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

Did Free News Lead to the Riptide?

Volume 1:
CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters

I was never in a place where they actually considered charging from the beginning. I think everybody felt they needed to be in the game right away. Nobody knew exactly what the economic model would be.
Marty Baron
Yahoo wasn’t going to do anything that was going to interfere with the metric that was driving their stock, which at that point, was audience. Certainly any kind of pay situation would have interfered with that thing.
David Graves
It just would have led to more content being created outside of those pay walls, and more rewriting of content hidden behind those pay walls which is something that’s pretty impossible to prevent.
Jonah Peretti

Explore more topics Vol. 1 

Covering Tech Today

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

But it’s almost like there’s a West Coast/East Coast culture and when you go to the West Coast, the proximity of the tech companies to that, it’s almost like a cultural view of what constitutes good business practice.
Emily Bell
I’ve never been a gadget person. First of all, I’m a girl, so my gadget threshold is lower and secondarily, I’m not, I love technology, but I love it in a more abstract way. I don’t need to sleep with it.
Julia Angwin
We’re supposed to tell people either how we got here or where it’s likely that we’re going. This point is either an endpoint or a beginning point.
Brent Schlender

Explore more topics Vol. 2 

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