CBS call-in sent callers to Minnesota

January 30, 1992|By Knight-Ridder

ST. PAUL, MINN. — St. Paul, Minn.--WHEN PAT Nylen sat down to watch President Bush's State of the Union address on CBS Tuesday, he had no idea just how exciting his evening would be.

After the speech, Nylen waited for the CBS News call-in program to poll viewers' responses to the speech.

CBS' toll-free call-in number flashed on the screen and Nylen noticed it looked familiar. Real familiar. In fact, it was his phone number.

That's the toll-free number at Visual 1 Inc., Nylen's St. Paul company that sells audio-visual products and computers.

Nylen rushed from his Minneapolis home to the office a little after 10 p.m. Too late.

The answering machine was flashing wildly. Across the nation, from Alaska to Florida,citizens had been trying to call. The tape was filled with 50 messages, the maximum it could record, and there was no way of knowing how many couldn't get through.

"I got a couple of messages that were funny," Nylen said. "But . . . most of them you wouldn't write in a newspaper."

CBS is investigating the incident. A CBS News spokeswoman said she thought the calls had stopped.

Not so, says Jim Rouleau, Visual 1's general manager. They were still coming in at 4 p.m. yesterday and he figured it could cost his company a few hundred dollars before it was over. Nylen and Rouleau want CBS to pick up the tab for their mistake.

"Lord knows what is going to happen," Nylen said. "Jim threw up his arms and left, and the CBS News producers haven't called back."

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