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Radio free D.C.: news, traffic, weather, whiny bureaucrats.

Every Monday morning for the past 18 months, Mike Causey Causey is a village in County Durham, in England. It is situated a short distance to the north of Stanley.  and Marlis Majerus have sat down in a small studio on the third floor of a nondescript non·de·script  
Lacking distinctive qualities; having no individual character or form: "This expression gave temporary meaning to a set of features otherwise nondescript" 
 office building in Northwest Washington to broadcast a live show on Federal News Radio. Causey and Majerus's show, "Your Turn," is, in theory at least, a call-in program. But five minutes before show time on this early October morning, it's clear that Causey and Majerus haven't had much practice working the phone lines. There is no sound coming through the pair's headphones Head-mounted speakers. Headphones have a strap that rests on top of the head, positioning a pair of speakers over both ears. For listening to music or monitoring live performances and audio tracks, both left and right channels are required. , making it impossible for them to hear callers. Despite her feverish efforts, Majerus hasn't been able to figure out how to adjust the knobs and dials in front of her to fix the problem. Eventually, a studio technician comes to her aid before the show" begins. Says Causey: "We don't get many calls."

But that doesn't mean no one's listening. Federal News Radio (available online at is a three-and a-half-year old venture grandly billed as "the world's first Internet only all-news radio
For the television series NewsRadio, see NewsRadio.
All-news radio is a radio format devoted entirely to discussion and broadcast of news.
 station and Web site covering world and national news with a particular focus on the Federal Government" Federal News Radio's sister station WTOP rebroadcasts some of FNR's segments. But the vast majority of FNR's approximately 50,000-70,000 listening each day through computers are federal workers whose bosses are often tuning into the same show down the hall. As a result, most feds resist the temptation to call in: Sounding off on the air may be good therapy, after all, hut it's probably not the best career move.

So instead, they work out their anger via email. Causey receives more than 50 messages in his inbox each day, most of them in response to whatever topic he's addressed in his daily column, which he discusses on air. Lately, most of the emails he's received have ranged from quiet worry to panic over the White House's plans to outsource many federal jobs--a move which would cost many of FNR's listeners their livelihoods. Over the past three years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 administration has instituted a system that identifies specific federal positions which are candidates for privatization privatization: see nationalization.

Transfer of government services or assets to the private sector. State-owned assets may be sold to private owners, or statutory restrictions on competition between privately and publicly owned
 and notifies their holders. "[Government workers] call it the yellow pages rule," says Causey. "If they can find your job in the yellow pages, then your ass is outta here" Roughly 450,000 federal jobs have now been identified as targets for competition from private companies, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Paul Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Brookings Institution, at Washington, D.C.; chartered 1927 as a consolidation of the Institute for Government Research (est. 1916), the Institute of Economics (est. 1922), and the Robert S. Brookings Graduate School of Economics and Government (est. 1924).  and a professor of public service at New York University New York University, mainly in New York City; coeducational; chartered 1831, opened 1832 as the Univ. of the City of New York, renamed 1896. It comprises 13 schools and colleges, maintaining 4 main centers (including the Medical Center) in the city, as well as the . Now, it's starting to actually happen, and workers in all corners of government are certain that they will he the next to go. The Halliburton contracts in Iraq have been a big item of complaint for feds writing into FNR FNR False Negative Rate
FnR Find and Replace
FNR Ford Nuclear Reactor
FNR Future Net Revenue
FNR For No Reason
FNR Flexible Numbering Register
FNR Fixed Network Reconfiguration
FNR Frequency Normalization Response
: They're convinced, Causey says, that the administration is more interested in paying back political allies than taking care of their own. Federal unions have begun running anti-outsourcing ads, and the number of calls on the topic to FNR has skyrocketed.

On the air, Majerus is reading an email from a federal worker named Jeanne. In order to protect Jeanne, Majerus does not share her last name with listeners.

"I want someone to explain why outsourcing is such a great idea," Majerus reads, taking a sip of her water. "Government is complicated, and it takes years to gain the knowledge and expertise to do what we do. How can they be so willing to throw away or disregard the qualified work staffs they now have on board?"

There are about 400,000 federal workers and retirees in the D.C. metro area--and thousands more if you count employees at those agencies, like the C.I.A., that don't officially divulge the number of people on their payrolls. The station is most popular with employees at the Treasury Department, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense. Pentagon workers are responsible for more of the emails hostile toward the administration than any other department, FNR officials say.

Snarky snark·y  
adj. snark·i·er, snark·i·est Slang
Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.

[From dialectal snark, to nag, from snark, snork, to snore, snort
 observers might speculate that those federal employees who have time during the working day to listen to a talk radio station deserve to have their jobs outsourced. Indeed, Federal News Radio's listeners tend to be the federal system's office managers and human-resource specialists--those concerned more with retirement plans and healthcare options than issues of high policy. And FNR knows how to serve its audience.

The station generates about 70 percent of its content itself, with the remainder coming from the Associated Press Associated Press: see news agency.
Associated Press (AP)

Cooperative news agency, the oldest and largest in the U.S. and long the largest in the world.
 (small portions also being taken from WTOP and CBS Radio
This article is about the radio group, for the radio network see CBS Radio Network.
CBS Radio Inc., formerly known as Infinity Broadcasting Corporation
). The station runs short segments (in distinctive, rat-tat-tat "you give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" radio-news ticker style) tailored to bureaucrats, with breaks for commercials similarly targeted to federal workers. (Geico offers special deals on car insurance to government officials.) This gives the station a certain quirky, charming obscurity, filled with the sorts of stories that are vastly interesting to federal bureaucrats, and some what less engaging in the rest of US.

Listeners tuning into Mike Causey's report on the Friday before Columbus Day heard him waxing poetic on the "drama and theatrical aspects of the year 2004federal pay raise."

A short news segment asked whether workers knew "that there's a federal agency designed solely to assist government agencies with the procurement process?" Not only is there one, the narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete.  intoned in·tone  
v. in·toned, in·ton·ing, in·tones
1. To recite in a singing tone.

2. To utter in a monotone.

, but it's online at

Then came a brief report reminding those federal workers who were planning on charging their superiors with discrimination that they needed to contact a counselor "within 45 days of the discriminatory events"--or else courts would throw the claims out.

Federal News Radio's undisputed star is Causey, a self-effacing, silver-haired 63-year-old with a deep baritone and an even deeper knowledge of almost everything of interest to federal workers. Causey, who wrote the "Federal Diary" column at The Washington Post for more than 20 years before coming to Federal News Radio, doesn't always take on the sexiest of issues--recently, he discussed the state of healthcare premiums and the intricacies of Office of Management and Budget The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), formerly the Bureau of the Budget, is an agency of the federal government that evaluates, formulates, and coordinates management procedures and program objectives within and among departments and agencies of the Executive Branch.  Circular No. A-76 (Revised) on the air--but his straightforward, no-frills approach has resonated with feds.

"He's like a rock star for federal workers," says VUFOP Vice President Jim Farley. "They come up at conventions and can't believe it's really him."

Causey prides himself on not being alarmist a·larm·ist  
A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe.
: He's long been critical of the media for overstating the problems faced by federal workers. But he believes that his listeners are right to be concerned about privatization--and civilians probably should be, tool Light has stated' that there is little solid evidence that Outsourcing actually produces cost savings and that rashly made cuts can undermine the efficient delivery of services. Outsourcing does, however, yield one important Political result: It puts money in the pockets of private contractors, which can then kick some of that cash back to the politicians who gave them the contracts in the first place. To be sure, some sectors of the federal work force are rife with inefficiency and dead weight. But it has more than its share of dedicated public servants. Causey is dedicated to them.

"I think the typical fed wants to ask Tom DeLay why he doesn't replace the federal workers who guard the Capitol," says Causey. "That cop who was killed--remember that cop who got killed guarding the Capitol? He was a federal worker. He gave his life for the country. I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 if some guy" from Brinks would do that. There's a patriotism in reds that people don't recognize."

Brian Montopoli is a Washington, D.C., writer.
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Title Annotation:10 Miles Square
Author:Montopoli, Brian
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Previous Article:Taken for granted.
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