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Capital Source

Oops! E-mail detailing press inquiries sent to reporters

Are you a Massachusetts reporter wondering what your competitors are working on? If so, Tuesday was your lucky day.

A junior employee in the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development accidentally blasted out the office’s internal list of more than two dozen pending stories from several news organizations — to its press list.

Oops.

State government employees regularly keep track of press inquiries, updating colleagues on which reporters are asking for what, how an agency responded, and when certain stories are set to run.

What they usually don’t do is e-mail that list to reporters. But that’s what happened Tuesday when the secretariat’s program and communications coordinator, whose name the Globe is begrudgingly withholding to spare the employee further embarrassment, hit send.

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There was an inquiry from the Boston Herald about massage parlor licenses, and one from The Boston Globe about homeless data. The Lowell Sun contacted the bureaucracy about housing authority executive directors, according to the list, and WBUR about transgender health services. The list detailed a WBZ-TV reporter accompanying state investigators and the Revere Journal posing some questions.

So how did all that internal information become public?

Paul McMorrow, director of policy and communications at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, said the wrong list was pasted into the send box of the e-mail. Simply, he said, “it was a mistake.”

Asked how many reporters the e-mail went out to, McMorrow paused briefly and then replied: “All of them.”

McMorrow, himself a former reporter, said it is no secret that officials keep each other apprised of media inquiries but “it’s just not standard practice to send them to your press distribution list instead of your internal distribution list.”

Twenty-four minutes after the initial e-mail message, the same coordinator and accidental press penpal sent out another blast at 5:28 p.m.: “[The employee] would like to recall the message ...”

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And then one more at 5:53 p.m.: “Please disregard the previous email – it was sent in error. My sincere apologies.”

In related news this week, Google announced it was expanding an “Undo Send” feature in the popular e-mail service Gmail, allowing users to “cancel a sent mail if they have second thoughts immediately after sending.”

No word on if that feature would be installed on the state’s e-mail system.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.