Internet Killed the Drama

The Port of Bremerton is getting a check for $3 million Monday at an event that was supposed to be a surprise.

No one told the folks at the U.S. Department of Commerce, however, and by Thursday the secret was out.

Seriously, I would have been fine not breaking this story. I can appreciate that Friday’s story spoils the gasps and spontaneous applause that would have been a part of Monday’s event.

Local officials who knew what was going to be announced kept the details from me well. I tried, believe me, to discover the secret. As a reporter, I’m fine if I find out something when everyone else does.

That’s especially true on a story like this. However in few circumstances do I easily stomach getting beat. Assuming other people were sniffing around about this, I at least asked. I didn’t want to find out by picking up another paper or watching late-night news.

On Thursday I expected to write a story saying the congressman and the Commerce guy would make an announcement about some money for Bremerton.

That’s all we knew, and it appeared that’s all we would know. On Monday perhaps we’d get the thing on the Web and satisfy our desire to be first among news agencies.

I had to at least scour the public information to see if it was out there. That’s how the Internet spoils surprises these days. All the people involved locally did a great job keeping me out of the know on this. They were friendly about it, but they were committed. Even our publisher, Mike Levi, knew about it and he didn’t tell me. Ten years ago, five years ago, I probably never would have found it.

In the newsroom we did speculate that the announcement might relate to the marina project because we had written about it not long ago. But let’s not forget there’s a tunnel planned from the ferry terminal to Burwell that will take federal money. There’s work going on to move the Naval Museum and more work to turn that area into a park. The two local housing authorities are engaging in big-buck projects. There were a number of things it could be. And according to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, more announcements could be coming soon.

I first thought to see if the federal budget was available online. That soon proved to be a huge haystack with Bremerton being the tiniest of needles. So then I went to the Department of Commerce site. At first that didn’t look promising either. But almost any Web site has a search engine on it anymore. I got to Commerce’s press room page and did a search using the terms “Bremerton” and “Commerce.” The second item down had this:

EDA Investment Check Presentation Ceremony in Bremerton, WA: Assistant Secretary Sandy K. Baruah and U.S. Congressman Norman Dicks will present a $3 million EDA investment check to the city of …

I clicked the link and found:

EDA Investment Check Presentation Ceremony in Bremerton, WA: Assistant Secretary Sandy K. Baruah and U.S. Congressman Norman Dicks will present a $3 million EDA investment check to the city of Bremerton to help build a breakwater to encourage economic growth in the city’s downtown business district. The Port’s Bremerton Inner Harbor Protection Project and accompanying marina expansion will create over 430 community jobs. Open press. (April 17, 2006)

I had a “Eureka!” moment, followed by a thought that this might be an old event. I looked at the date again and realized it was scheduled for Monday and there’s your smoking gun.

Once I showed the news was in a medium anyone could access, Rep. Dicks agreed to talk and so did everyone else.

I’ll admit some regret in spoiling the surprise, but once it’s out there it would be a risk for us to sit on it. Besides, I bet people are going to still be pretty excited come Monday, even if by then it’s old news.

2 thoughts on “Internet Killed the Drama

  1. BRAVO Steve!
    perfect internet investigative job!
    If you can show rachel how to insert the url within the text so that one gets to a link directly by clicking that would be great.
    Again great example of web reporting!

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