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

Tech & News -- Too Late an Embrace

Volume 1:
CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters

The fact of the matter is that the industry, which is under extreme financial pressure, was unable to do that. I’m sure many people, including yourself, wanted to do this but you were unable to do it. For whatever reasons, you could not do it. You cannot build new products without engineers.
Eric Schmidt
He said, Well, a phenomenon. I don’t know. I mean ham radio’s a phenomenon.
Will Hearst
We brought in engineers at Knight Ridder Digital. We actually did implement an engineering oriented culture. I should say, more than engineering, a software oriented culture.
Kathy Yates

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News Industry's Reaction Speed

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

I think big media companies tend to be risk-averse. I just do. Particularly the ones that have achieved a lot of influence and power, whether it’s the New York Times or Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal or it’s, I don’t know, Conde Nast or Hearst or it’s the television network companies, whatever.
Walt Mossberg
I think that if you want to have a case of somebody that saw it coming it would be us, probably because of our marginal existence all the way along. We thought we’ve always had to scramble to keep going.
James Fallows
They didn’t consult the readers, “What would you like…?” The readers, to be fair, didn’t know what they wanted, either. One thing they did want is great content. That never has changed.
Kara Swisher

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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