On this episode of Inside the Media Minds, our host Christine Blake sat down to talk with Andrew Eversden, staff reporter for Breaking Defense. (Read the transcript here.)
Andrew always had an interest in how government works. During the conversation, he shared how his first job out of college – reporting for Federal Times – opened many doors and led him to cover the military beat at C4ISRNET. Now covering the U.S. Army at Breaking Defense, Andrew is more focused on how major war vehicles, fighting domains and platforms/systems are all interconnected.
Andrew also provided insight into his writing process and how he must consider the many faces of his audience – from program managers, industry officials and oversight individuals in Congress to more general readers – in order to balance in-depth content with sufficient explanations of technical buzzwords and the long list of government acronyms.
Tune in to the full podcast (or read the transcript) to learn how Andrew stays engaged in the government and military landscape, how government technology has evolved through collaboration tools, and other insights including:
- How journalism was Andrew’s ideal career since childhood
- The story Andrew is most proud of writing (Spoiler: it’s here!)
- How Andrew finds resources for his stories
- Topics Andrew is looking to cover in the near future
- Why the Jedi Cloud Contract reminds Andrew of The Bachelor
0:22 – Andrew’s background in government reporting
2:22 – What keeps Andrew engaged in the government and military spheres
3:30 – Andrew’s role at Breaking Defense & how he approaches the army beat
5:34 – How Andrew defines his audience
7:12 – Andrew’s most memorable story
8:55 – How Andrew finds resources
11:23 – How government technology has evolved
14:04 – Topics Andrew is currently interested in
16:40 – How vendors/solution providers can set themselves apart
19:15 – Listener questions for Andrew
22:19 – Andrew’s interests outside of work
Christine Blake (CB): Welcome to Inside the Media Minds. This is your host, Christine Blake. This show features in depth interviews with tech reporters who share everything from their biggest pet peeves to their favorite stories. From our studio at W2 Communications, let’s go Inside the Media Minds.
Hello, everyone, this is Christine Blake, the host of Inside the Media Minds. And I’m excited today to welcome Andrew Eversden, staff reporter for Breaking Defense, covering the Army. Welcome, Andrew.
Andrew Eversden (AE): Thank you so much for having me.
CB: Yeah, thanks for coming on the podcast. We’re excited to talk to you about your role at Breaking Defense and learn more about you. So, I know you also, you know, wrote for C4ISRNET, you reported on federal IT for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, so you’ve been in the space, kind of a while now, in a couple of different roles. Can you give us a quick overview of your background? How you got into reporting on these topics? And then we can go from there?
AE: Yeah. Well, thanks again for having me. So, I have been covering or doing journalism professionally, I guess for almost three years. And yeah, my first job out of college was at Federal Times. But, I’ve known that I wanted to do journalism, probably since I was 11 or 12. My parents always had the Arizona Republic newspaper at our kitchen table every morning. And I would love reading through the sports page and I think that’s probably how I got interested in it. So I went to American University, not too far from here, and studied journalism, came to DC, you know, wanting to cover politics, and, you know, like a lot of people who come to this town.
But the first job, the job offer that I got out of college, which just opened a ton of doors for me was that job at Federal Times, which quickly turned into the military beat at C4ISRNET once COVID hit. And so I’m covering a ton of things that I never dreamt I would cover; I know more about how software works, and all these different technical terms that I now sort of understand that I certainly never thought that I would. So, it’s kind of crazy to think about, especially coming on podcasts like this to talk about it is when I start to realize how much I have picked up and how much I am able to actually talk about these things that are kind of mind boggling to wrap my head around.
CB: Yeah, I’m sure it is interesting that you kind of got thrown into that. And then how do you stayed engaged in it? Like what keeps you engaged in these topics?
AE: I think what keeps me engaged is I’m fascinated in how government works. I think that’s one of the things that I was looking for in a job coming out of school. I wanted to stay in DC and I wanted to cover government in some form. And I think you learn most about how the government works when you’re covering IT acquisition because you realize it’s not like a super, like, sexy thing to cover or to write about. But that’s billions and billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money that they put into it every year. And so, what really keeps me engaged and kind of motivating me is this is, you know, the government is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on this stuff. And a lot of it is decades old. So, I think trying to shed a light on that is something that gets me out of bed in the morning.
CB: Yeah, that’s super interesting. Um, and then tell us about your role at Breaking Defense and sort of how you approach covering this beat.
AE: Yeah, that’s interesting. So um, so I cover the Army now for Breaking Defense. I’ve been doing that for six months. So I largely cover – I moved away somewhat from the software, IT stuff that I covered at C4ISRNET and I cover more focused on major, like, war vehicles, war fighting systems like platforms, vehicles, helicopters, but you know, all of that has to connect to a network. So there’s certainly still a network aspect to it and I think have really found my background from C4 for to be super helpful in understanding that, you know, you can have this new helicopter, you can have this new brown vehicle, but they need to be equipped with systems that can actually talk to each other, but they’re made by different contractors in different parts of the country. So, I think kind of what I try and do is cut through some of that stuff. And just, I think point out that, hey, like they’re spending millions on this on this platform, but it still needs to be able to connect to this, this platform over there.
CB: And those are things that, you know, in our everyday life, you don’t always think about that, right? When it comes to the Army, things are connected and utilized.
AE: Yeah, and I think about it’s, it’s not dissimilar from how your phone connects to your car. You know, I mean, I had a really difficult time yesterday night trying to get my phone to connect to my car. Imagine trying to get, you know, something flying at 30,000 feet to connect something at sea level.
CB: Right? Yeah, that’s wild. And then how do you define your audience when writing about these topics?
AE: Um, that’s interesting, especially in the trade space, because you definitely have some general audience, like, sometimes stories will get picked up on Reddit, but primarily, like I define my audience as program managers, industry officials looking to see where acquisition is headed and what the government is looking to do in the future. And then sort of just other people, other people in the Pentagon that have an interest in what I’m writing about, and then even oversight people in Congress. So it’s a, it’s a weird mix. And it, kind of, you kind of have to tailor your writing in a way that shows respect for the program managers and the more technical defense people who understand what you’re writing about, while also explaining some of the major buzzwords in a way that a general audience can understand. And kind of straight.
CB: Yeah, that must be challenging. That must be challenging, to some extent, right. Like all the different acronyms and buzzwords that, um, you know, Army and technology and government technology uses these days.
AE: Oh, yeah, it’s difficult especially, it can be, it can be really frustrating. But, you know, I mean, you have to, you have to do it. And it helps, it helps me get a better sense of; it forces me to have a better understanding of what it is that I’m covering.
CB: Absolutely. So, what is one of, what was one of your favorite or most memorable stories that you’ve written? And it can be at any of the publications you’ve worked at, something that really stands out as an interesting article, maybe?
AE: Yeah, the story I’m most proud of comes from my old job at C4ISRNET. I wrote about, I’m sure your listeners are familiar with Katie Arrington, who ran the CMMC program. I wrote a very long profile of her with Mike Gruss, who used to or who came on this podcast.
AE: We probably worked on like 10 or 11 drafts of this story over the course of a month; it was just a ton of work. So yeah. Katie Arrington has a really fascinating background. She just announced that she’s running for Congress again. But she ran for Congress in 2018 and ended up losing. And she just kind of a fascinating character, given her background. And so, my first week, my first week at Federal Times, actually, I went to an event that she was speaking at. And, given my previous interest in politics, I knew who she was from her political background, and I was like, “What on earth is she doing here in a Pentagon job. So, I wanted to write that profile for about a year before I actually got started on it. And it just, it was just a ton of fun to work on.
CB: Oh, wow, that does sound interesting. Um, yeah, we’ll definitely have to share a link to that when this episode airs so everyone can take a look.
AE: Yeah, yeah, I’ll shoot you the link.
CB: Great. And um, you know, as you’re writing stories, what do you look for when it comes to resources and how do you get, you know, the right resources for your stories?
AE: Yeah, that’s a really good question. Um, I think I primarily am looking for industry people who, when I when I’m looking for like subject matter experts, particularly around IT or cyber stuff in my old job, is industry people who have interesting government backgrounds who speak in English and not, not the technical, the technical terms and phrases that I will never be able to translate to my audience. But I’m really interested in people who have that bureaucratic government background, because it’s, it’s nice to be able to write these explainer pieces on complicated things that you can kind of take the reader into how how the government functions and why such decision is made, or why this software or that software is a better decision than doing something different, and here’s why. So, people with a familiarity with the systems. And it doesn’t have to be just people with government backgrounds, either. Obviously, when you have IT contractors, federal contractors in any capacity who have been doing it for years and years or decades on decades, they also start to learn that that institutional knowledge too.
CB: Yeah, I’m sure, you know, covering this space for three years or so now. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve built up a good bunch of resources to go to for some of these topics.
AE: Yeah, definitely. And it, it’s not always easy to find. You gotta find, you know, some people are, they’re not necessarily, they don’t love talking to press. When you do, when you do find the people that are most helpful, it’s really easy to go back to them over and over and over again. So, I think one of the hard things, especially in the IT space, is finding a more wide, diverse array of sources. Just cause I mean, it is it’s pretty, it’s a pretty niche area. Right?
CB: Yeah. Absolutely. And then, you know, in your three years of covering the space, how have you seen government technology as a whole, evolve or, or has it?
AE: Yeah, this question, I kind of made it I. I chuckled when I first saw it, because it’s I have it, um, it kind of sometimes it feels like, I’m covering the same stuff that I covered three years ago and it hasn’t changed at all. But I think, you know, that’s just kind of how the government bureaucracy moves. But, at the same time, COVID happened and that opened doors to remote work. So, I would say my actual answer is collaboration tools and just how widespread those have become and are probably going to continue to become.
You know, you saw at the beginning of COVID, the Pentagon rapidly tried to, or rapidly and successfully, stood up teams environment to like over 1 million users. And while that took several iterations, they still did it. But something that would probably take two or three years took six weeks? Two months? And then they iterated on, on that capability – two buzzwords right there for you – and developed something permanent. So, I think, that’s how I would, I would say government technology has evolved over the last two years, is just collaboration tools and realizing that all of this work can be done remotely, but obviously that comes with cybersecurity constraints and bandwidth constraints. So, it kind of opens the doors to all kinds of other ways that government technology will have to evolve.
CB: That’s true. That’s a good point. It’s almost like everybody and the government was forced to, to, you know, adapt to that remote workforce, and then it does bring about many other issues that they’re gonna have to address and continue to address as time goes on. Yeah, definitely makes sense.
AE: Yeah, I think you primarily see that in cybersecurity. Probably the most obvious one is how do you secure someone’s personal laptop when they’re logging into the government’s networks?
AE: So, that gets into zero trust and, you know, that’s something that will develop over the next few months and years.
CB: Absolutely. Yeah. We hear zero trust all the time now, right?
AE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Another buzzword.
CB: Absolutely. And then what are some of the things that you are or the topics that you’re currently, you know, looking to cover or that you kind of see yourself covering here in the next couple of months or so?
AE: Um, so I would say – so the Army is working on their future warfighting concept is called multi domain operations, which is being able to fight across the different warfighting domains – land, sea, air, space, cyber – and how do you do all these operations across those five domains and connect systems that are previously disconnected, that are also, you know, some one might be 30 years old and other one might be two years old, and how do you make sure that those are all interconnected? And it’s all part of this broader Pentagon effort called Joint All-Domain Command and Control. Um, so that’s a lot. But, that is a huge part of what I’m covering now is how are all these systems? I guess back to our conversation earlier, how all these systems are connected? And how are they, you only have so much bandwidth on the battlefield, so how do you decide if you’re sharing live videos or still pictures because you know, you only have so much bandwidth and you need to, there are things that have to get through back to say, the forward edge of the battlefield and back back to a, I don’t know, a four star headquarters. But there’s also things that don’t and so, you know, using artificial intelligence and automation and sort of ciphering through all of that data and deciding what needs to get through and what doesn’t need to get through. And then making sure that the network is actually resilient because, you know, electronic warfare and jamming will take down networks. So, it’s kind of the, the melding of all of that, that I’m interested in currently, yeah. Because I mean, that’s, that’s just wildly, wildly complex and really hard, really hard to do in industry. I mean, the military can’t do it on its own.
CB: Yeah, no, it sounds like it. And that, yeah, it sounds super complex. So, I’m definitely will be interested in reading some of your coverage on those topics.
AE: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Yeah. And then, you know, from a journalism perspective, I’m sure you learn about and talk to so many different vendor solution providers who are working with the government providing, you know, these technologies in such a crowded and noisy space. From your perspective, how should companies set themselves apart?
AE: I think that’s, you’re right. And I mean, it’s such a crowded, noisy space. And so that’s almost a difficult question to, to answer. But I would say that what’s easiest, from my perspective, is companies being able to specifically distinguish themselves from other, from from their competitors, be able to come to me and say, you know, here’s why my counter drone solution is better. Here’s what’s, here’s the specific capability that it will provide – be able to tell me that in a way that’s easy to understand, which is no small feat, but it’s, it’s a critical part, I would say and in messaging is being able to say and relatively basic terms, why yours is better than somebody else’s. And I use counter drones because it’s the next. Well, it’s not the next big thing is the he new big thing is, you know, the Chief of Staff of the Army is calling it the next IED. And the Congress just gave the Army like $400 million more than they asked for counter drone. So, um, yeah, I think just being able to distinguish why your offering is different. I think, you know, that’s another one with with software and cloud computing is okay, how is your cloud environment different than your competitors.
AE: Yeah, but, you know, that gets to we have a better, higher level of cybersecurity. More, I don’t know, more processing power. I don’t know. Um, so yeah, and but I think the important part is, is being able to lay it out for reporters, in terms that are simple to understand because we’re not technical experts.
CB: But that makes sense. I like the idea of really highlighting those differentiators when presenting it to it to a reporter or to to really any kind of audience, that’s important. Great, so we did get a couple listener questions I want to jump into here for the last few minutes. Um, I’m gonna start with a fun one.
CB: Who is your favorite celebrity named Andrew?
AE: So I, oh boy, celebrity named Andrew. I’m gonna have to take a cop out on this one because I’m not that fluent in pop culture, which is totally lame, isn’t it. But I’ll go with with Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation. Not a, you know Chris Pratt plays him; not an Andrew, but he’s an Andrew on the show.
AE: Oh, he’s hilarious. Um, and it’s a, it’s a really fun show. So I would have to go with Andy Dwyer.
CB: I love that answer and that we totally accept that answer of a character. I think that’s fantastic. And then kind of going on some of the discussion that we had earlier and how sometimes it feels like, the industry is not evolving after all. This question is: can you hear the words Jedi cloud contract without screaming both audibly and internally?
AE: Oh, man. So I loved covering Jedi. It was, but the answer to your question is no, I can hear those words without screaming audibly and internally. That was just that was so, so much drama. And honestly, it kind of reminds me of watching The Bachelor with that contract because, you know, everybody on the bachelor, everyone watching The Bachelor has a contestant that they think is going to win. And then they’re shocked by who actually wins. And then and then there’s, you know, a tell all at the end of the show, and I think the tell all in this case is like the extended, or is the years that we had of court cases following up on a contract award. So I think it was kind of like the Bachelor and the drama was top notch. But it was also, you know, it was a, it was a major story for several years. And it was, you know, now there’s a different version of it. But it’s still it doesn’t make the Pentagon’s need for a cloud computing capability of that size any less, probably more than they did when Jedi started.
CB: Yeah, absolutely. And several years ago, we had a panel of reporters on the podcast talking about the Jedi contract and contract and how dramatic and just what a roller coaster that that it was. So definitely an interesting thing to follow.
AE: Yeah, I started working at Federal Times in the middle ofm in the middle of Jedi. So I had a lot of catching up to do when I, when I first started and it was it was, I mean, just years and years in the making.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And then what are you interested in outside of work, maybe something that our listeners wouldn’t know about you that you can share?
AE: Um, I am a huge soccer fan. I love watching – Getting my cup of coffee on Saturday morning, Sunday morning and sitting on the couch for a couple of hours and watch English Premier League Soccer or La Liga soccer in Spain or, you know, Italy, Germany, wherever, whoever is having the most, whoever having the best matches that weekend. I’m a huge Chelsea fan. They’re in the middle of a big sale. I think might actually be decided today, so we’ll see how that goes. But um, yeah, I love soccer. I do some cycling on weekends. And I love, in July, I love watching the Tour de France. So, I kinda like like niche sports.
CB: Uh huh.
AE: Maybe niche in America. I guess soccer is an international sport, but yeah, I love I love watching the Tour de France. It’s like competitive sightseeing. From my couch.
CB: That is cool. That is a little bit of a niche sport. Um, and when you’re talking about soccer it reminded me of the show Ted Lasso. Did you watch that?
AE: Yeah, I watched the first season, I have watched. I watched the first season with my parents over Christmas a while ago. But I haven’t watched the second season. But I do hear that it’s pretty good.
CB: Yeah, same. I haven’t watched the second one either. But um, that’s definitely a really popular show and it just reminded me when you’re talking about soccer because I wasn’t very familiar with a lot of the sport and, and kind of got me interested in it a little bit more myself.
AE: Oh, nice. Yes. Good evangelist for soccer.
CB: Definitely. Well, great. Andrew, this has been a really great getting to know you more and understanding your beat and coverage areas. So, thank you so much for coming on the podcast to speak with us today. Really appreciate it.
AE: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
CB: Absolutely. Well, everyone. Thanks so much for listening. This has been Christine Blake with Inside the Media Minds.
Thank you for joining us on today’s episode of Inside the Media Minds. To learn more about our podcast and hear all of our episodes, please visit us at W2 Comm.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter at Media Minds Show, and you can subscribe anywhere podcasts are found.