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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All Tech Considered
5:18 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Please Touch! Cooper Hewitt Creates A Museum For The Internet Age

Interactive touch screens at the newly redesigned Cooper Hewitt museum let visitors sort through the catalog and create their own designs.
Cooper Hewitt

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 2:00 pm

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City collects the beautiful and practical — vintage Eames chairs, Jimi Hendrix posters, Victorian bird cages.

The museum, which is housed in the Andrew Carnegie mansion, is reopening after an extensive $81 million, three-year renovation — and the redesign has turned this historic building into one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country.

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Music News
5:13 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Pandora's New Deal: Different Pay, Different Play

David Lowery, of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, says he's wary of the way Pandora pays for music.
Cooper Neill Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 12:18 pm

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

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All Tech Considered
4:31 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Victims Of Online Threats Say Perpetrators Aren't Being Caught

Rebecca Watson says she has been disappointed by the police response to online threats against her.
Adam Isaak

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

It is illegal to threaten someone online. But in recent weeks there have been a number of high-profile threats against women — among the targets were several feminist video game critics and an actress who starred in a video about street harassment of women.

But many victims of online threats say they are frustrated because the perpetrators are never caught.

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All Tech Considered
3:21 am
Fri October 17, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 1:10 pm

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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All Tech Considered
6:17 am
Sat October 11, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 11:28 am

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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All Tech Considered
3:28 am
Mon October 6, 2014

The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech

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

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 12:35 pm

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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All Tech Considered
5:45 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 11:05 am

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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Business
5:17 am
Fri June 13, 2014

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.

All Tech Considered
4:38 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 10:25 am

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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Law
8:17 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

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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