An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, 1980 to the present

A project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present

News Biz -- Entrepreneurs vs Traditionalists

Volume 1:
CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters

Junglee, which had come to us as a threat but listened to Ralph and Alan and decided that they would be way better off partnering with us.
Donald Graham
Google News was a simple, straightforward innovation. A particular engineer on his own decided to write a product that would aggregate news and organize it this way.
Eric Schmidt
I started keeping a list of the things that I couldn’t do, and things I couldn’t do because we were part of a legacy brand, because we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t do anything to disrupt our television audience, which was slowly eroding as it was at other competitors.
Betsy Morgan

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News Industry's Reaction Speed

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

It’s sort of like obsessing on the clock, when you should be able to tell what time it is. It’s kind of a different thing. I don’t know. There was so much resistance everywhere. Everyone hated what I was writing about.
Kara Swisher
All the conversations there center on “What can we build now?” and “What should we do next?” which is not a conversation you hear in old media that much.
David Pogue
“I am the man who is leading the division that Bill Gates said we would never have because the Internet was not going to affect our businesses.”.
Emily Bell

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The Big Picture

For most of the 20th century, any list of America’s wealthiest families would include quite a few publishers generally considered to be in the “news business”: the Hearsts, the Pulitzers, the Sulzbergers, the Grahams, the Chandlers, the Coxes, the Knights, the Ridders, the Luces, the Bancrofts — a tribute to the fabulous business model that once delivered the country its news. While many of those families remain wealthy today, their historic core businesses are in steep decline (or worse), and their position at the top of the wealth builders has long since been eclipsed by people with other names: Gates, Page and Brin and Schmidt, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Case, and Jobs — builders of digital platforms that, while not specifically targeted at the “news business,” have nonetheless severely disrupted it.

Keep reading Vol 1. 

The Tech Journalists

A transformative wave washed over the world economy this past quarter-century and technology journalists were its chroniclers and front-row witnesses. Many, among the twenty interviewed, say a catastrophic disruption of the news business was to be expected. But they feel their warnings went largely unheard within their workplaces, a contributing factor to the industry’s late and ineffectual counter-efforts. In contrast to pessimism about the future financial underpinnings of their business, they’re optimistic about the outlook for journalism as new tools, audiences and approaches emerge and evolve.

Keep reading Vol 2. 

Browse Interviews
Huffington Post
New York Times
San Jose Mercury News
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post
East Coast
West Coast
Began Covering Tech
Before 1990 (inclusive)
After 1990
News Industry – Biz Side or Edit
Vol 1: CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters
Vol 2: Tech Journalists

Four veterans of digital journalism and media — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz, Paul Sagan, and later John Geddes — interviewed dozens of people who played important roles in the intersection of media and technology — from CEOs to coders, journalists to disruptors.

Riptide is the result: more than 50 hours of video interviews and two narrative essays that trace the evolution of digital news from early experiments to today. It’s what really happened to the news business.

Read Vol. 1  
See interviews