PITTSBURGH — What the heck is with all the coverage from this place all of a sudden?
We know that many GeekWire readers have been asking this question over the past week. If you haven’t been following the details of our GeekWire HQ2 project, it is understandably confusing to suddenly see a bunch of in-depth coverage from Pittsburgh, of all places.
So here’s an FAQ for everyone who has been asking, including answers to some of the more off-the-wall questions we’ve been getting.
What are you doing, exactly? GeekWire HQ2 is an editorial project in which our editors and reporters are embedding ourselves in a new city for the month of February 2018. Our goal is to cover Pittsburgh in much the same way as we’ve covered Seattle for the past seven years, telling the stories of the region and its tech community, innovators, startups, hopes, dreams, and, yes, its problems.
Why are you doing this? One of our favorite traditions is something we like to call “GeekWire Adventures.” These are stories where we go out and do fun and interesting things and report back on what we experience — everything from a multimodal transportation race across Seattle to delivering holiday packages. We love these adventures, and we hear from many readers that you love them, too. GeekWire HQ2 is our biggest adventure yet.
Are you putting an office in Pittsburgh for good? No, GeekWire HQ2 is a temporary project. We do love it here, and we wouldn’t rule out establishing a permanent official outpost in a city outside of the Pacific Northwest at some point in the future. But as hard as it will be for us to leave this wonderful city, we will be closing the doors on GeekWire HQ2 in Pittsburgh at the end of February.
How did you come up with this idea? As with most of our best ideas, this one was born at happy hour. We were talking about Amazon’s HQ2 project, and we asked ourselves, why not us? GeekWire was founded with the premise that Seattle needed a national (and global) tech news site, and we have held firm to this singular vision, looking at the world of technology and innovation through the lens of the Pacific Northwest. But a fresh perspective is always a good thing, and we’ve already experienced this in a variety of ways. (More on this below.)
How did you pick Pittsburgh? In the spirit of Amazon’s HQ2 search, we put out our own request for proposals, and received them from 10 cities and regions across the country: Washington, D.C.; St. Petersburg; Sacramento; Raleigh; Pittsburgh; Phoenix; Philadelphia; Madison; Denver; and Cincinnati. We narrowed it down to four finalists. Pittsburgh was the favorite among our team and in a vote among GeekWire readers.
Is this about Amazon’s HQ2? Yes and no. Pittsburgh is one of 20 finalists for the tech giant’s second headquarters, and we are using our stay in the city, in part, as a window into Amazon’s search, using Pittsburgh as an example. Pittsburgh has a lot going for it in the HQ2 competition, but it is still a long shot. Really there’s no down side here for us. If this city doesn’t land Amazon HQ2, it will be what people expected. And if it does land Amazon HQ2, we’re going to look like geniuses! Joking aside, it would be pretty awesome if the company picked a city that we’ve come to know well as embedded journalists.
Are you spies for Amazon? No. (Someone actually asked us this.) The company is based in our backyard, and we do cover it closely — the good, the bad and the Treasure Truck. However, we have no affiliation with Amazon or anyone associated with the company.
Pittsburgh, really? Yes! We had a matrix of factors that we considered, from the food scene to the level of interest from each city, but the biggest factor in selecting Pittsburgh was all the fascinating stuff to cover here: robotics and artificial intelligence, interesting startups, Uber’s self-driving cars, and engineering centers for major tech companies including Microsoft and Google. There are also lots of challenges to document as this city continues its transition from steel to technology, everything from transportation and infrastructure problems to the labor shortage and economic disparity.
How many people are at GeekWire HQ2? We are fulfilling the promise in our original RFP to bring “up to three jobs” to the selected city. GeekWire co-founder John Cook, reporter Taylor Soper and I opened the office last week. John flew back on Saturday, and reporter Monica Nickelsburg joined us Sunday. Reporters Nat Levy and Kurt Schlosser are arriving for stints later this month. Taylor is here for the duration, and some of us will be returning for the final week, as well. Several of our reporters are contributing stories about Pittsburgh from back in Seattle, informed in part by the experiences of those of us in the Steel City.
Where are you staying? We are in Pittsburgh’s dynamic Lawrenceville neighborhood, at the Beauty Shoppe co-working space. This place is amazing. Frankly, HQ2 is a lot nicer than HQ1, although we will be returning home to a slightly expanded and renovated office in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.
— John Cook (@johnhcook) January 28, 2018
Is the city paying you to do this? (Someone asked this, as well.) No. We are independent journalists, and we always strive to be balanced and objective in our reporting. Examples include our interview last week with Mayor Bill Peduto, when we pushed back against some of his perceptions of Amazon and explained how the company actually operates in its hometown. In addition to learning from the people of Pittsburgh, we hope to add value by bringing our perspective and experience to this city.
So how does this work financially? GeekWire’s HQ2 project is made possible by sponsors K&L Gates and DQE Communications. We’re grateful for their support! We maintain a traditional editorial/advertising divide at GeekWire, and our sponsors aren’t involved in our news coverage or editorial decisions.
What have you been doing? We’ve been spending time talking with residents and reporting in places from Robotics Row to Trinity Cathedral, Hazelwood Green to the Hill District. We’re looking to meet with and learn from as many people as possible, from all parts of this dynamic community. We have many more stories in the works over the next few weeks, and we welcome your suggestions and tips at email@example.com, although our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with all the great stories we’re finding here. One month really isn’t even close to enough to capture it all.
How has your perspective changed? We’ve learned so much in our short time here, and we can already tell this experience will change how we approach our jobs and our roles in the community when we return to Seattle. We’re starting from scratch in Pittsburgh, proving ourselves to a new community without any of the reputation or institutional knowledge we’ve established over the years in our hometown. It has been a good reminder that we can’t take our positions in the community for granted, either here or at home, and we need to prove ourselves to our readers every day.
Who are you, anyway? GeekWire is an independent technology news site, based in Seattle. We bring the community together through conferences and events, and offer resources including a job board, membership program and community calendar.
Any more questions, yinzers? Ask them in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for following our GeekWire HQ2 adventure.