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
6:26 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Hustle Behind The Wheel: What It's Like To Be An Uber Driver

Ride-hailing services like Uber have changed ground transportation for both passengers and drivers. As Uber rapidly grows, it becomes more difficult for its drivers to keep up with the hustle.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 2:03 pm

The popular ride-hailing service Uber is valued at a staggering $40 billion — even though it's besieged by lawsuits, bad PR and outright bans in some cities.

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All Tech Considered
4:18 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 1:00 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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All Tech Considered
5:28 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Did You Hear? Going Viral No Longer Just For Videos, Memes

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 11:57 am

The idea of a blog entry or a video going viral on the Internet is a feature of modern life — from the cute cat video to the articles about a politician's gaffe.

But, much to our disappointment here at NPR, rarely does a clip of audio go viral. Recently there have been a few exceptions, though it's unclear whether that's a fluke or a new age of viral audio.

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Music News
4:13 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 11:18 am

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
3:31 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 5:34 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
4:46 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

I've Got The Ingredients. What Should I Cook? Ask IBM's Watson

Chef Watson generates recipes for the user based on the ingredients the person has on hand, what type of food he would like to cook and a person's dietary restrictions.
Courtesy of IBM

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 12:31 pm

IBM's Watson computer has amused and surprised humans by winning at Jeopardy! Now, one of the world's smartest machines is taking on chefs.

Well, not exactly. Watson is being used by chefs to come up with new and exciting recipes in a feat that could turn out to be useful for people with dietary restrictions and for managing food shortages.

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All Tech Considered
2:21 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 12:10 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
5:17 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 10:28 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
2:28 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 11:35 am

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
2:34 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Size Matters: Why Apple Is Expected To Unveil A Bigger iPhone

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

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 10:04 am

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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