This story idea came to us as we were inspecting the eventâ€™s website for another story brief-writer Brendan Coyne was putting together about the Washington Postâ€™s sponsorship of the Walk. We noticed that all participants needed to register ahead of time and that the registration form required lots of personal information: full name, address, phone, etc.
As government watchdogs, this threw up a red flag for us. Lots of questions were unanswered by the website like: Why did people need to register ahead of time? What was the Pentagon going to do with the information? Would there be background checks, etc?
We thought it interesting that a "Freedom Walk" had so many restrictions and requirements, so we asked Erin to press the Pentagon to tell us why and to get some opinions about it from civil liberties groups.
Erin got basic answers from event organizers about needing to know how many people were going to show up, etc. But she kept pressing because she couldnâ€™t get an answer about what they planned to do with the detailed information or how it would be used.
Now this was a development we were not expecting and it complicated our reporting. All of a sudden, we suspected, our queries had changed the story. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s impossible that they were planning on changing the registration form anyway, it would just be an interesting coincidence (and strange that it took them so long to tell us about a pre-conceived decision). So we had to put The NewStandard -- and our questions -- into the article to show how we may have affected the story.
Let us know how you think we didâ€¦