Game, Set, Match: Newspaper Caves in Contest Fiasco

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By: Joe Strupp

A few months ago, I declared that Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich was the crybaby of the year for his directive barring state employees from talking to two writers of The Sun in Baltimore because he did not like what they wrote about him.

He still has the top prize. But a second-place winner has emerged: the New York Daily News readers who are complaining that they did not actually win $100,000 in the paper’s scratch-off game last weekend.

As you may have read, an error by D.L. Blair, the company that oversees the papers’ Scratch ‘N Match game, made a big boo-boo. It accidently printed a 13 among the 10 numbers in Saturday’s paper that players were told to scratch off their game cards, instead of a 12. The error ended up making thousands of readers believe they were winners when they weren’t.

Although it was clearly an error, and the game rules published in the Daily News state the paper is not liable for prizes resulting from mistakes, readers were out in force, protesting, yelling, even filing lawsuits. These people are acting as though they had been swindled by a thief or lost their possessions in an earthquake.

Let’s get something straight: You did not win the game, therefore you have no right to the prize. Face it. There was a mistake. Mistakes happen and, as such, you must live with it and get on with your lives.

No one owes you anything except maybe an apology. This is not the end of the world. You had nothing taken from you. You never won. Live with it. And we hope you keep buying the newspaper (even if it’s only to maybe win something for real next time).

Seeing the mob of people outside the Daily News redemption center earlier this week screaming for blood reminded me of something out of a Frankenstein movie. The only thing missing were lit torches over their heads.

Of course, there is never a shortage of lawyers ready to take on such cases, especially if there is overdone news coverage and a good-sized class action group waiting to sign up. This is the best example of abuse of the legal process since two overweight kids sued McDonalds because the food made them fat. Don’t even talk to me about the spilled coffee prosecution.

Well, as far as I know, the Daily News game cards are not high-calorie, contain no nicotine, and are not likely to cause third-degree burns, unless someone sets them on fire in protest — which may happen. The way this story is going, a Scratch N’ Match bonfire vigil may be next, led by Al Sharpton. With live coverage by Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Daily News’ rival New York Post.

The Post has been having a field day with this, since we all know that paper never gets anything wrong.

But then the Daily News did not help things much. Instead of pulling the usual damage control of explaining the problem, asking for forgiveness, scolding the company responsible, and seeking answers and improvements, the paper gave in, offering up $1 million to help pay off the whiners who want what they do not deserve.

If anything, the paper should use the money to help its bleeding bottom line, pay some raises to staffers, or give it to charity. It is a bit ironic that the Daily News is more willing to fork over $1 million to keep readers happy about a game than to keep them happy with better news coverage.

But in today’s newspaper competition, especially the all-out war that is the New York City tabloids, perhaps satisfying crybaby newspaper readers with more money is more important than giving them, well, more news.

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