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
3:43 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Mobile Match Apps Are 'Dating On Steroids'

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

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

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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The Record
4:55 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

In The Digital Era, Hit Songs Aren't Everything

Billboard Hot 100. Each time it's played in public, the song's writers get a royalty, which is tracked and collected by ASCAP. Bigger hits usually translate into bigger checks." href="/post/digital-era-hit-songs-arent-everything" class="noexit lightbox">
American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, whose song, "Gone, Gone, Gone," went to No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. Each time it's played in public, the song's writers get a royalty, which is tracked and collected by ASCAP. Bigger hits usually translate into bigger checks.
Buda Mendes Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 7:58 pm

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All Tech Considered
5:26 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

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

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

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

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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All Tech Considered
4:22 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

What Bill Gates' New Role Could Mean For Microsoft

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

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

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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All Tech Considered
5:09 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Small Cinemas Struggle As Film Fades Out Of The Picture

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

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

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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All Tech Considered
5:18 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

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

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

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

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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Technology
7:16 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Court: FCC Can't Enforce Net Neutrality

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:30 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Over the years, Americans have grown used to getting anything they want when they want it on the Internet. But yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission cannot require Internet providers to offer unfettered access. It was Verizon that brought the case against the FCC. The ruling could have far-reaching implications for what's known as net neutrality. Here's NPR's Laura Sydell to help us out with what all this means. Welcome.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

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Law
4:48 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Appeals Court Strikes Down Open Internet Rules

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 6:33 pm

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down Federal Communications Commission rules that would prevent Internet service providers from restricting usage on their networks and charging companies and users more for faster service. Critics say that this will create a two-tiered Internet that will favor those who can pay.

Business
6:21 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Google Buys Home Automation Company Nest

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 9:53 am

On Monday, Google announced it had purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest is focused on the "automated home" concept, making smoke detectors and thermostats that connect to the Internet. Google's purchase signals a strong interest in this arena.

All Tech Considered
6:21 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:09 pm

Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered. Holiday sales of its new console, the Wii U, have been lackluster compared to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

In preparation for this story, I put out a call to talk to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated with responses. Among them, Brian White, 30, grew up playing the Zelda games.

Now he's got a daughter. "We named her Zelda," he says.

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