Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

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1:21am

Fri October 17, 2014
All Tech Considered

Silicon Valley Companies Add New Benefit For Women: Egg-Freezing

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 11:10 am

A technician opens a vessel containing women's frozen egg cells in April 2011 in Amsterdam.
AFP/Getty Images

In the Silicon Valley arms race to lure the top talent with the best benefits, Facebook and Apple are adding egg freezing for female employees. The two companies may be the first to pay for the procedure for women who choose it to delay childbearing.

The addition of egg-freezing to the benefits plan comes as tech companies face mounting pressure to hire more women. And it's a perk that some women may find attractive.

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4:17am

Sat October 11, 2014
All Tech Considered

Twitter Is Suing The U.S. Over Free Speech (Its Own)

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 9:28 am

Twitter is suing the federal government over First Amendment rights. The tech company says the government stopped it from releasing extra detail about government requests for user information.
iStockphoto

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week over First Amendment rights, marking the latest round in a battle between tech companies and the government over how much they can reveal about government requests for their user information.

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1:28am

Mon October 6, 2014
All Tech Considered

The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech

Originally published on Sat October 11, 2014 10:39 am

Jean Jennings (left) and Frances Bilas set up the ENIAC in 1946. Bilas is arranging the program settings on the Master Programmer.
Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there's a good reason: It's true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.

It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.

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1:34am

Tue September 9, 2014
All Tech Considered

Size Matters: Why Apple Is Expected To Unveil A Bigger iPhone

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 9:04 am

The Samsung Galaxy Mega (from left), Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5 are shown. Apple is expected to announce larger models of its smartphone on Tuesday.
Richard Drew AP

You may have noticed that after years of getting smaller, smartphones are getting bigger. It's a trend that's mostly been led by Samsung. Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, famously knocked the idea that people wanted larger phones. But on Tuesday, Apple is expected to announce bigger iPhones and is relenting to the reality that we're talking less on our phones and using them more like a mini computer.

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2:36pm

Thu September 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

In E-Book Price War, Amazon's Long-Term Strategy Requires Short-Term Risks

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 11:10 am

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to sell all e-books for $9.99, while the publisher Hachette wants to vary the prices.
iStockphoto

Since May, Amazon and the publisher Hachette have been locked in a battle over the pricing of e-books. For customers it's meant that they can't pre-order books from authors such as J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. And it's upset many authors because it's made their work less available. But Amazon is willing to upset some customers and authors as it pursues a long-term strategy for books.

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3:14am

Mon August 25, 2014
All Tech Considered

As Ferguson Unraveled, The World Found A New Way Of Watching

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 1:42 pm

When protests over the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent in Ferguson, Mo., livestreaming videos showed Americans what they couldn't see on TV.
Screen Grab From KARG Argus Radio Video

In Ferguson, Mo., on Monday, Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old shot by a police officer, will be buried. Beyond watching on traditional media outlets, many members of the public may be able to see the event live over the Internet.

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12:00am

Wed August 20, 2014
Business

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer Steps Down From Company's Board

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 9:52 am

Steve Ballmer, the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is stepping down from Microsoft's board. Ballmer, who recently resigned as Microsoft's CEO, is the largest individual shareholder of the company.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 58, has resigned from the company's board citing other time consuming commitments including his new ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tuesday's announcement closes a chapter in Ballmer's 34 years with the software giant. He remains the largest individual shareholder in the company.

Ballmer spent $2 billion of his roughly $20 billion fortune on the Clippers purchase, which a judge confirmed last week.

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3:56pm

Mon August 18, 2014
All Tech Considered

How Long Do CDs Last? It Depends, But Definitely Not Forever

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 6:27 am

Many institutions have their archives stored on CDs — but the discs aren't as stable as once thought. There is no average life span for a CD, says preservationist Michele Youket, "because there is no average disc."
Sarah Tilotta NPR

Back in the 1990s, historical societies, museums and symphonies across the country began transferring all kinds of information onto what was thought to be a very durable medium: the compact disc.

Now, preservationists are worried that a lot of key information stored on CDs — from sound recordings to public records — is going to disappear. Some of those little silver discs are degrading, and researchers at the Library of Congress are trying to figure out why.

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2:39pm

Wed August 13, 2014
Race

In Hashtag Protest, 'Black Twitter' Shows Its Strength

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 7:14 pm

Following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, many young African-Americans posted pictures of themselves on Twitter under the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. They were protesting the damaging ways in which young black men like Brown are often portrayed in the media. The response demonstrated the scope of what's informally known as Black Twitter, a virtual community of African-American Twitter users.

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3:00pm

Mon August 11, 2014
All Tech Considered

A Good IT Person Needs To Be Half Technologist, Half Psychologist

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 11:37 am

iStockphoto

3:14pm

Mon August 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

In Tech Marketing Jobs, Women's Successes Are Rarely Recognized

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 4:04 pm

Brooke Hammerling, the founder of Brew Media Relations, says she created her own firm because she got sick of a mix of dismissive tech guys and sexism inside some companies.
Christof Stache dpa/Landov

It's no secret that there aren't a lot of women in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general. There is one exception — marketing and public relations. Though these women aren't the people writing the code or building the chip, their role in the success of many tech companies is often crucial and overlooked.

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3:17pm

Thu July 3, 2014
All Tech Considered

In A Battle For Web Traffic, Bad Bots Are Going After Grandma

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 9:05 am

By hijacking a user's computer, "bad" bots make it look as if she visits a website often, thus making the site more valuable to advertisers.
iStockphoto

As the Web turns 25, it's becoming a terrific place if you're a bot.

It began as a tool for human communication, but now, over 60 percent of the traffic on the Web is automated applications called bots talking to other bots, according to one study. And experts say about half of those bots are bad.

But first let's talk about the good bots.

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2:15pm

Wed June 25, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Deals A Big Win For TV Broadcasters

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 7:30 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. It was a bad day for a certain tech startup. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a heavy blow to a service that lets consumers stream and record broadcast TV from their phones, computers or tablets. The High Court said it violates the programming copyrights of broadcasters. NPR's Laura Sydell has the story.

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10:03am

Fri June 13, 2014
All Tech Considered

Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 9:11 am

Actress and gamer Aisha Tyler hosted game developer Ubisoft's press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. The company was recently criticized for not animating female assassins in one of its new games.
Lucy Nicholson Reuters/Landov

There's a myth that only nerdy white guys play and make video games. At this week's video game extravaganza in Los Angeles called Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft didn't do much to change that image.

At the company's E3 press conference, there was an unseen female announcer, but there was only one female who stood on stage and spoke. Bonnie Ross, who heads the Microsoft studio that produces its blockbuster game Halo, spoke for less than two minutes.

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3:17am

Fri June 13, 2014
Business

At E3, Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 7:29 am

Even though women make up a significant proportion of dedicated gamers, there are few female protagonists in big-selling video games. The same goes for ethnic and racial minorities.

3:11am

Wed June 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

Into The Virtual Reality Lab With Pioneering Researchers

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 9:41 pm

Peter Mason tries the Oculus virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. Some see Facebook's acquisition of the company as a turning point.
Jeff Chiu AP

When Facebook paid $2 billion to buy Oculus VR, the company that makes the virtual reality goggles, it turned heads. Oculus doesn't even make a profit, but many enthusiasts believe this may be a turning point for a technology that's been around for decades.

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1:29am

Thu May 15, 2014
All Tech Considered

FCC To Unveil Proposed Rules To Govern Internet Traffic

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 12:55 pm

Proponents of open Internet access protest in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. The commission votes Thursday on its proposed rules amid debate about network neutrality.
Elise Hu NPR

The Federal Communications Commission announced last month that it would propose new rules. In a blog post, Chairman Tom Wheeler insists that the open Internet rules will help maintain what's called network neutrality. That is, making certain that your Internet provider doesn't give a faster connection to a service that can pay more.

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2:35pm

Mon May 12, 2014
All Tech Considered

As Drones Fly In Cities And Yards, So Do The Complaints

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 8:25 am

Merrill uses a drone to take aerial shots of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Courtesy of David Merrill

The price of drones is dropping — a decent one could cost you $300 — but the reality of the devices flying around cities and neighborhoods doesn't sit well with a lot of Americans.

Are they just paranoid?

Three months ago, when Michael Kirschner and his wife purchased a new condo in San Francisco, they were not concerned about drones. They fell in love with the unit because of its big picture windows.

"You have a view that reaches all the way out to the Golden Gate Bridge," Kirschner says.

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7:52am

Sat May 3, 2014
Business

Apple's Win Settles Samsung's Complaint, Too

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:33 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Yesterday a jury handed down a mixed verdict in a patent dispute between Samsung and Apple. Both sides were found to have violated each other's patents, however Apple received most of the damages - over $119 million.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, many experts say the case can be seen as a victory for Samsung and may mark a turn in the international battle between the two smartphone makers.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: When the late Apple CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, introduced the first iPhone, he famously made this remark.

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6:17pm

Fri May 2, 2014
Law

For Apple, A Limited Victory Against Samsung In Infringement Case

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 9:17 am

In a case between tech giants Apple and Samsung, a jury has issued a mixed verdict. The decision marks only the latest in an ongoing struggle over patents between the two companies, a struggle that is expected to see its next skirmish at the Supreme Court later this year.

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