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Etc.

August 28, 2008



Besides, it's a nice photo

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Members of City Council in Birmingham, England, wanted to express appreciation to residents for doing their part in meeting the ambitious municipal recycling goals. So they came up with a red, white, and blue leaflet that would show the skyline, an archery target with an arrow sticking out of the bull's-eye, a bit of text boasting that the deadline had been beaten a year ahead of schedule, and – in oversize type – a banner reading, "Thank You, Birmingham!" At a cost of $29,874, the printer delivered 720,000 copies, which were dropped through mail slots across the city. And almost immediately came complaints.

No, not about wasting paper that itself would need to be recycled. Or even about the expense, which, after all, was covered by tax receipts. Instead, an alert reader recognized that the skyline in the picture wasn't his city's. "Who is checking this stuff?" an indignant Jon Cooper asked. "I can't understand why no one noticed before it was sent out." Ah, but the image was of a Birmingham skyline – Birmingham, Ala. OK, OK, you caught us, council members admitted. But they're going ahead with a follow-up printing that will answer frequently asked questions about the recycling program, and it will feature the same skyline picture. Why? Because, a spokesman explained, "the text and detail contained in the leaflet is wholly correct, which is the most important message." And, anyway, he said, the photo is only meant to "symbolically represent an urban area."

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