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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2:57am

Thu March 21, 2013
All Tech Considered

On Its 7th Birthday, Is Twitter Still The 'Free Speech Party'?

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 9:23 am

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. Twitter was often used to record happenings during the Arab Spring.
Mohammed Abed AFP/Getty Images

It's hard to believe, but seven years ago no one had ever heard of a tweet. Thursday is the anniversary of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It wasn't profound. He wrote:

Since then the social media company has been an important communication tool in everything from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, to its use as a megaphone for celebrities. Over the years, its relationship to its free speech principles has changed.

From Trivial To Global Town Hall

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4:41am

Mon March 11, 2013
All Tech Considered

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 8:48 am

Festival attendees experiment with Leap Motion technology.
Elise Hu NPR

If you've had wrist and shoulder pain from clicking a mouse, relief may be in sight. This spring, a new motion sensing device will go on sale that will make it possible for the average computer user to browse the Web and open documents with a wave of a finger.

The Leap Motion Controller is on display at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, for the first time. It's one of the most talked about startups at the conference, where some 26,000 people have gathered to see emerging tech companies.

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6:31am

Wed February 20, 2013
Business

Law Change Makes It Harder To Unlock Cellphones

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 9:41 am

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

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2:09am

Wed January 16, 2013
All Tech Considered

'It's About Time': Facebook Reveals New Search Feature

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 8:47 am

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Tuesday.
Jeff Chiu AP

Facebook has launched a new feature that will let its users search for more detailed information across the social network. Soon, you'll be able to find the restaurants and TV shows your friends like or see every picture they've taken at the Grand Canyon.

As much as users may like the new features, the company hasn't exactly been a Wall Street darling. So, the new feature may be less about you and me and more about Facebook's bottom line.

"It's about time," Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research, said about the new feature. "It should have been there all along."

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5:45pm

Mon January 7, 2013
All Tech Considered

Why Is Google Exec Interested In North Korea?

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 6:39 pm

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (left) arrives at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday. There is speculation that Schmidt's presence in North Korea could have an upside for Google by positioning Schmidt as the company's global ambassador.
David Guttenfelder AP

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has landed in North Korea. His trip there is a bit of a mystery.

Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been a vocal proponent of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. North Korea doesn't even let its citizens access the open Internet, and its population is overwhelmingly poor — so it's not exactly a coveted audience for advertisers.

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4:12pm

Mon December 31, 2012
All Tech Considered

From 3-D Printers To Wired Glasses, The Tech Year Ahead

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 8:17 pm

Google Glass will be part of a trend in 2013 of computing and connectivity in devices we don't generally think of as computers.
Seth Wenig AP

It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.

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3:28am

Thu December 27, 2012
Technology

Music-Streaming Services Hunt For Paying Customers

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 8:58 am

2012 has been a strange year for content creators — authors, producers, musicians. It was a year when the very idea of physical ownership of a book or CD or even a song file became almost passe.

It was also the year in which music-streaming services like Spotify and Pandora launched major efforts to convince people to pay for something they didn't own. But it's been slow going.

Music-streaming services have been trying to win over two types of customers: a younger generation that doesn't buy at all and an older generation that still likes owning physical albums.

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3:21am

Wed December 26, 2012
All Tech Considered

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 6:07 am

iStockphoto.com

5:09pm

Mon December 17, 2012
All Tech Considered

Don't Like The Government? Make Your Own, On International Waters

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 10:19 pm

Andras Gyorfi's winning entry in The Seasteading Institute's 2009 design contest. The institute supports the idea of permanent, autonomous offshore communities, but it does not intend to construct its own seasteads.
Courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

Almost all of us have complaints about the government, which probably range from high taxes to too much bureaucracy. Periodically, we get to take our frustrations out at the voting booth. But no matter how unhappy you may be, you probably never thought, "I'm going get out of here and go start my own country."

A group of rich techies in Northern California is planning on starting its own nation on artificial islands in the ocean. They call themselves "seasteaders" and are sort of a mix between geeks and hippies.

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6:08pm

Mon December 3, 2012
All Tech Considered

Which Tablet Is Right For You?

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 6:50 pm

The new Microsoft Surface tablet on display after a press conference in New York in October. The Microsoft tablet goes up against products from Apple, Amazon and Google.
Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

The holiday season is upon us. In the tech world, that means it's time to talk gadgets, specifically one of the year's most popular gadgets: the tablet.

For the first time, Apple's iPad has some competition: Google's Nexus, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and the Microsoft Surface.

These tablets represent the marquee efforts of the biggest technology companies. They also represent the four major content universes.

Small Tablets

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5:37pm

Thu November 29, 2012
All Tech Considered

Yet Another Shift In Facebook Policies Raises Privacy Concerns

Joerg Koch AP

Facebook has a long history of upsetting its users by suddenly announcing a change to its privacy settings. In 2009, as a way to quiet the critics, Facebook set up a system for its customers to vote on changes. If enough of them were unhappy, the company would back down. Now, Facebook wants to get rid of the voting.

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5:37am

Wed November 14, 2012
Around the Nation

Sandy Deals Powerful Blow To Housing In New Jersey

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 8:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

More than two weeks after Sandy hit the Northeast, thousands of people in New Jersey are still unable to return to their homes. And as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, finding temporary housing has proven to be a confusing and difficult process for many storm victims.

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12:03am

Thu November 8, 2012
The Record

Studying How, And What, We Download

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 12:27 pm

Drake, who had the top torrent downloaded in the U.S. in the first half of 2012, according to Musicmetric, poses at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

As we near the end of another year, the music industry has a few reasons to be optimistic. Digital music sales are expected to reach record highs this year, and legal streaming services continue to gain in popularity. But unauthorized music file sharing is still going strong.

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6:36pm

Tue October 23, 2012
All Tech Considered

Hands On With The New iPad Mini: Lighter, Costlier Than Rivals

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 11:29 am

The new iPad Mini is displayed after its unveiling at an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Apple has unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its popular iPad tablet. NPR's Laura Sydell attended the event Tuesday in San Jose, Calif., and got a hands-on look at the new iPad mini. Below are her first impressions.

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4:56pm

Thu October 4, 2012
Books

Google, Publishers Reach Deal On Book Scanning Plan

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 12:19 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Today, a long legal battle came to an end. On one side, Google; on the other, book publishers. The two have reached an agreement to resolve a lawsuit that's dragged on for seven years. But this does not end Google's legal trouble, as it tries to digitize the world's books. An even more important lawsuit remains unresolved - with thousands of authors of those books that Google has scanned. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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12:03am

Thu September 27, 2012
The Record

YouTube Shares Ad Revenue With Musicians, But Does It Add Up?

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 10:04 am

Donna Summer in 1976. YouTube's Chris Maxcy says the company targets advertising to videos by artists like her and gives a share of the revenue from it to the track's label and publisher.
Keystone Getty Images

YouTube is well-known for videos, but a recent Nielsen study revealed 64 percent of teens and young adults go to it to listen to and discover music. The free website, which is owned by Google, has set up advertising deals to help musicians get compensated. But it's not clear how they're getting paid — or how much.

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6:27pm

Fri September 21, 2012
The Record

Universal's Purchase Of EMI Gets Thumbs Up In U.S. And Europe

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 3:20 pm

The catalog of The Beatles, which was owned by EMI, will be among the assets that the Universal Music Group gets to keep.
Jim Gray Getty Images

And then there were three — record labels, that is. Regulators in the United States and Europe have approved the acquisition of EMI Music by Univeral Music Group. The combined label will own close to 40 percent of the world music market with a trove of acts that includes The Beatles.

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4:51pm

Wed September 12, 2012
NPR Story

Apple's New iPhone 5 Is Thinner, Lighter Than Before

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 5:58 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Apple introduced its newest iPhone today, and it's thinner and larger than the last. The company also introduced a new line of iPods. NPR's Laura Sydell has more.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: The new iPhone has a four-inch screen, and it's about 20 percent lighter. Apple CEO Tim Cook engaged in typical Apple boosting as he spoke about the iPhone 5.

TIM COOK: The thinnest, lightest and best iPhone we have ever shipped.

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5:10pm

Mon September 10, 2012
All Tech Considered

What Will Apple's Patent Case Mean For Phone Design?

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 6:52 pm

These Nokia phones unveiled earlier this month are the first smartphones built for Windows 8.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

A lot of thought goes into giving your smartphone a distinctive look and feel, from the shape of the speaker — square, round or oval — to where to put the buttons — side, front or back.

But industrial designers like Robert Brunner say he doesn't have a lot of room to be creative.

"Because you're really being so heavily driven on maintaining a minimal physical size," he says. "So you really get into this very fine envelope of a few millimeters that you have to work with."

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3:18am

Fri August 24, 2012
All Tech Considered

Is The Cloud In Gamers' Future?

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:56 am

Nintendo's Wii U is the only new game system on the horizon as console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven't been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.

Only Nintendo's Wii U might be on shelves for the holiday season.

The console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.

Try asking a gamer like Ryan Block what would entice him to drop a few hundred bucks on a new console.

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5:04am

Mon July 30, 2012
Technology

Samsung Fight Among Many In Apple's Patent War

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 9:01 am

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S (left) and Apple's iPhone 4 are displayed at the headquarters of South Korean mobile carrier KT. Apple claims some of Samsung's designs violate its patents.
Ahn Young-joon AP

An epic battle between the two biggest smartphone makers begins Monday in a federal district court in San Jose, Calif., where computing giant Apple is asking for more than $2.5 billion from rival phone maker Samsung for patent violations.

The suit would be the most expensive patent violation in history, and it's just one front in Apple's war against phones running Google's Android operating system.

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4:24pm

Fri July 27, 2012
The Record

The Race To Create A Music Superlabel Still Faces Hurdles

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:26 pm

Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Lucian Grainge (left) and Roger Faxon, the CEO of EMI Group, testify during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Universal's proposed merger with EMI.
Alex Wong Getty Images

It's been a tough decade for the music industry. Revenues have tumbled — from more than $14 billion in 1999 down to $7 billion last year. EMI, one of the big four record labels, was taken over by venture capitalists and then taken over again, after they defaulted, by Citigroup. Now, Universal Music Group wants to buy the recorded music division of EMI for $1.9 billion. But critics say if the two companies merge it will create a superlabel that will dominate the music industry.

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7:11am

Thu July 19, 2012
Business

Yahoo May Be Marissa Mayer's Biggest Challenge Yet

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 8:00 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to hear more now about the woman taking the reins of one of Silicon Valley's most famous and challenged companies. Marissa Mayer took the tech world by surprise this week when it was announced she was taking the CEO job at Yahoo. The buzz grew louder when it came out she's pregnant and planning on working during her maternity leave.

Mayer is known for being one of Google's first employees and its first female engineer. NPR's Laura Sydell has this profile of Mayer and what she brings to her new job at Yahoo.

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7:04pm

Tue July 17, 2012
All Tech Considered

New Yahoo CEO Among A Rare Few: Women Execs With Tech Creds

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 8:49 pm

Marissa Mayer left Google to become the CEO of Yahoo. She was Google's 20th hire and is responsible for the look and feel of many of Google's major products.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

3:18am

Wed July 11, 2012
Movies

In High-Def Shift, Are Studios Blurring The Picture?

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 4:45 am

Alfred Hitchcock, seen here in 1969, is one director whose classic movies are being digitized and given high-definition re-releases — a process some argue can alter the original in significant ways.
Harry Benson Getty Images

5:16am

Thu June 28, 2012
Business

Google Is The Latest To Get Into Computer Tablets

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 12:34 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Google opened its World Wide Developers conference yesterday with a few announcements — the most notable is its entry into the highly competitive tablet market.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, with the Nexus 7, Google is headed for a market somewhere between the Amazon Fire and Apple's iPad.

It's called the Nexus 7 because it's a seven-inch tablet. Google also announced more content for its online store. In addition to music, movies and books, they will have TV shows and magazines.

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4:40pm

Tue June 26, 2012
Digital Life

Facebook's E-mail Change Rankles Users

Originally published on Wed June 27, 2012 6:52 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.

What do your friends see on Facebook when they look for your email address? It might not be what you think. In the past few days, Facebook automatically changed the email contacts it displays without clearly notifying users about what it was doing.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, lots of people on Facebook are not happy.

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5:22pm

Mon June 18, 2012
All Tech Considered

Lights, Camera, YouTube: A New Studio Cashes In On An Entertainment Revolution

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 8:54 pm

Lisa Donovan spoofs the film 300 in a 2007 YouTube video that pits her against a FedEx guy. Donovan's videos became so successful, she was able to make a living off selling ads on them.
via YouTube

Over the past year, YouTube has spent tens of millions of dollars to commission professionals to make content for the site — but those pros aren't necessarily coming from traditional TV and film studios.

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12:03am

Wed June 13, 2012
The Record

Clear Channel Will Be The First To Pay Royalties For Music On Its Air

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:40 pm

Tim McGraw (left) and Scott Borchetta, CEO of Big Machine Label Group, at a press conference in Nashville last month announcing McGraw's signing to the label.
Royce DeGrie WireImage

6:28am

Thu June 7, 2012
Business

Google Shows Map Features, Apple Likely To Follow

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Google has fired the first shot in what might come to be known as the map wars. Yesterday, the company unveiled new features, such as maps in 3D. Google made its move just five days before Apple is expected to announce its own new and improved mapping software.

Google made its move just five days before Apple is expected to announce its own, new and improved mapping software. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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