GCN got started on founder Izzy Feldman's dining room table
- By Vanessa Jo Roberts
- Oct 01, 2002
Homegrown. It's a word that describes many of the applications that powered the government's first systems and still fits many of the new e-government apps crafted today. But it's also a word that describes this publication.
Government Computer News is about as homegrown as they come, being a creation of one of the federal IT community's own.
GCN was the inspiration of Israel Feldman, and Izzy'as he is known by many in the systems community'literally pasted up the first issue in December 1982 at his dining room table, all 12 pages of it.
The idea of a newspaper for the government's blossoming technology sector also occurred at a table, this one in the kitchen of Marion Baird. A longtime friend of Feldman's, Baird worked at his Silver Spring, Md., training company, US Professional Development Institute. Baird, who became one of the first members of the GCN sales team, retired from the company this year.
Feldman had spent more than a dozen years managing systems for the federal government, preceded by a dozen years in in industry.
His government career began at the Health, Education and Welfare Department'now Health and Human Services'where he was in essence its first CIO, overseeing all of HEW's computer use. He also worked for the Postal Service and the Housing and Urban Development Department. Feldman was a charter member of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.
For its first issue, GCN had no editorial staff to speak of. The content came from contributors, both federal employees and computer industry experts. In fact, that's how Feldman published GCN for nearly two years.
The paper was monthly for its first year and went biweekly in 1984. Today, we publish 30 GCNs each year, plus four issues of our product-only publication, GCN Technology.
Over the years, we have also published a third government newspaper, the monthly GCN/State & Local; a special Windows NT magazine for government users; and an annual guide to IT schedule contracts.Government niche
GCN was the first publication to serve the federal systems community. Oh, there were computer newspapers and magazines, but they rarely touched on the unique government market and certainly not on its policies, budgets, laws or agencies' missions.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the government systems and telecommunications field was a far different animal than its commercial counterpart'more than it is now. Those were the pre-procurement-reform days.
The Paperwork Reduction Act and the Brooks Act were forging the foundation of what would become known as government IRM. The Clinger-Cohen Act and CIOs were years off. The General Services Administration had authority to approve or deny nearly every systems purchase. The rules governing buys were far more complex. Agencies had not only the Federal Acquisition Regulation to comply with but the Federal IRM Regulation as well. Then, there was the protest process and hearings before the GSA Board of Contract Appeals.
Pods of end-user computing and stovepipe applications hand-coded by feds of all stripes erupted with seeming spontaneity.
Into the void stepped GCN.
It was not a niche that we inhabited alone for long. By 1987, we had a direct competitor, Federal Computer Week. And today, we find many publications dipping into our market, a market in which the federal government spends upwards of $50 billion a year on computers and communications gear and services. Those publications range to the large daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
The Washington Post Co., in fact, is GCN's current owner. Since its founding, GCN has had four owners. Feldman sold GCN to Ziff Davis Publishing Co. in 1986 but stayed on as publisher. That was just after I joined the staff. Under Ziff and subsequent owners, the paper greatly expanded its staff and editorial reach.
In 1991, Ziff sold GCN to Cahners Business Information, now Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier. After that sale, Feldman left the paper to begin an IT consulting business.
The paper remained under the Reed Elsevier umbrella for almost eight years until the Washington Post bought it, along with the FOSE trade show, from Reed in 1998.
Today, GCN is part of Post Newsweek Tech Media, a small technology media group within the Post family. Besides GCN, GCN Technology and FOSE, the group includes Washington Technology, the publication for government-focused systems integrators, and Washington Techway, the publication for technology companies in the nation's capital. Each also has its own Web site.
GCN has moved physically, too. Through the mid-1980s, we published from small offices above a Chinese restaurant in Silver Spring. Then we spent more than a decade in a downtown Silver Spring office. Earlier this year, we relocated to our newest digs in a building adjacent to Union Station in Washington.
Over the years GCN has navigated upturns and downturns in the economy, as well as boom periods that have marked the technology market. But unlike many other publications in the technology trade arena, we see our focus as much about people as about products.For and about you
GCN's readers are a community, not unlike a small town. For everything that goes on our pages or posts to www.gcn.com
, we ask, 'How does this affect our readers?'
In all, there are 350,000 of you. The publication's circulation is 87,500, with a pass-along rate of three readers per copy. And you readers range from the top echelons of management'the CIOs, chief financial officers and undersecretaries'to feds on the front lines'the field program managers, systems administrators and programmers.
Ultimately, without you, there would be no us.