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.

A lot of fake and misleading news stories were shared across social media during the election. One that got a lot of traffic had this headline: "FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide." The story is completely false , but it was shared on Facebook over half a million times. We wondered who was behind that story and why it was written. It appeared on a site that had the look and feel of a local newspaper. Denverguardian.com even had the local weather....

Donald Trump took direct shots at some of the biggest tech companies during the presidential campaign. When Apple wouldn't help the FBI unlock a phone used by a terrorist, he suggested boycotting the company . In a Fox News interview , he lashed out against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "The politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed," Trump said. "He's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much." For his part, Bezos once tweeted he'd like to reserve...

For decades, one company has pretty much had the monopoly on TV ratings: Nielsen. But, the way people watch TV is changing. A lot of fans are streaming shows from the Internet — not watching on cable TV. Old-fashioned Nielsen ratings wouldn't show the habits of a family like Kevin Seal's. "We do not follow the appointment viewing, wait-for-the-show-to-come-on-at-a-given-time schedule," says Seal, who lives in San Francisco with his wife and six-year-old son. "We watch a lot of Netflix...

One of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters in Silicon Valley allegedly told two of his classmates at Stanford that he thought South Africa's former apartheid system of government was "a sound economic system." On Thursday, through a spokesperson, Thiel denied ever having supported apartheid. In a blog post on Medium , Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote that she was a dorm mate with now Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel at Stanford in 1985-86. Lythcott-Haims wrote that Thiel told her that ...

Silicon Valley is a politically liberal place — and that is reflected in where people are sending their money this election season. Ninety-five percent of contributions from tech employees to the presidential campaigns have gone to Hillary Clinton, according to Crowdpac, a group that tracks political donations. But one well-known outlier has caused a lot of friction in the Valley. Peter Thiel is part of what many people in the Valley call "the PayPal mafia," a group of investors who got very...

Nearly half of all American adults have been entered into law enforcement facial recognition databases, according to a recent report from Georgetown University's law school. But there are many problems with the accuracy of the technology that could have an impact on a lot of innocent people. There's a good chance your driver's license photo is in one of these databases. The report from the school's Center on Privacy & Technology says more than 117 million adults' photos are stored in them....

What happens when two human political journalists compete against a computer over which can do the best job predicting the issues that will dominate the news in the presidential election? Well, you are about to find out. The two humans and the computers each got to predict five issues per presidential candidate that would get the most coverage in the news and on the blogs between Sept. 12 and Oct. 12. (The time frame covers only a few days of the release of Donald Trump's vulgar comments...

Despite having more than 300 million users, Twitter has struggled to make a profit and keep its investors happy. Yet, the service has arguably been good for public dialogues and news gathering. So as Twitter considers a sale , maybe it's worth pondering the idea of Twitter getting out from under the pressures of Wall Street and turning itself into a nonprofit. Twitter at crossroads Grassroots movements have made great use of Twitter. Take sexual assault victims. Laura Palumbo of National...

Republican lawmakers are accusing the Obama administration of allowing countries like Russia, China and Iran to take control over the Internet. Their beef with the administration focuses on a relatively obscure nonprofit overseen by the U.S. government that is scheduled to become fully independent Saturday. The organization is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN for short. Its history traces back to a graduate student at UCLA named Jon Postel. He started...

Predictions are for psychics — and in this very unpredictable political season they might do a better job than the pundits. But what about a computer? I set out to see how well it could predict which controversies around the candidates were likely to re-emerge over the course of a month. And two human pundits have agreed to compete against the machine. Meet the Contestants The Computer The computer is run by Quid , a data analytics firm that uses proprietary software to search, visualize and...

Predictions are for psychics — and in this very unpredictable political season they might do a better job than the pundits. But what about a computer? I set out to see how well it could predict which controversies around the candidates were likely to re-emerge over the course of a month. And two human pundits have agreed to compete against the machine. Meet the Contestants The Computer The computer is run by Quid , a data analytics firm that uses proprietary software to search, visualize and...

If you're like me, somewhere in your house you imagine there must be a pile of lost white iPhone earbuds. The pile is probably right next to the stack of single socks. It's one of several reasons I never liked wireless Bluetooth headphones. They're smaller and even easier to lose. But, if the rumors are true — and most likely they are — Apple is about to get rid of the headphone jack on its latest smartphone, the iPhone 7, and tip the scales toward wireless Bluetooth headphones. The company...

Delta canceled about 530 flights on Tuesday in addition to about 1,000 canceled a day earlier after a power outage in Atlanta brought down the company's computers, grinding the airline's operation virtually to a halt. Seth Kaplan, who follows the airline industry, asks the question on everyone's mind: "If every small business on the corner can manage to keep its website running through a cloud-based server and all those sorts of things, why can't Delta Air Lines with all its resources manage...

Congress is in the midst of a review of the copyright laws to make sure they're up to date. Some of the recording industry's biggest stars, among them Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Paul McCartney, recently signed a letter urging lawmakers to make reforms. The artists say that aspects of the law that were written in the late 1990s make it too easy for tech companies to ignore rampant piracy on their sites and put too much responsibility on the artists themselves to find the illegal music files....

Two of the highest profile women in tech have had a tough year. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, saw her company sold to Verizon . Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the experimental blood testing company Theranos, was banned from her own labs by regulators for two years. Though men founders and CEOs fail all the time, it may have different implications when women mess up, says Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. "There are so many...

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The annual video game trade show E3 began this week in Los Angeles under the cloud of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., the deadliest in America's recent history. The conference is expected to draw tens of thousands of industry professionals who want hands-on experience with games that turn virtual violence into entertainment. There were signs that organizers were trying to bridge the contradictions. At the downtown LA Convention Center, flags were at half-staff. Actress Aisha Tyler,...

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For most of us, eye tracking technology sounds interesting. But it's not life changing. Eye tracking allows users to move a cursor around a computer or mobile device simply by moving your eyes and head. Oded Ben Dov initially used eye tracking technology to develop a video game that he showed off on Israeli TV. The next day, he says, he got a phone call from a man who told him: "I can't move my hands or legs. Can you make me a smartphone I could use?" That's when Ben Dov realized that his eye...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBvzKp0AERE Elizabeth Holmes fit into the Silicon Valley success mold. A young Stanford dropout who left school to pursue her entrepreneurial vision, she founded Theranos and said she would disrupt the world of medicine with easy and inexpensive blood tests. Now her company is under federal investigation and extra scrutiny by federal regulators . And questions are being raised about whether applying hardware and software business culture to biotechnology is...

Prince's sister says that when the musician died suddenly last week, he left no known will. On Tuesday, she asked a Minnesota court to appoint a special administrator to oversee the estate, which may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But no matter who the heirs turn out to be, they will be facing some tough choices. Prince always had an aura of mystery. His death at 57 has only added to the puzzle. The cause of death is unknown and so is the exact size of his estate. His only...

Yahoo goes on sale Monday. At least some of you reading this are thinking, "Yahoo? Are they still around?" Yes, this company founded in 1994, is ancient by Internet standards, but, according to the measurement company comScore, Yahoo sites are the third-most trafficked on the Internet. Among its properties are Yahoo Finance, News, Search, Mail, Tumblr and Flickr. Why is Yahoo on sale? Despite having a billion monthly unique visitors — as the company claimed in its 2014 report — Yahoo just...

Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET with a response from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Inventors and entrepreneurs have logged years of complaining about the patent system, and there are some good reasons. In 2015, patent litigation rose 13 percent from the previous year according to a study by Unified Patents , and two-thirds of those suits were brought by nonpracticing entities, or so-called "patent trolls." Trolls don't make products — trolls buy up patents so they can sue companies that do...

The Justice Department has asked a federal court to vacate its order that Apple write software to help the FBI access data in the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. The department tells the court in a filing that it has found a way to access data in the locked phone. Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Tributes are pouring out across the Internet for Andy Grove. The former CEO of Intel died on Monday. His personal story is woven into the history of Silicon Valley. NPR's Laura Sydell reports on what he left behind. LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Andy Grove was tough in life and work. By the time he was 20 years old, Grove, who was Jewish, had survived the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary in hiding. He'd...

Last summer, Jacky Alciné learned just how biased computers can be. Alciné , who is African-American, took a bunch of pictures with friends at a concert. Later he loaded them into Google Photos, which stores and automatically organizes images. Google's software is able to group together pictures of a particular friend, or pictures of dogs, cats, etc. But when it labeled a picture of one of Alciné's friends, who is also African-American, it left him speechless. "It labeled it as something else...

President Obama was in Austin, Texas on Friday to make peace with techies. He addressed attendees at the annual tech conference South by Southwest Interactive and asked for help getting Americans more civically engaged. But he also spoke for the first time at length about issues in the stand off between the Justice Department and Apple over a terrorist's iPhone. Since February, Apple and the Justice Department have been slinging legal arguments at each other like swear words. The fight is...

The Justice Department wants Apple to write special software to help it break into the iPhone used by one the San Bernardino terrorists. In its filing opposing a federal judge's order to help the government , Apple says it would be a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech. It's pretty well established that speech comes in many forms, says Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. "We can talk, we can write words, we can draw paintings, we can take...

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Apple CEO Tim Cook put himself and his company front and center in a national debate on digital privacy, when he decided Apple would not comply with a federal court order to help unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The Department of Justice has accused the company of using the case as a marketing opportunity . But a look at Cook's record running Apple since 2011 makes his motivations appear more nuanced and his confrontation with the federal government inevitable....

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