NPR: 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. She's covered politics, arts, media, religion, entrepreneurship, and most recently she became the Arts & Technology Correspondent for the NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Sydell considers it incredibly exciting to be reporting on the ways in which technology is changing our culture. She enjoys telling the stories of everyone from high-profile CEOs, to small inventors such as a Berkeley man who developed a revolutionary book-binding machine in his basement that could transform the publishing industry. She sees the beat as an opportunity to help listeners understand how technology is changing the way we create and live.

As a senior technology reporter on Public Radio International's Marketplace, Sydell looked at the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Before coming to San Francisco, Sydell was based in New York City where she worked as a reporter for NPR member station WNYC. There, her reports on race relations, city politics, and arts won numerous awards from The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, The Society of Professional Journalists, and others. She has also produced long-form radio documentaries that focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists. American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored her documentary work.

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.

Among her all-time favorite pieces are her profile of a private eye who found a way to incorporate Buddhist faith into her job by working exclusively on death penalty cases, and the story of a mother's devotion to a son charged with a brutal murder and the bus that carries her and others with incarcerated family members from New York City to a prison upstate.

Sydell has a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. She lives in San Francisco and laments the fact that she is too busy to have a dog.

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3:34am

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 11:04 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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4:36pm

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 1:10 pm

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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4:46am

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 3:42 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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2:00am

Wed August 20, 2014
Business

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

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:52 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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5:21pm

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 8:27 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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4:39pm

Wed August 13, 2014
Race

In Hashtag Protest, 'Black Twitter' Shows Its Strength

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 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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5:00pm

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 1:37 pm

iStockphoto

5:14pm

Mon August 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

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

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 6:04 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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5:19pm

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 11:05 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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4:15pm

Wed June 25, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Deals A Big Win For TV Broadcasters

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 9:30 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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12:18pm

Fri June 13, 2014
All Tech Considered

Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 11:11 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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5:17am

Fri June 13, 2014
Business

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

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 9:29 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.

5:11am

Wed June 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

Into The Virtual Reality Lab With Pioneering Researchers

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 11:41 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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3:42am

Thu May 15, 2014
All Tech Considered

FCC To Unveil Proposed Rules To Govern Internet Traffic

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 2:55 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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4:38pm

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 10:25 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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9:52am

Sat May 3, 2014
Business

Apple's Win Settles Samsung's Complaint, Too

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 12:33 pm

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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8:17pm

Fri May 2, 2014
Law

For Apple, A Limited Victory Against Samsung In Infringement Case

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 11:17 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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4:59pm

Thu May 1, 2014
All Tech Considered

How The Supreme Court Could Reshape The Tech Patent Landscape

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 1:41 pm

iStockphoto

A California jury is deliberating a major lawsuit between tech titans Apple and Samsung. Apple is suing Samsung for patent infringement and asking for a whopping $2 billion in damages. But even if Apple prevails in this case, later this year the Supreme Court could undermine the victory by calling Apple's patents and thousands of others into question.

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4:33pm

Fri April 25, 2014
All Tech Considered

You Love The Cloud, But It May Not Be As Secure As You Think

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 7:15 pm

If you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.
iStockphoto

People are storing more and more stuff online: photos, music, personal documents — even books. The business of cloud storage is growing 30 percent a year, Forrester Research says. But if you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.

A year ago, I talked to Kyle Goodwin about one of those scary computer moments — he was saving important videos from his business to an external hard drive.

"Right in the middle of a save, I knocked it off my coffee table and it hit the floor and it's destroyed," he said.

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6:30pm

Thu April 24, 2014
All Tech Considered

Life Outside The Fast Lane: Startups Wary Of Web Traffic Plan

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 11:24 pm

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the Internet startup Reddit, says he and his partner had no connections and little money when they started the now-popular site.
Tanya Kechichian Courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is offering up some new rules to govern traffic on the Internet. The draft document could allow some Web companies to pay more for faster access.

It's the latest attempt by the FCC to adjust so-called network neutrality rules, initially intended to make sure that all traffic on the Internet moves at the same speed.

The new rules won't be made public until May, but some members of the startup world are already worried.

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3:14am

Fri April 4, 2014
All Tech Considered

Twitch Boosts A New Pro Category: Video Game Player

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 1:01 pm

"I make a living attempting to beat video games on my show, and people watch," says Jayson Love, whose stage name is Man.
Twitch.tv screengrab

It may not surprise you that Netflix uses more bandwidth at peak hours than any other company, followed by Google and Apple. No. 4 on the list, though, is Twitch.tv.

Twitch is a company devoted to live interactive broadcasting of people playing video games. It's helping to launch a new type of broadcast professional.

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2:27am

Thu March 27, 2014
Business

No Sugar High For Wall Street: Candy Crush Maker's IPO Disappoints

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 12:18 pm

A banner for the mobile gaming company King Digital Entertainment is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange during King's initial public offering.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Candy Crush is played by trying to line up at least three of the same color of candies.

In February, an average of 144 million daily active users got sucked in to the challenge.

Candy Crush is one of more than 180 games made by King Digital Entertainment, and it alone brought in three-quarters of the company's revenue in the last quarter of 2013.

Roger Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, says to a lot of investors, the game seemed like Farmville, the hit game by Zynga that Zynga can't seem to repeat.

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4:22pm

Mon March 10, 2014
Technology

Path To Television's Future May Be Paved In Virtual Reality

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:59 pm

On display at South by Southwest is an attempt to create the future of storytelling. HBO is working with Oculus — maker of virtual reality goggles — to put the audience right into Game of Thrones.

3:04am

Thu March 6, 2014
All Tech Considered

Anti-Muslim Video Still Stirring Controversy In The Courtroom

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 11:43 pm

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia (right) brought a copyright claim against Google with the help of attorney Cris Armenta over the film Innocence of Muslims, which was posted to YouTube in 2012.
Jason Redmond AP

Google intends to fight a court order to remove a controversial anti-Muslim video from YouTube in the U.S.

The company plans to file for a hearing before a full nine-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after two of three judges on a smaller panel forced the company to take down the film, Innocence of Muslims, which caused uproar in the Islamic world in 2012.

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10:15am

Wed February 26, 2014
All Tech Considered

iOS 6 Users Left In The Lurch After Security Flaw Discovered

Still using Apple's iOS 6? You may be counting on luck to protect your iPhone from a serious security flaw.
Michael Nagle Getty Images

As has been widely reported, Apple recently discovered a critical bug in its iOS and OS systems.

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9:15am

Fri February 14, 2014
All Tech Considered

Mobile Match Apps Are 'Dating On Steroids'

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 12:15 pm

Matchmaking apps like Tinder can help people find potential dates quickly.
Tinder

It's Valentine's Day, and if you aren't giving roses to someone special — or getting them — you might be thinking ahead to next year.

But OkCupid and Match.com may be considered old-school ways to find a mate. These days, whether you're gay or straight, the online dating scene is all about apps. Like a lot of technological change, apps bring efficiency to the process. But that isn't always a good thing.

Kristy Vannatter used to use the online dating service eHarmony, but she says it was a lot of work.

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5:26pm

Mon February 10, 2014
All Tech Considered

That's Just Like 'Her': Could We Ever Love A Computer?

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 5:36 pm

Joaquin Phoenix stars in the film Her, in which his character falls in love with an operating system. When will artificial intelligence programs like Siri evolve to the point where we'll fall in love with them?
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The film Her, about a man who falls in love with his computerized personal assistant, has been nominated for five Oscars including best picture. It takes place at an unspecified time in the future when computer voices sound like Scarlett Johansson instead of Siri. This made me wonder if it was really possible to fall in love with an artificially intelligent being.

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4:22pm

Wed February 5, 2014
All Tech Considered

What Bill Gates' New Role Could Mean For Microsoft

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 10:23 pm

As Satya Nadella becomes the new CEO of Microsoft, company founder Bill Gates is moving from chairman to "technology adviser."
Bebeto Matthews AP

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is stepping down as chairman of its board and into a new role, which the company is calling "technology adviser." The change comes as a new CEO — Satya Nadella — takes the helm. Gates says he will actually be spending a little more time at Microsoft. Microsoft watchers say if he manages his new role well, it will be good for the company.

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5:09pm

Thu January 30, 2014
All Tech Considered

Small Cinemas Struggle As Film Fades Out Of The Picture

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:00 pm

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco still has two 35 millimeter projectors, but the switch to digital is inevitable.
Laura Sydell NPR

Cinema owners who don't have a digital projector in their movie house can't show Paramount Pictures' latest release: The Wolf of Wall Street. This year Paramount became the first big studio to distribute a major release in the U.S. entirely in a digital format, and other studios are likely to follow.

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5:18pm

Thu January 23, 2014
All Tech Considered

Retailers Can Wait To Tell You Your Card Data Have Been Compromised

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:32 pm

The security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus have raised questions over how quickly companies are required to disclose that customer information was hacked.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

You might think that retailers have to let you know right away if they get hacked and someone steals your account information.

But recent disclosures by Target and Neiman Marcus that their networks were hacked, and data about their consumers were stolen, have raised questions about how quickly merchants need to alert their customers.

In the case of Neiman Marcus, the company may have had evidence of a breach as far back as July. But the law is a bit murky on just how quickly companies need to let customers know.

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