..: Seat of My Pants :..

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ottawa media lockup - Budget 2006

I was at the federal media lockup earlier this week with another IT fellow. We were there on behalf of our newspaper to make sure there were reliable communications lines for reporters to file their stories when the budget embargo lifted. A media lockup is a great big room where hundreds of journalists are closeted in without outside communication while the federal budget is 'handed down' in the House of Commons. Once inside the lockup, there is no outside communication with the world until later in the day. Everyone is given several texts and a CD comprising all the data and proposals by the federal government to be read out and delivered to the Canadian people.

The reason for locking up the journalists is twofold. One, this gives the journalists five hours or so to review the documents and write up stories and make charts and graphs and so on, all ahead of time so as to be able to file completed work to their respective organisations at onec to meet publishing deadlines. And two, there would be no advantage of one organisation over another across the country of divulging information prematurely and trumping the government. The government wants to deliver the budget on its own terms and to be the first to do so, while recognizing that it must rely on the media for interpretation for the Canadian people. The journalists in lockup are given five or so hours to interpret the data, but not release it until the government begins its delivery in the House. At that point, the communications embargo is lifted and there is a scramble among the various media orgs to get their info back to the various motherships. Colin and I were there to set up and ensure the comms pipes were open and free back to our mothership.

Here are some photos of what the lockup looks like.

It's a big room. Almost all screen are latops (about 250 or so), and I walked around and counted no less than 70 Mac latops of those 250. Quite a high number I thought.

At first, there is a lot of discussion about who will write on which aspect opf the budget (childcare, healthcare, national security disbursements, etc):

Then, there is a lot of reading:

and concentrating (maybe too much concentrating):

But after awhile, the documents are read and poured over, things get a little boring and journalists start to do what all responsible journalists do - they interview each other (when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail):

Me? After all technical issues are addressed, there's isn't that much to do. So I did what all responsible IT people do when confronted by 3+ hours of jaw-dropping boredom, I watched a DVD:


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