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

Aggregation vs. Creation

Volume 1:
CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters

Could you create a website that was built around just being really interesting, breaking news, driving a conversation, day to day? Could you build a business model around that?
Jim VandeHei
The reporter was like, “Isn’t this unfair? Think how much The New Yorker spent on that.” But when you think of what a consumer wants.
Jonah Peretti
Everybody keeps trying to say, “You are a content company.” They still pretty much aren’t, although YouTube is paying for some content to be created. They didn’t want to ever get into that battle where they saw Yahoo starting to pay for news. Yahoo pays seven figures to the news companies for the raw materials. They don’t do rev shares anymore.
David Graves

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Journalism Stars vs News Brands

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

Because there’s so much to choose from people will gravitate toward a particular reporter because they trust that reporter. They trust that brand and they use that reporter as a filter for their news rather than the publication itself.
Brock Meeks
I was aware of the branding thing early and I’ve always been aware of it to whatever extent you need to be aware of it. I think most brand-name writers are people that people know.
John Dvorak
There was never any conscious effort to build a brand. I did get a sense from the Times that they never liked names getting bigger than the Times. That made them a little nervous.
David Pogue

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