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

It’s a much different mindset. The way that established media responds to disruption, threats, innovation, is far different than how a startup, innovative organization responds to all those things.
Betsy Morgan
That’s what’s been lacking for so many of these companies, that you don’t have anybody at the top or the senior management is not given the authority to take a fairly sizable risk, perhaps a huge risk, and embracing a very different future. In the collision of yesterday and tomorrow, for all of these companies, or for most of these companies, it’s yesterday that’s triumphed.
Mike Moritz
One of the reasons it worked, I think, was because late at night we liked each other a lot, but during the day I considered him a terrorist.
Lewis DVorkin

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Grading Coverage of the Digital Era

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

What I always think about is that these are the founders. That’s unusual. People who run Hollywood and Detroit are not the founders. Those founders died a long time ago. These are the founders. It’s like, “How would you cover Thomas Edison?” He [was] a flawed figure. How would you cover him today?
Kara Swisher
I think that if you wanted to look back over 20 or 30 years of journalism, was it basically telling you what was going on? I think it’s basically been telling you what’s been going on, so that seems okay to me.
James Fallows
I’d give them a “C”. They’ve missed huge things and people who believed what they are writing made huge mistakes.
Philip Elmer-Dewitt

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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