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.

Pages

Law
4:57 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Basic Internet Economics At Stake In Net Neutrality Suit

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 5:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:24 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Taking The Battle Against Patent Trolls To The Public

A group of technology and retail groups is beginning a national ad campaign targeting so-called patent trolls.
The Internet Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and Food Marketing Institute

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 7:01 pm

Patent trolls — a term known more among geeks than the general public — are about to be the target of a national ad campaign. Beginning Friday, a group of retail trade organizations is launching a radio and print campaign in 17 states.

They want to raise awareness of a problem they say is draining resources from business and raising prices for consumers.

Read more
All Tech Considered
4:43 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

How Vine Settled On 6 Seconds

About a year since launching, Vine says it has more than 40 million registered users.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 8:53 pm

Six seconds isn't a lot of time. If you were to read this sentence out loud, by the time you finished, six seconds would be up. But the brevity of Vine, the app that lets users make and share six-second video clips, has attracted 40 million registered users since its January 2013 launch.

Read more
All Tech Considered
6:58 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Combining The Nation's Digitized Libraries, All In One Place

The San Francisco Public Library has been digitizing its historical document collections for years, including the scrapbooks of famed homicide detective Theodore Kytka. The SFPL is among scores of libraries and archives adding their digital collections to the DPLA.
Via San Francisco Public Library

Part of a series, Keys To The Whole World: American Public Libraries

Buried in the archives of America's public and academic libraries are historical treasures — old papers, photos and records — that flesh out a detailed picture of our past.

Read more
Business
5:55 am
Fri August 9, 2013

FTC Receives Complaints About Learning Apps For Babies

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 12:06 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Maybe you've seen a busy parent do this - hand over their smart phone to a child with a kid-friendly app running to keep them busy. Well, yesterday an advocacy group complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Fisher Price is deceiving parents by promoting its Laugh & Learn apps as educational.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Babies are encouraged to learn about shapes and colors on this version of Laugh & Learn apps.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH & LEARN APP)

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:28 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Amazon Enters Art World; Galleries Say They Aren't Worried

Amazon said its new art marketplace will provide access to more than 40,000 works of art from at least 150 galleries and dealers.
Amazon.com

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 11:35 am

Local record and book shops have been disappearing as the market for music and literature moves online. In the past few years, there's been a growth in sites that sell fine art on the Internet. On Tuesday, Amazon joined that market. But in this case, many brick and mortar galleries aren't seeing the Internet as a threat.

Read more
All Tech Considered
6:37 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trade Case Puts Apple In Washington's Sights

The U.S. Trade Representative has overturned a ban on the import of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
David Paul Morris Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 7:08 pm

Apple has been notoriously disinterested in Washington politics. But two decisions coming from the Obama administration in the past few days indicate that Washington is increasingly interested in Apple.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:04 am
Mon July 15, 2013

How Hackers Tapped Into My Cellphone For Less Than $300

It's easier — and cheaper — than you'd expect to hack a cellphone, say a team of white hat hackers.
iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:57 am

In the wake of the National Security Agency cyber-spying revelations, you may be worrying about the government keeping track of your digital life. But, for less than $300, a group of ordinary hackers found a way to tap right into Verizon cellphones.

This is a group of good-guy, or "white hat", hackers. They hacked the phones to warn wireless carriers that the phones have a security flaw.

Read more
Business
5:13 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Apple To Appeal Ruling It Fixed E-Book Prices

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 5:40 am

A federal judge this week ruled that Apple conspired to raise prices of e-books, handing a victory to the Justice Department. Another winner in the fallout from this case was Amazon, the dominant seller of e-books.

Around the Nation
4:58 pm
Sun July 7, 2013

No Clear Answers On Cause Of Commercial Jet Crash

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 12:37 pm

Transcript

REBECCA SHEIR, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Sheir.

Coming up, we'll hear from a long-haul commercial pilot. He'll talk about his experiences. First, though, NPR's Laura Sydell joins me from San Francisco with the latest news on the crash. Hi, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHEIR: So investigators have been looking into this crash now for more than 24 hours. Can you tell us what they found so far?

Read more
Remembrances
4:01 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88, Invented Computer Mouse

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 9:48 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a remembrance, now. The, a computer visionary best known for inventing the mouse has died. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, the mouse was just one small piece of what Douglas Engelbart contributed to the development of personal computers.

Read more
Business
4:04 am
Thu June 27, 2013

$99 Game Console Ouya Aims To Take Down Barriers To Fans

The Ouya game console and controller. Games are sold through something like an app store, allowing customers to sample them before buying.
Courtesy of Ouya

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 12:37 pm

Sony and Microsoft are preparing to launch their latest gaming consoles this fall with price tags from $400 for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. But this week, a $99 game console went on sale and sold out at Target and Amazon.

Read more
The Record
5:28 am
Sat June 15, 2013

Pandora Buys A Radio Station, Songwriters' Group Calls It A 'Stunt'

Blake Morgan's songs were played some 28,000 times over a 90-day period on Pandora, earning $1.62 in royalties.
Jim Herrington Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 4:40 pm

This week, the Internet radio broadcaster Pandora made what seems like a backward move — technologically speaking. Pandora purchased a local radio station in Rapid City, S.D. The company says it's aiming to get the more favorable royalty rates given to terrestrial broadcasters, but the move has songwriters and composers up in arms.

Read more
Business
5:30 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 4:29 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:33 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Consumers Facing Subscription Service Overload Will Only Get More Choices

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 4:02 pm

YouTube is expected to announce in the coming days that it will launch paid subscription channels, a first for the online video platform that's been around since 2005. But, with the growing number of subscription services available for entertainment, shopping and news, some consumers say they're reaching digital subscription overload.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:25 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 5:35 pm

This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.

Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.

Read more
Movies
2:57 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Crowdsourcing Creativity At The Cinema

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is one of five celebrity directors taking part in a Canon-sponsored experiment called Project Imaginat10n. His short film, the inspiration for which was crowdsourced via the Internet and social media, focuses on familial loss and the process of grieving.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 9:00 pm

These days, if they can't find a producer to fund their latest film, a lot of artists turn to crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter to raise money for production.

But here's a new twist: a project headed up by director Ron Howard that is crowdsourcing the inspiration.

Read more
Business
4:40 am
Wed March 27, 2013

T-Mobile: Adds iPhone Ditches 2-Year Contracts

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 6:05 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mobile phone carrier T-Mobile is trying to lift itself out of fourth place. At a press conference yesterday, it announced it was adding the iPhone to its line up and ditching two-year contracts.

But NPR's Laura Sydell reports that may not be enough.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: T-Mobile took a lot of digs at the two-year contracts all mobile carriers offer at its Manhattan press conference. It opened with real woman on the street video.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

Read more
All Tech Considered
2:57 am
Thu March 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:10 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Festival attendees experiment with Leap Motion technology.
Elise Hu NPR

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

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.

Read more
Technology
4:43 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Tech Week Ahead: SXSW Interactive

Originally published on Mon March 4, 2013 5:34 pm

Audie Cornish talks with Laura Sydell for a preview of South by Southwest Interactive. The tech event, one of the most popular showcases for tech startups and emerging technologies, starts later this week in Austin.

Business
6:53 am
Wed February 20, 2013

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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
2:09 am
Wed January 16, 2013

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

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

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

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."

Read more
Technology
3:28 am
Thu December 27, 2012

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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:21 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

iStockphoto.com

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

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:09 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

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

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

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

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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
6:02 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Which Tablet Is Right For You?

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

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

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

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:25 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Yet Another Shift In Facebook Policies Raises Privacy Concerns

Joerg Koch AP

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 5:37 pm

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.

Read more
Around the Nation
5:37 am
Wed November 14, 2012

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.

Read more
Around the Nation
5:39 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Storm Update New Jersey

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 7:00 am

Officials in New Jersey don't have figures yet on how many residents have been left homeless by Superstorm Sandy. But, 350 of them slept inside Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport Sunday night.

Pages