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Chasing Federal Government IT Stories the Old-Fashioned Way (Video)

Roblimo posted more than 2 years ago | from the hard-work-and-shoe-leather-get-the-story dept.

Media 17

Wayne Rash is a crusty old IT reporter who lives near Washington D.C. and covers a lot of Federal Government actions, especially those that have to do with technology, for several well-known publications. He did a lot of the original coverage of both the LightSquared debacle and AT&T's attempt to buy T-Mobile. Note the word "original" in there. An awful lot of today's online "news" stories quote other stories. Wayne is totally not a fan of that kind of "reporting," as you'll learn toward the end of this video. What he *does* respect is the old-fashioned way of gathering information: lots of research and digging.

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That's not reporting (3, Funny)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781225)

*Real* technology reporting involves aggregating a story that's based on another story that's based on a blog-post that's based on a press release from a company or interest group.

Re:That's not reporting (1)

azalin (67640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781251)

Doesn't there have to be some source at the end of the line? Even if it's just a 10 year olds facebook comment...

Re:That's not reporting (1)

MasterPatricko (1414887) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781309)

Nah, just post the story simultaneously to different sites and have them reference each other

Re:That's not reporting (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781591)

Hey, that's the best way to get corroborating sources.

Re:That's not reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782605)

Telephone! []

ah those were the days (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781303)

when we chased IT stories with compressed inline flash video edited audio-corrected and downsampled to a modern web format and streamed over the internet with social media tagging and microblog comments.

Wow, that dude must really hate /. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39781323)

Around we make sure to only link to a blog post linking to a news article that's "that kind of 'reporting'", with at least another one or two layers of repeating for good measure.

Re:Wow, that dude must really hate /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783705)

I don't hate /. It's just that /. isn't what I do.

On the other hand, I love reading /. if only because of the science stories that I'd never know about if there weren't mentioned here. I look at /. as more of a headline service that then allows me to go to the original story and read the details.

A real journalist supporting journal (2)

mwfischer (1919758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781557)

It's a shame what happened to this once fine profession.

Now it's a bunch of window lickers who learn to shoot from the hip for the quickest public (exclusives sell), not check facts and rely on rumors, and mutiliate the English language. I call this twitch journalism.

Unfortunately the blogosphere took over (quick instant information anyone can publish) and I get to see which drug Lindsay Lohan overdosed on today and which brand of shoes are hot fashion. While the increased speed of information propagation is inevitable because of communication technology mixing the two generations together has lead to unfortunate results. Here we are now with old media attempting to take concepts from a radically different form of communication and incorporate it in their dying business model. It's not working too good.

Bonus - I didn't proofread any of this so this wouldn't get buried in the seemingly endless amount comments this link going to attract so I can get read. I hate this planet.

Re:A real journalist supporting journal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39781723)

This is Slashdot, the 'seemingly endless amount of comments' for a story like this will consist of 25% "this isn't tech news!", 25% relevant, 40% "I hate your politics" and the rest will be an odd slurry of jokes and miscellaneous trolls.

There's a much more interesting article on C++, so you did have plenty of time to proofread.

Re:A real journalist supporting journal (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783063)

Or some old media is adapting. Newspapers, for example, publish daily or less so have no need to break a story out nanoseconds after it happened.

The extra time can be used to properly research things out and try to get more than one side of a story (in an attempt to publish first, the other side's story if often forgotten because it would mean publishing seconds later. Quel horreur!).

Or to report on things that don't make for quick soundbites or appear to matter. Or to which news changes so frequently (think war) that being bombarded with constant updates. I'm sure someone knows someone whos' experience sharing overload - their facebook/g+/twitter feed overflows with everything that happens on a second-by-second basis, and how they wish they just got a summary or overview (hey, like a newspaper!).

Slashdot's flash player. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39781689)

I'd like a download link at least, please. Considering the amount of people that visits /., there's probably 1000s of us who can't view the vids here....

Artificial Life (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 2 years ago | (#39781969)

Following up on the story about the app store simulated as artificial life, it'd be interesting to examine optimal strategies in other topics, such as news reporting. This man seems to be following the "innovate" strategy, while a lot of our news sources are "CopyCat" stratgey. Seems to work out better for the CopyCats... but I do wonder where the balance is before there's not enough original content.

The news is a commodity (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782521)

The news is a commodity, the associated press and Reuters have made it so, even if by accident. There are only two ways for a news source to avoid being a commodity:

User experience: Can I browse your news source and have a better experience that another site? Does you website annoy me with interactive ads, does it have a good layout etc?

Original material: Can I get original high quality material from your news source that I can't get elsewhere? Look at the Wall Street Journal, lots of original content, and lots of high quality content.

These are the only two factors that will influence whether any given news source will thrive or whether away. Newspapers that have survived over a hundred years have folded because they could not address these two points acceptably. Meanwhile other news sources that were once considered dinosaurs (Wall Street Journal) are thriving because they /have/ addressed these two issues.

Everything else is moot, politics (left wing, right wing etc), name, location, they are all nothing more than that which get's your foot in the door. If someone is a political news junkie and can't get the content and experience they want from one news source, they will go where they can (CNN was once considered the gold standard and now Fox beats them). Different political views don't change a thing, Newsweek, once a bastion of the liberal side was recently sold for a dollar as those that could not get the content and experience simply switched to different channels (meanwhile the Huffington Post which addressed the very two things I listed is thriving).

Re:The news is a commodity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39789009)

well said

Transcript (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783685)

Title: Chasing Federal Government IT Stories
Description: Wayne Rash is a crusty old IT reporter who covers a lot of Federal Government actions, especially those that have to do with technology, for several well-known publications. How does he do it?

00:00) <TITLE>
SlashdotTV logo bar reading "Wayne Rash is a senior tech reporter for eWeek and other well-known publications" appears over a view of the interviewee, Wayne Rash, sitting in a room cluttered with materials, with the picture fading from a grey scale still to a colored version.

00:05) <TITLE>
A title appears superimposed over the image, reading "We asked Wayne: How do you find government-oriented IT stories? Specifically, what about Lightsquared vs all the GPS users in the world?"

00:05) Wayne>
Well you get on a story like that to begin with by paying attention to what's going on in the FCC and in Congress - in other words: usually when a company decides to do something like what Lightsquared did, they send out a press release saying they're going to do it, or they somehow or other give information on it.
In this particular case, the first piece of information I got was the announcement from the FCC that this was going to be on the docket.

00:36) Wayne>
I'm on the press list.
Anytime something happens, they send out a press release.
In many cases just a paragraph long, but it tells you something happened.
Then you've gotta go to the FCC's website and look for the filings, which can be an arcane practice in itself because they don't always make it easy to find.

00:55) Wayne>
Yeah, it's good old-fashioned reporting.
You have to know how to look and you have to know where to look.
That's basically what I did; I went and looked for the initial history on the Lightsquared thing - which actually goes back several years.
Then on the fact that the chairman was considering the request to be approved before the testing was done, I looked at everything they had there, and I looked at what Lightsquared said they were doing on their own website, to see what they said it was gonna be doing, as well.
That's how I began to put the story together.

01:29) Wayne>
In the case of something like Lightsquared, pretty much all of the documents are going to be public documents in one form or another, because.. before the FCC.
While some details will be redacted - in this case: when they started doing the testing, the particular brands and types of GPS units were redacted, but the nature of the tests was not - and as a result you look through the public documents.
But you also have to have a pretty good Rolodex so you know who to call, and who to ask about exactly what's going on there.
This was made a little easier in this case because because there were some advocacy groups who wanted to make sure I knew about them, but it's like everything else: you can't trust the advocacy groups to tell you anything except what their position is; they're not necessarily going to give you a true picture of what the other side of the story is about.

02:24) Wayne>
I've been doing this for about 20 years, I would say.
Ever since I've been in D.C. and been doing journalism, I.. it's not so much what I would call investigative work as much I call it really, detail level reporting.

02:40) Robin>
How did you get into it?

02:42) Wayne>
I've been a journalist since I was in my teens.
I've written for publications since then.
I started writing about technology when technology started, showed up.
Computers were not around when I was starting my journalism career.
I was writing about city council meetings and police investigations and raids by the revenuers on evil stills in the mountains.
There was a long time before I started having technology to write about.

03:15) Robin>
That's an interesting question; Which do is more fun to write about: the revenuers and the stills, or the technology stuff?

03:23) Wayne>
I think the most fun was probably either the short period of time I spent covering entertainment for NBC, or the short period of time I spent covering motorsports for NBC.
I mean, let's face it, there's nothing you can do with a computer that's as fun as riding around a racetrack with Mark Donahue at 200mph.
No - it's not even close!

03:47) Robin>
Not even the video-est video game?

03:50) Wayne>
No, video games don't hold a candle to reality and there's no version of Flight Simulator that runs on a computer that beats doing aerobatics in a Pitts S-2B or trying to fly a Lear 35A to 20,000ft in 4 minutes or less.
Somehow or other the computers just can't quite keep up with reality.

04:13) Robin>
So back to the present day.
You're on.. not just the FCC mailing list, but who else's?

04:20) Wayne>
Oh I'm on everybody's mailing list.
I've been reporting in Washington for a long time, so I get press releases from Congress, from carious committees, from individual congresspeople, and I also follow the Congressional calendar, so I know what hearings have been going on and when they're going on, and I cover the hearings if they're relevant to what I'm doing.
So when they started having the hearings involving Lightsquared, I covered those.
Sometimes that means I've gotta go down town and go to Congress and actually sit there and try to do the reporting form there, but fortunately the advent of webcasting of hearings has made life much easier for us.
We can sit here and write the story while we watch the story develop.

05:02) Wayne>
Anybody can watch them.
They're not necessarily going to send you press releases if you're not press, but if you're interested in a particular issue, you can find out what hearing is going to be looking at that particular issue.
Then you can check and see when one of these hearings is scheduled, and they will announce the webcast and members of the public are just as welcome as members of the press.

05:23) Robin>
Okay, now within the technology journalism community you got big credz and props for the Lightsquared reporting that you've done and their GPS problems.
What else have you done that is interesting or that Slashdot readers should know you're doing?

05:43) Wayne>
I think the biggest story I've actually worked on was - not just Lightsquared - but the whole T-Mobile / AT&T merger situation.
Because that actually required a lot more investigative work than Lightsquared did.
Lightsquared was primarily being willing to spend the time and effort necessary to go through thousands of pages of FCC filings, and people's comments, and filings by interested parties, and find out what they were actually saying versus what they were trying to hide.
But when you really wanted to get down and dirty with things, the AT&T / T-Mobile merger really had a lot more of that.
That's where I found out, for example, that there was a congressman from North Carolina who was trying to have Congress order the Justice Department to stop the merger investigation in the antitrust division.
When I looked at this, I found out first of all the congressman is in a district that's not served by AT&T, he's never had any connection with telecom issues in the past, he's never had any interest in telecommunications or radio or anything like that.
Then Is started really digging and I found that he and several other people who were signing this letter with him had taken very large contributions from AT&T - and AT&T, in fact, had helped write the letters that he put forth to Congress, and helped write the legislation he was trying to push.
Ultimately, he ended up deciding not to run for re-election after that.
That was actually a lot more digging involved than anything involved in Lightsquared.

07:24) Wayne>
The only way to really successfully be a good reporter in this business is the same way that you've been a good reporter in every other business all the time, and that is to actually look for the original material.
If you've noticed, you'll know that a lot of the stories you see on the web these days are basically like a big echo chamber;
Somebody reported something, so somebody else reported something on what they said, and then a third person reports on what the second person said and by the time you get to the end of it, it's like a big game of - what we used to play in elementary school, called - 'telephone' where you tell somebody one thing and whisper it, and by the time it got through 20 kids it was a totally different story.
Well, that's what we're seeing in a lot of the technology journalism these days, is that the reporters either don't have the skills, don't have the interest, or don't have the time to go and really look for the original information.
If you look at the stories that I've written, you'll see that all of the links that are included are links back to the original documents, not links to what some other person is saying about the documents.
As a result, when you go and look at the original information, that's where you find what is really happening.

08:32) <TITLE>
The SlashdotTV logo bar reading "Wayne Rash is a senior tech reporter for eWeek and other well-known publications" appears once more, with a second title added: "Video by Robin 'roblimo' Miller"

The fifth estate can't stand warrantless wiretaps (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39784235)

Since it's SO easy to get a free phoneline online (Skype, etc.) it's clear that the phone communications are going to become more like email in the future (essentially untrustworthy). It's time to consider building more anonymity into the system for users who want it.
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