An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, 1980 to the present

A project of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, designed by the Nieman Journalism Lab

An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present
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.

The precipitous fall of the industry that produces what we have come to call quality journalism — that is, independently reported, verified, branded information published or broadcast by institutions prepared to “stand by their stories” despite pressures from commercial or government interests — is hardly a fresh subject. Tens of thousands of articles, books, research papers, and documentaries have been devoted to the topic.

Not surprisingly, the press hasn’t treated this story like just any other industrial disruption. With newspaper news jobs down by 30 percent in little more than a decade, this issue hits as close to home as possible for journalists. More importantly, some go so far as to argue the disruption is so profound that it threatens the future of democracy itself.

Reasonable people can — and do — debate whether the replacement of legacy media by new forms of information gathering and distribution — including citizen journalism and smartphone photojournalism, crowdsourcing, universal access to data and, of course, a world awash in Twitter feeds — makes democracy more or less vulnerable.

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Three veterans of digital journalism and media — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz, and Paul Sagan — 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 a narrative essay that traces the evolution of digital news from early experiments to today. It’s what really happened to the news business.

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Our interview subjects
donald-graham
jonah-peretti
arthur-sulzberger
clay-christensen
dick-costolo
betsy-morgan
alan-spoon
martin-nisenholtz
8255KR01
matt-mullenweg
gerald-levin
henry-blodget
merrill-brown
marty-baron
eric-schmidt
richard-gingras
chris-schroeder
krishna-bharat
john-battelle
harry-motro
scott-kurnit
ted-leonsis
Mike-Perlis1
gordon-crovitz
tim-berners-lee
P1260656
nick-negroponte
mike-moritz
Will India Meet Global Expectations?:
arianna-huffington
steve-case
Justin Smith
andrew-sullivan
rob-grimshaw
tim-armstrong
david-graves
ken-richieri
om-malik
david-bradley
scott-woelfel
steve-newhouse
chris-cox
POLITICO Executive Editor Jim VandeHei. John Shinkle/Politico
john-harris
caroline-little
roger-fidler
michael-sippey
Larry Kramer
nick-denton
dave-winer
lewis-dvorkin
bob-november
walter-isaacson
michael-kinsley
interview_still
jeff-jarvis
art-kern
julius-genachowski
chloe-sladden
will-hearst
doc-searls