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

At the very beginning. There was never, as I recall and as people say, never really much of a debate. The debate was really how much do we charge? It was never is this going to be free?
Gordon Crovitz
I think where it will go is where I said it would go in the first place, which is, with newspapers, people will pay for the news and get the olds for free.
Doc Searls
We needed to hone in what was going to be our unique value proposition before we had any chance of building an enterprise that people would pay for.
Chris Schroeder

Explore more topics Vol. 1 

Covering Tech Today

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

I love working with technologists. We have a team of 10 data experts/programmers who I work with and I sit right next to. To me that’s the dream, the collaboration, because I really believe that hacking is a journalistic skill. It’s poking around in computer systems to find stories.
Julia Angwin
There’s a huge tech press that’s very important. Blogs that people don’t know about, online publications that people don’t know about (outside of here) are very important.
Michelle Quinn
But all of those routes that cut out the press are, in a way, galvanizing and useful because one of the problems that we see in the technology press is being too close to your sources. I suffer from that.
Emily Bell

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