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