Twenty years ago today, I was sitting in my office eagerly — and tensely — waiting for our information technology team to flip the switch on a server and launch us into the digital age. We’d spent months building GovExec.com from scratch to reach this moment of truth.
Luckily, it went off without a hitch, and we were off and running. Soon, Tim Clark, then-editor of Government Executive, walked down the hall and casually asked, "What's new on the site today? After all, we're in the news business now, right?"
At that moment, I realized the real work — and fun — was ahead of us.
We’ve come a long way since that hot August day in 1996 when we launched — figuring, in case something went wrong, that few people would be paying attention in the sleepy summer months. And things did go wrong. I was prone to overwriting the HTML on the home page on occasion, and once we managed to destroy the whole site and had to rebuild it on the fly.
Michael Reeder, who led the launch effort, managed that situation with aplomb — and with the help of intern extraordinaire Brian Friel, who has gone on to a distinguished career in journalism. They were the only full-time employees of GovExec.com, but were quickly joined by a small stable of compatriots — some of whom are still with us today.
Kellie Lunney, for example, joined not long after the launch and (other than a stint at National Journal) has been with us ever since. Amelia Gruber started as an entry-level reporter in the early 2000s and today serves as senior editor. Katherine McIntire Peters was covering defense and national security for our print magazine in 1996, but would eventually become a regular contributor to GovExec.com and now serves as deputy editor overseeing the digital operation.
Our alumni have gone on to work at National Public Radio, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, Congressional Quarterly, and many other distinguished news organizations.
I take great pride in the fact that we were the first publication devoted to providing daily news coverage of federal management issues. I also take satisfaction in the innovations we’ve introduced, including daily and weekly e-newsletters for the federal audience, the Thrift Savings Plan ticker, mobile apps and ebooks.
We’ve broken thousands of news stories over the years — and once broke our server reporting that President Obama was giving federal employees extra time off at Christmas. We’ve taken long-form writing online with such projects as our Hurricane Katrina oral history in 2015.
Most importantly, we’ve branched out in recent years, adding three specialized publications: Nextgov (focusing on technology and the government of tomorrow, Defense One (on the future of national security) and Route Fifty (on innovation in the state and local government sector). With our four brands, we now offer comprehensive coverage of government at all levels.
As of the beginning of our 20th anniversary year, we’re digital-only. Thousands of articles and millions and millions of page views since we launched, we’re going stronger than ever. And we’re looking forward to continuing to provide news, information and digital tools to the most important readership in the nation.