Like several thousand other Federal Register subscribers whose business it is to keep track of the government, Mike Fulton, a senior assistant for governmental relations with the Ryan-McGinn public relations firm, scans the Register's table of contents five days a week.
Not long ago, right under the Centers for Disease Control listing for grants, something jumped out of the page of endless gray type:
"Human T-Lymphotropic virus (HTLV) types I and II antibodies; scrological test, 00000.
"Mammography quality assurance program, 00000.
"Occupational safety and health -- Injury surveillance in agricultural workers, 00000."
In fact, every page reference was the same: 00000. That meant Fulton had to read every entry in the 213-page book to find what he wanted.
"It took me at least three times as long to read it and make copies for our clients," Fulton said. "To our clients every day, literally every hour, is important to respond to federal action. A lot of people don't like to read the Federal Register; it's very tedious and complicated, but it pays big dividends."
Enough so that Fulton's company, in addition to the $340 subscription price, pays extra for a hand-delivered issue each morning.
Register officials attributed the mishap to a mistake at the Government Printing Office. A corrected table was added to the following edition.
But the mistake, though minor, didn't go without notice.
"The phones rang off the hook," Register Director Martha B. Girard said. "The poor folks who do the table of contents day in, day out knew that someone cares. We know it matters now."