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.

KEEP READING  

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