Tech Writers: Stow Your Snark, Do Your Homework

It’s all too common in tech writing these days for online journalists to post a story without taking the time for even minimal efforts to check the facts. Under the headline “USAF Command Signs Big iPad 2 Deal, Fails to Check eBay First,” All Things D’s John Paczkowski chides the U.S. Air Force for buying 18,000 iPad 2s “just days ahead of the expected announcement of the iPad 3.”

Journalists love stories about idiotic federal purchasing and the government does more than its share of dumb things. But this narrative, like the $16 muffin and the $500 toilet seat, falls apart the minute you do the tiniest amount of research.

Paczkowski appears to base his story on reports from Bloomberg and Air Force Times, both of which he links to. And he does note, as do the two other stories, that the  Air Force has only ordered only 63 iPads with the right to buy the rest as funding and needs permit. But only All Things D, a site I admire, added the implication that the blundering government would go on scarfing up iPad 2s after the new model ships.

It took me about 15 seconds with Google to find the Air Force’s Electronic Flight Bag solicitation on the General Services Administration web site. And the request for proposals asks for “a minimum of 63 and a maximum of 18,000, iPad 2, Brand Name or Equal devices.” That language means that as the iPad 3 (or whatever it is called) replaces the current model, the Air Force will likely move to it (or will renegotiate a lower price if Apple maintains availability of the iPad 2.)

Executive Technology Inc., one of 24 bidders, won the contract to supply the 32 GB iPads for $520 each, about a 13% discount from the list price.


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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

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