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