It takes a village

We don’t live in an ivory tower, though sometimes I can see why some people think we do.

As editors of a publication that reaches tens of thousands of executives and professionals in and around government, we know the importance of listening to all points of view, even — or especially — when one of those viewpoints is that we’ve got a story all wrong.

We need to hear those perspectives, and you need to know that we feel that way.

Such an occasion arose last week when we posted a story at FCW.com and our sister Web site, WashingtonTechnology.com, about public comments made by Ed O’Hare, a top General Services Administration official. O’Hare told an audience of government contractors that GSA was planning big changes for its portfolio of governmentwide acquisition contracts, or GWACs.

Except for the Alliant, Alliant Small Business, and some smaller GWACs geared to disadvantaged groups, he said, “we’re going to let them all just expire naturally.” O'Hare also said he could envision GSA merging its GWAC and schedules programs.

It was an explosive comment full of repercussions for our acquisition-minded readers, whether in government or the private sector, and we posted a story online that day.

“GSA may end GWAC era” read that afternoon’s headline on FCW.com, which republished a story written by Nick Wakeman, editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. The headline there read: “GSA to phase out GWAC programs.”

GSA took issue with the articles — and especially the headlines — saying we misconstrued what O’Hare said. Nick tried to reach O’Hare for clarification, to no avail.

Let me point out that Nick is no novice here. He’s been following government contracting for nearly 13 years. He knows a good GSA story when he sees it. He was there; in fact, he was host of the event, the Washington Technology Top 100 Conference. So he wrote a follow-up blog post that parses O’Hare’s tape-recorded comments and the history of GSA’s efforts to streamline contract vehicles. Then he asked his readers: What do you think?

Responses varied, as you might expect from a story with as many nuances as this one. Some agreed with GSA, especially about the provocative headlines. Others said Nick’s story accurately captured O’Hare’s revelation. Others wondered what all the fuss was about.

In this issue of Federal Computer Week, our veteran acquisition editor, Matthew Weigelt, retraces the entire episode. He offered O’Hare a a chance to explain himself in a Q&A format, though GSA agreed only to answer questions submitted by e-mail. We’re still not sure whether they are O’Hare’s actual words or those of a press officer, but nevertheless, we have reprinted them as a sidebar to Matthew’s story.

We certainly don’t feel we have a patent on the truth. We try to give readers our best sense of what is going on, but we don’t always get it right. That’s why we always seek official sources and independent experts to vet our coverage.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said in this space before. We want to know what you think, especially if you think we’ve got the story wrong. It will be to our mutual benefit, I can promise you.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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