Friday, May 22, 2009

Good enough for government work

And the final score in the Great Plate Debate this week is Old-School Newspaper Legwork 27, Nebraska's Design Community 0.

That's because it wasn't "the design community" or its arrested-development behavior, in the wake of a faulty contest to choose ugly license plates, that ultimately saved Nebraskans from six years of hideous tin on their bumpers. Instead, it was something as simple as the unhip "old media" asking the right questions at the right time and holding state officials up to public scrutiny.

BASICALLY, somebody had to be the "grown-up" here, and the Omaha World-Herald stepped into the void. This was the result:
State officials said Friday that the original selection was based on a public Internet vote that, a new review shows, had been skewed by a web site's prank.

The review of the voting results was prompted by a request from The World-Herald for the raw data to see if the humor web site had succeeded in hijacking the vote.

Thursday night, Beverly Neth, the state's motor vehicles director, said the voting patterns raised "some real questions and real concern."

At a press conference Friday, Neth said: "I now have new evidence that shows it is clear that the site's malicious intent was realized. I am taking responsibility for this situation, and I am here today to make this right."

State officials said the state's webmaster, Nebraska Interactive, was able to pinpoint the votes that came through and Neth disqualified those votes.

The humor web site encouraged people to vote for what it called the most boring design. That design, which was black, white and red with the Web address, was announced by Gov. Dave Heineman as the winner Tuesday.

In the face of new information, administration officials backed off previous statements that the votes linking off the site were "spread evenly'' among the four plate options, thus rendering the prank moot.

That information had come from an employee of Nebraska Interactive, the private company that manages, the state Web site, Neth said.
IN THE END, the state's press and the state's executive branch behaved like actual adults to rectify an increasingly embarrassing situation. Credit goes to Heineman and Neth for admitting the vote was a mess and promptly fixing it, despite the embarrassment that had to involve.

In this case, it seems "government work" ended up being good enough . . . considering. If I were Heineman, though, there'd be a new webmaster tout de suite.

Unfortunately, you can't say much for the state's "design community," which launched some of the earliest and loudest complaints about the prospective 2011 Nebraska plates but, when the going got rough, picked up its MacBook and went home.

Because, as always, bull**** walks.

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