlined: “Insiders got early notice of college savings deal”…
* You already know the back story. Bright Start’s administrator, Oppenheimer Funds, sent out 100,000 letters to the college savings program participants on May 31st offering to match their next $250 contribution. Trouble is, the offer was limited to the first 2,500 people and about 8,500 people took up the offer by going to the plan’s website. But the website wasn’t changed to reflect the fact that the money had dried up until a day after all the cash was spoken for, which left some folks quite angry.
* The Tribune reports that Rutherford’s office sent its workers an e-mail the same day Oppenheimer mailed the letters from New Jersey, giving Rutherford’s employees a clear head start on everyone else. That was obviously a bad move. The e-mail encouraged the employees to forward the offer to their friends and family. Not good, either.
* However, Rutherford’s employees were not eligible for the matching funds, according to the Tribune’s report. That little factoid was buried deep within the Trib’s story, which was headlined “Family, friends got head start in Bright Start match - Treasurer’s office employees were sent email about $250 program before general public received letters.”
The workers’ friends and family were eligible, of course, but the Tribune could only find “about 25 people” who were forwarded the e-mails from state accounts. Not great, but hardly a gigantic scandal.
The Tribune also noted that the Bright Start website announced the program on May 27th - days before anybody was notified by e-mail or snail mail.
And, despite what the AP claims, Rutherford himself was never quoted by the Tribune as saying “early word was sent out solely as a promotion because officials weren’t sure the new offer would be popular.” That comment was attributed by the Trib to an official at his office.
* Whether this was just another stupid bungle or something more nefarious, this whole thing has become a PR disaster for Rutherford, who obviously thought the stunt would be popular…
Unfortunately for Rutherford, the TV ads about this will write themselves.