Letters to the Editor

Covering the LightSquared Issue

To all North American surveying magazines:

Time to take a deep breath.

Surveyors across North America have recently been placed in a position of unprecedented uncertainty, risk, and potentially ruinous economic hardship. This was not as a result of any of their actions, and the outcome is not theirs to control. Throughout all of the arguing, posturing, lobbying, rationalizing, and spin over what has been called the LightSquared interference issue, there has never been much doubt that, no matter how it shakes out, if the plan goes though in whole or in part, surveyors and other end users will be subject to some levels of forced upgrade or replacement and the costs and production interruptions that go along with it. And all this to be likely subject to an even more disruptive and costly round of changes only a few years after the first.

The matter has been contentious, to say the least. No one is surprised that many surveyors and other end users—those who may be forced into change—have reacted to the news with varying levels of disbelief, dismay, and even anger. Lately, a great amount of effort has been expended by various parties to win the hearts and minds of elected officials, industry, consumers, media, and other end users—surveyors are no exception. But like so many other groups being targeted by these public-relations campaigns, surveyors will not be among the elite who will make the final decision on whether this change in the RF spectrum will happen or not. So why the aggressive and expensive PR campaign aimed at surveyors? Perhaps the goal is to make surveyors more comfortable or even, as some hope, “happy” about the changes being forced on them?

End users like surveyors do not have the kind of well-funded voice that those who would force this change on them do. For the most part, the surveying magazines initially stepped up and conveyed surveyors’ concerns about this matter. But this has changed, and it is seen by many as a disturbing trend. The readers of your respective publications are in a profession that requires analytical thinking. Not much gets by these folks; they know how hard it is to run a business and the often conflicting priorities. It is generally well known and accepted that the publications are not there necessarily to serve the surveyors, but more to serve surveyors as a market, to convey advertising and specific examples of implementations of new products and methods (with a little bit of surveying general interest on the side). This is a reality and good business.

But, as this matter has unfolded, the tone in a number of these publications has shifted to more of a focus on the interests of those who feel that the approval of, or acquiescence to, the LightSquared plan is inevitable and is somehow positive. Lately, examples of nearly blatant support of the LightSquared plan have been conveyed and expressed in some surveying publications. There’s nothing wrong with covering all sides of an issue, but it is not lost on readers that there has been a disproportional increase in pro-LightSquared advertisements, and pro-LightSquared-advertiser-driven editorial content touting potential fixes, demonizing of the GPS industry and community, and painting this matter as a “done deal.” There are so many facets of this issue still completely unresolved outside of the relatively narrow focus of the surveying community—yet the battle for the hearts and minds of surveyors rages on, often overlooking (or avoiding) these issues.

This situation is quite a bit different from any that I can think of; the stakes are quite high for not only a great many surveyors but also consumers, taxpayers, and GNSS as a technology. And no matter how one rationalizes any particular course of action, it is the surveyors and end users who will have to pay the price in many ways. There is a lot of feeling out there that many are trying to exploit in some manner these possibly forced expenditures and change for surveyors (and related marketing opportunities).

No one is telling you how to run your business; advertisers pay the bills and readers are getting a free publication and represent a circulation number. What I and many who have contacted me on this matter am asking is that you take some time for introspection: Consider your readers and what they are facing, and perhaps exercise a little editorial oversight. Are short-term gains at the expense of surveyors and their trust a good business practice?

Gavin Shrock, LS
Seattle, Washington

Dear Gavin:

We appreciate your letter and your efforts on behalf of the surveying profession regarding the LightSquared issue. We recognize yours is an open letter to all the professional magazines but want to share our particular response to the concerns you’ve raised.

We agree with you that this is a situation with potentially serious, not to mention costly, consequences for surveyors across North America. As we have recently reported (and have others), there are enormous amounts of money and politics involved here that surveyors seem to have little influence over.

However, we take exception to being included in these accusations. This has been a lengthy, complex, and difficult situation to cover as a news story; we have done our best to keep readers informed, but—more importantly—just as with any news or issue coverage, we have remained as independent and unbiased as possible. We have presented both sides of the issue, simply reporting the best information we have and allowing our readers to form their own opinions.

With personal backgrounds in surveying and journalism, our staff has a high regard for integrity. We do feel we serve as a resource to our readers, who are surveyors, mappers, and other geospatial professionals. Therefore we take anything that could potentially harm those professions as a serious matter. But it is up to those professions, and those who officially represent them, to express opinions and take action.

~PSM Editorial Staff

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He Put the Bite in Gigglebytes

Hi Shelly,

I really enjoyed the Gigglebytes article by Thomas LaCorte. I do believe I have had a bear or two rummaging around in the back of my work truck. Okay, mine weren’t actual bears like the one in Thomas’s story. Mine were more your grumpy, old, party chiefs from the 60s and 70s. They were claiming I hadn’t loaded enough stakes or hubs or something. The grunting Thomas described brought it all back to me. There were plenty of days I would of rather faced an old, mean, black bear than a grumpy old party chief!

Thomas Woodsmall, RLS
Flowery Branch, Georgia

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Just a comment on Curt Musselman’s article about mapping Gettysburg. We see way too many careless references to “celebrating” the Civil War. No veteran I know and certainly any serious student of any war would use that verb. “Commemorate,” “remember,” “honor,” yes, those would work. But this egregious error is right up there with calling those who have received the Medal of Honor “winners.” Yeah, we see it all the time. But understand, it wasn’t a football game...

Gregg Clemmer
North Potomac, Maryland


We agree with you and regret using “celebrate” in the subtitle of that article. It wasn’t Curt’s error but ours at the magazine. You’ll see in part two of the series (in this issue) that we have changed it to what it should have been, “commemorate.” Thank you for bringing this error to our attention.


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