Kara Swisher Shows Tech Journalism’s Flaws

Edward Ongweso Jr.


Paris Marx is joined by Edward Ongweso Jr. to discuss Kara Swisher’s attempt to rebrand herself as the most feared journalist in Silicon Valley, how she spent her career forwarding the industry’s narratives, and the larger problems with access journalism.


Edward Ongweso Jr. is finance editor at Logics Magazine and co-host of This Machine Kills.

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Paris Marx: Ed, welcome back to the show.

Edward Ongweso Jr.: Thanks for having me on again.

PM: Absolutely. It’s always a joy to talk to you. We’ve recently got to dig into “Dune” together. We’re digging into a book today. It’s probably going to be our top pick number one of 2024 tech book I would imagine, Kara Swisher’s “Burn Book.” Is that how you’re feeling about it, Ed?

EO: I’m so happy that the most feared journalist in America’s book has finally come out and we’ve gotten an inside look at the way that tech has digitized our lives and really shaped our society.

PM: I just love how she tore the mask off of all these tech billionaires and really burned these relationships that she’s had for so long.

EO: I mean, that’s what a burn book does. You have a lot of slanderous, messy things in there that make the people want to hurt themselves, and that ruin their lives, and isolate them and cause scandals. That’s what a burn book is, and she delivered.

PM: We both wrote very enthusiastic reviews of this book.

EO: Five out of five.

PM: If listeners can’t tell, we’re being very sarcastic. But I figured this book came out, we have been talking about Kara Swisher and the role that she plays in tech journalism for a long time. So now that her version of events is out there, I figured there’s no better time to actually talk about the real role that Kara Swisher has played in the tech industry, for the past several decades, since her start at, I think it was the Washington Post and then through to the Wall Street Journal. Then of course, doing her own things. But I think genuinely, sarcasm aside, what did you make of the book, Ed, and the way that she approached her story, I guess?

EO: Kara Swisher is someone who I’ve been fascinated by over her career. Largely because, when I first came across her work, I think it must have been 2016, and I’d come across or work near the end of that year. It was during that year, when I had been noticing a lot of journalists suddenly been adopting a much more critical viewpoint of technology, because of the seeming willingness of these tech firms to collaborate. Or were worried that the Trump administration would crush America’s crown jewel. And Swisher was probably near the front, offering a pretty apocalyptic viewpoint. So, I’ve been interested in her work since then, because I think as I have done more research become more familiar with Silicon Valley, it has been harder to understand why the moment of Trump has prompted all this soul-searching when these companies have been at the forefront of pretty horrible things for a while, and that their financiers and funders have been having a noxious influence on society for a while.

But things are different because in the previous administration, the Obama administration, I think technology firms were worshipped and praised, just as they were in the Bush administration, just as they were in the Clinton administration. That which was digital was spiritual, and holy, and somehow. This was a new profit center and a new prestige center in society akin to the ascendance of Wall Street. So Kara Swisher’s work has been interesting, because I’ve always felt that there has been a mismatch, that’s most sharply highlighted in her, where someone who insists that they’ve had such a long storied career, and access to a lot of people in front row seats, is confused by how things got here. I should also add in over the years have grown to dislike her reporting and analysis, because I’ve felt that it’s concerned there feels more that Silicon Valley has lost its way, because they’re associated with right-wingers. There’s not really much mind paid to: Well, why is that the political form that Silicon Valley is attaching to, as well as with liberalism?

Why is it that Silicon Valley lends itself to some noxious and odious ends? Why is it that technology is being advanced in certain arenas of our lives? And she doesn’t offer that sort of analysis to answer those questions, because everything is inevitable. So, the book I was expecting, maybe at the very least — because I hadn’t had on the masochistic impulse to read all her work, yet — would at least be a good guide through it. So, on the anticipation of the book, I did get the impulse and I did start reading a lot of her work. Which I think primed me for the book itself, which I felt was a lot more shallow, a lot more revisionist. A lot more hindsight 20/20, recalibrating my priors, but not in any reflective way, just in an: I was always right way. And a lot more of a nothing burger. The book is very thin, in a way that I didn’t expect.

Though, I should have because we’ve read so many of these books that are like a staple in the industry. There’s a class of book, that is a deeply reported piece on a founder. There’s a class of book, that’s a deeply reported piece on a company. And this is neither of those and it’s not that because it tries to do the whole entire industry. It’s just not that because that’s not what the point of this book is. The point of this book is to insist that Kara Swisher is the most feared tech journalist and has always had her finger on the pulse. But when you read the book, and come away with the conclusion: This is a woman who became the very thing that she hated, didn’t go into politics journalism, because she hated the ass-kissing and the access and the arrogance of the subject; became the premier tech journalist where she does a lot of ass-kissing, spins it as critical; does a lot of access journalism, spins it as firebrand; does a lot of coverage of arrogant men and spins it as necessary innovators in the world.

I just came away from the book with like, I don’t think disappointment is the right word, but surprise, I guess, surprise that it was so bad. I didn’t really learn too much that I hadn’t reading, not all of her work, but pretty much most of her work over the past few decades, and listened to a lot of her interviews and talks. Not really coming away with like an accurate sense of who she was from the book, coming away with a much more bullshitted persona, which is hard, because then I’m like: Oh, I was right. There’s nothing there.

PM: I think it’s really interesting, because in my review, I basically talked about how the book shows how she created her own reality distortion field, to present herself, as this major tech critic of Silicon Valley.

EO: She did love Jobs, she really loved Jobs.

PM: Totally! I want to talk a bit more about Jobs a bit later. But just because you were mentioning the Trump moment there, and how that is positioned in a lot of tech journalism, but in particular, in this narrative that Kara Swisher tells. As being this moment where Silicon Valley revealed itself to be something different, or, however you want to put it. And I feel like that moment is the moment that so many of these journalists, that this narrative has adopted, is because it’s a moment not when Silicon Valley changed. But when the perspective of so many of the people who covered it changed on what it really was. Because there was this belief that Silicon Valley was doing capitalism differently. It was like this more liberal, capitalist industry that believed in these values that liberals claimed to uphold.

And of course, you had the creation of these narratives during the Clinton administration, when they were trying to present the internet and digitization in this particular way a going to do all these like great things in the economy, and blah, blah, blah. From more of the political perspective, but then the shift in the Trump moment, is because all of these tech CEOs go and kiss the ring. And it’s very clear that they’re much more focused on their profits, the size of their companies, all of these sorts of things over these supposedly liberal-progressive values that they benefited from having a scribe to them, but I don’t ever think really championed themselves, but knew was a positive marketing thing. I don’t know what you make of that. But that’s kind of my read on it.

EO: A lot of these journalists are not frankly that interested in thinking about technology. They’re children in a candy shop, but they’re smart children at the candy shop. They realized they get to be able to have all the treats and that if they’re really smart, they’ll be able to get free candy afterwards if they somehow brand themselves as the savviest candy consumer. If you’ve read the book it’s interesting in that there’s so many technological innovations and moments highlighted, and the analysis that’s being offered, I think of, for example, the chapter on streaming, Kara does not really offer any real attempt to understand why streaming happened, why cable was dismantled, why the firms that dominated streaming did, what the financial ambitions were, what the business strategies were, beyond taking the streaming companies at their word.

A lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘wows’ as they proliferate, lot of tuttutting at people resisting the proliferation. A lot of insisting and promulgating this narrative about the inevitability of digitization. It is a bit insane to offer that when a basic analysis of why streaming proliferated begins with the fact that Netflix, and the firms that copied it, lied about their numbers, and also leveraged and used a lot of debt, and outside capital — in some cases, to fuel a period of low prices to acquire rights at a discount when no one really knew whether there was any value in this thing. Unless they generated the hype-cycle, which is, again, a pattern in tech land, in Silicon Valley. Where it’s like you have some — a new idea might not actually be a good idea, but if you spend enough money, then that’s the valuation of it, and you get other people to eventually raise it.

Creating hype, generating debt, charging consumers, insisting on inevitability, much like she does, trying to build a moat, around something that everyone now believes is real. Lying about the value of it, who’s there, who’s watching it, how many people were excited about it. Until you suffocate all the other alternatives. The chapter on streaming doesn’t really do any sort of analysis, beyond “I talked to this person, I talked to this person, I talked to this person,” at this industry event at this industry event. And I did not get a second opinion. I did not try to parse out or think about how we got to this moment. This is the framework for almost every chapter that deals with some major technological innovation. So, that ends up becoming a key element of a lot of these access journalists.

They understand, some of them are really smart and I think Kara’s a smart one in that she’s a big cynic. I think it’s very clear, if you read her work. In that, she understands, you don’t really have to do too much work to sit at the level that she is. She has built herself up as someone who does dogged scoop reporting, she has built herself up as someone who is able to get access to companies and their internal documents and their memos. She’s built herself up as someone who then will give executives and financiers a chance to talk about their thing, in a space where they can wax poetic, and there will be a few pushback questions and everyone leaves happy. But she’s not going to push them on the goal or the ambition, of the political economy or the morality, any of the actual things that would pop into your brain when you think about something.

Instead of just sideline coach, play by play analysis. This is a key part of how a lot of these access journalists thrive. There’s a whole school of people who were raised around Kara Swisher, who are mentored by her. Who were her mentors, that trade in this sort of journalism. And it dumbs down the practice of criticism. It narrows the vision of reporting, and it makes all of us worse off because these people just are people who realize they can get rich and well-respected and access and privilege, if they just maintain a veneer of irritation. If they pretend to be a gadfly, when they’re really just a fruit fly.

PM: I think it’s clear to say that there are people who have been mentored by Kara Swisher, who went on to do really great and critical work. But at the same time, there are also a lot of people who exist in her mold and in some cases, without naming names, are trying to become the next Kara Swisher, I think people who pay enough attention would know who I’m talking about there.

EO: Casey Newton.

PM: Exactly.

EO: I’ll name names.

PM: I probably should have just went for it [both laugh]. I remember it was like 2022-2021 when he was getting criticized for coverage of Uber and how he was not critical enough in covering the gig economy. He replied to a tweet of mine basically saying that’s just business journalism or something like that. And I was like: Yeah, this says so much about your approach to these things and the approach of so many people who have that particular perspective, that is also held and forwarded by Kara Swisher in this version of tech journalism that has treated people — the public or the reader, the people who are trying to understand it — so poorly. Because as you say, when you look at this reporting and this work that Kara Swisher is doing so much of it is laundering elite opinion of the people who rule the tech industry and rule Silicon Valley and have done so much to change so many of our lives, and in many ways, not for the better.

You said how you came in contact with Kara Swisher’s work, for me, I would say it was around a similar time that I started to become aware of her. But the event that always stood out for me because, of course, a lot of the work that I was doing early on when I was writing about the tech industry was around tech and cities and transportation. The gig economy and Uber but also self-driving cars and smart cities and things like that. And the thing that always stood out to me, when I was thinking about this, was, of course, the event in 2014 at the Code conference where she appeared in this video, basically promoting Google’s self-driving car, which was later called the Firefly, then saying that it was delightful, cool, and “conceptually, where things are going.” Saying all these positive things about this unproven technology that Google was trying to push out into the world.

Of course, we later learned that there were serious safety issues and stuff with the way that they were testing these things. But, that was not something that Kara Swisher was going to really question or interrogate in that moment. That event appears in my book as well “Road to Nowhere,” because I thought it was so indicative of how the tech industry and how tech journalism helped to promote these ideas that were actually really harmful to transportation, and to our cities, and actually to addressing the real transportation problems that we have. So, that kind of moment always stood out to me when I thought about Kara Swisher and the role that she played in tech journalism. Over the years I’ve listened to interviews that she’s done with tech CEOs, particularly Elon Musk. I tried listening to her podcast Pivot with Scott Galloway, which is just the kind of thing that makes you want to tear your hair out even more for Scott Galloway, I think than Kara Swisher because I don’t like that guy either.

But she has held and continues to hold this really important place within tech journalism, where she is revered and held up as this important figure. But so often when you plumb these approaches to these various issues, as you were talking about, and as she goes through in the book. You see that time and again, she is often on the wrong side of these things, or misunderstanding what is actually happening because of the way her approach works. And that leads to a poor understanding for the public, but also allows these companies to get away with a lot. I think on that point, it’s probably worth talking about Uber, because Uber is something that we have both written a lot about, and have been very critical of. But in the book, she presents a revisionist narrative of her approach on Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber. Do you want to talk to us a bit about that, and how that stood out to you?

EO: I think I have a deep hatred for anyone who pretends they were on the critical side of Uber. I remember every single motherfucker who wrote in favor of it, and many of them pretend to this day, that they never ever wrote a thing or seamlessly have transitioned to criticism of it, without acknowledging what they got wrong. It’s important for people who were wronged on Uber and Lyft to acknowledge it because it would make it much easier or help in the cause of trying to articulate to the public why it’s a threat. That you have a company that was so plainly illegal, but was able to convince everyone who wasn’t a labor reporter, or a really good business and financial editor, because he had people like Alphaville in the Financial Times who were on this as early as the labor reporters were. People who weren’t them were like: Oh, well, I get it, I call a taxi with my phone and must be better. They’re nice, and they give me snacks. And they’re like my servant.

PM: They’re so cheap here. I don’t know how they’re so cheap.

EO: I can get them anytime I want. No impulse to analyze the underlying conditions to question why Uber is presenting itself in one way or another. How it is that something so plainly illegal is operating? Why it is that people are willing to make excuses for something so blatantly illegal? A role in which our views of technology and the digital allow corporations to smuggle in older ideas. Because if you acknowledge all that it makes it easier to inoculate the population against the cyclical nature of this. Because then it emerges and crypto emerges and Web3 and it emerges in the Metaverse and emerges in AI, and smart homes and all that bullshit. This idea that if you just let us privatize, if you just let us undermine the laws that are there for people’s well being. If you just give us and cede to us more autonomy, these private firms and the private sector in general — if you cede more autonomy to it, at the expense of your own — we can better organize your life, because it’ll be more digital.

Because these journalists have not acknowledged the role that they played in the propaganda campaigns of Uber and Lyft. We’re going to suffer that same thing over and over again. None of the lessons are going to be translated. And organizers and activists and advocates are still going to have to convince people that there’s a connection when the people who were part of the problem won’t even acknowledge it. They’re still doing the shilling for the new thing. So Kara Swisher, to get back from the sidebar, I think Kara Swisher — and this body of journalists whose analysis of Uber and analysis of the gig economy was: Ooh, look at this shiny digital tool that I think buffs out a lot of the things I personally dislike about taxis — can be generalized out to a larger example of my theory about how the digital is the future, the digital will transform everything. That my ability to call an app, my ability to get service immediately, my ability to get it cheaply, is evidence that I’m right, and that we need to pay more attention to it on my terms, and I should talk to other people are behind building it.

Almost all of these analyses until labor reporting became more central to this story, until people really started listening to the reporters who have been talking about this shit for years, you had people like being like: Oh, I signed up as an Uber driver. How? Let’s see what that was like. Wow, it’s really freeing. I might give up this writing shit. Embarrassing, embarrassing stories like that were the norm for years. And you have people like Swisher who tried to adopt a more sophisticated version of that. Sitting down talking with Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick, being like: What’s your vision of the future? Why does everyone hate your vision of the future? It seems like you’re doing such a bold thing. And giving a company, that is operating illegally, room to express its propaganda and its vision and wax poetic about how evil taxis are, imply corruption.

There’s certainly and there has been corruption in one way or another with various taxi sectors and state governments, but the idea that there’s like a large cartel, a taxi cartel, that has put wool over the eyes of the government, was one that proliferated in large part because of journalists like Kara Swisher who just would not ever question that. And would agree, because of course there was because why else would taxi suck compared to Uber? So I think with Swisher and with her body of access journalists, right? The main thing I hate about their coverage of Uber is the poison pill, of course, that’s left with us in dealing with future, private technological innovations that are just going to be used to privatize things and generate more profits, but also because they had almost no curiosity outside of the C suite. And you talk about this in your review as well, right?

The real problems are what are being done to the white collar employees. What’s being done with the executives, what’s being done with the workers in the company. And also flattening that analysis to pretty flat level. The failure to understand that Uber was operating illegally, and thus operating in a way that viewed almost everything, and everyone as a means to an end, as expendable, as an obstacle. There was no ability to connect that to the fact that it had a rancid, toxic, disgusting workplace culture. And of course they didn’t view the drivers as human beings. To not view the drivers as human beings, to have engineers to have executives, and not view large section of your workforce as not human beings, it’s not a large leap to say: This sort of person is also going to treat women in the workplace, not as human beings, and assault them and harass them, or talk about them in insane ways. That once reported on became the focus, right, and the insistence that this was the workplace issue.

This also ends up wiping away or burying other modes of analysis, that would have also provided clear analysis, because not only then does Kalanick’s ouster, as Kara herself presents, get written as a culture war against Kalanick. That people are realizing you can’t run the company this way, and they oust him, because they’re sick of it. You lose the actual story, which is that the reason that Kalanick got ousted is because the board wanted to go public and he didn’t think that Uber was ready to go public because he understood the business model. He understood that they needed to be firmly integrated and monopolize all their major markets, and a lot of global markets, before they could go public, or else they would face years, decades of unprofitability.

The analysis that you know, people like Swisher offer, where you focus on the C suite, you focus on cultural issues as the primary problem, and everything flows from that, you lose out on any curiosity about the labor conditions for the people who are doing the driving. And in fact, you view them with some disgust. You pretend like you hate the fact that he’s automating the drivers, when in reality, you’re fine with that, and you say that over and over and over and over and over and over again. You hope that he does that, you seem to believe that the problem with Uber is that they just don’t have the right CEO, needs a more diverse team. Because if it had a more diverse team, they wouldn’t be pulling up records on people who are accused of rape. They wouldn’t be spying on people who are critics. Their lived experiences would provide more guardrails, ignoring the fact that even if that were the case, the business model of the company is such that it needs to exploit a large pool of people, of laborers and have a lot of them idle, so that it can have tiny wait times and lower prices. That it also needs to pay them sub-minimum wages so that your rides can be cheap. Or it has to use the technology to exploit the customer and charge them as high as possible, and figure out ways to extract more profit. Charge higher prices, when you go into a non-white neighborhood, charge higher prices when you’re going along the route that’s not serviced by bus or public transit. So you lose out in all the ways in which it is fundamentally exploitative, no matter who’s at the helm. And you lose out on the larger analysis that this is still a company that is illegal.

This is a company that is misclassifying people and taking advantage of its misclassification to use its business model. It doesn’t fucking matter how much money it generates for investors. It doesn’t fucking matter how many cars are in the street, it doesn’t fucking matter how many drivers there are. It’s illegal. And it’s starving its drivers. And its withering, or competing with and trying to undermine public transit. But none of this pops into her mind and it didn’t pop into most tech journalists minds until you started to get a swell of labor reporting. And until you started to get a swell of the organizing, and until, sadly, you had a spree of suicides. So that’s the thing I really hate. It’s like there has to be such a massive cost and massive loss of life, of public sector possibilities, of whole horizons, people’s lives and also of political reasons, before people go: Oh, wow, this is bad. And then they write a half-assed thing that doesn’t let us understand how we got there because they wanted to free themselves of guilt.

PM: I want to pick up on the cyclicality of what you’re saying there, because talking about the real lack of understanding, the core of the business. The actual business model that these companies are pushing is key and is totally lacking in what Swisher was writing. And the thing that really boiled my blood about the way that she presents these things in the book is, as you were saying, at the time 2014, around this period, she was happy to be chummy and friendly with Travis Kalanick. In 2014 at the same Code conference I was talking about where she was promoting the Google car, she was saying that Kalanick was not as much of a jerk as I thought he was. And calling taxi companies evil as he was saying. That same year, she wrote a glowing profile of Kalanick in Vanity Fair, where there was no hint of the criticism that she suggests she had of him in the book, because in the book, she says that Kalanick’s rise made her “sick to my stomach” and that he represented “the ever uglier face of tech.”

But in 2014, the moment that she’s talking about, she’s not saying any of this, and one of her examples for why Kalanick made her feel this way was because he said on stage, quite glibly, that he wanted to see human drivers replaced by AI and that it would cut the cost of delivering an Uber. And so this is presented as like: Oh, this guy is so evil because he’s so willing to replace workers, even though at the time, and still, Kara Swisher very rarely talks about workers, especially those types of workers. But it was even more shocking to me because I was just reading that on March 20th she did an event with the CEO of GM, Mary Barra, where she said that she prefers autonomous vehicles to human drivers, like the same sort of thing that she was saying Kalanick was so evil for saying back in 2014.

I think it just shows how fake and how false the attempt to present herself as this critical person, as this critical eye on the tech industry, as this person holding them to account really is. And you see that again, as you were saying the cyclical nature of these things and how it leads us to misunderstand them. When the crypto and NFT boom came along, Swisher again, was promoting crypto as a retirement investment on her podcast Pivot with Scott Galloway. When she was called out with that she made a tweet where she said: Crypto is by no means over, it’s like the early internet — kind of repeating the crypto talking points. She was also repeating talking points on NFTs. CNBC had her on there, and she said that just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s not of value.

It’s worth saying that in the book, she also has criticisms of crypto now that the boom is over. And now we’re in this moment of generative AI, and she has once again become one of the big boosters. In the book, she talks about how generative AI is going to be a new Cambrian explosion. And she is frequently repeating these talking points. And she’s very friendly with Sam Altman. She even had Sam Altman interview her at one of her book events. So it shows the closeness that she has with these people and how when it really matters, when we’re in the moment when people need to understand what these companies are doing and the impacts that these business models are having on people. Journalists, like Kara Swisher are promoting the talking points of industry, and not doing the criticism, but then afterward trying to rewrite the narrative and pretend that they were on the right side the whole time.

EO: I feel like the only tech journalist that I’ve seen that has done any reflection on the role is I think is Farhad Manjoo, who was a columnist at The Times. He has my eternal respect for that, even if I disagree with some of his stakes, less and less over the years.

PM: And he’s not even explicitly a tech journalist, though, right?

EO: Exactly, he’s just a columnist, he just talked a lot about tech. He did write or focus on tech earlier, at some points in his career, especially when he would write stuff for The New Yorker. But now, mainly would work as a columnist, political, sometimes tech. But that is someone who wrote a piece being like: Whoa, I was part of the propaganda and I fell for it, I fell for it, I advanced that I advocated for it. And now I realize I fucked up and maybe it’s too little too late, but I just wanted to say that.

Almost every other journalist who has been involved in this, and who has just done marketing, who has just written free copy, who has just done free propaganda, like Swisher — which is ironic, because she studied propaganda in college, as she likes to say in the book — these people are lower than dirt, because they understand, they understand what the paths before them are. They can lose a lot of the access, a lot of the fans, a lot of the support, and probably have to recraft in one way or another the relationship to their audience and to other publications and the type of writing that they do. And maybe that’s scary process — that’s a lot of work. Or they can continue to have the largely wealthier, affluent Silicon Valley, white collar audience that they have. The access to their bosses and their managers and their financiers, the invites, the support networks, the career tracks, the appointments, the books, the jobs, by making what is probably to them a small compromise, but in reality is everything because it dooms the rest of us to dealing with this constant assault on our senses with propaganda about the value of things that are making our lives worse.

There are so many journalists who I think understand or I am surprised don’t, but I would assume understand that Silicon Valley is not an unambiguous good. It’s not even an ambiguous good. That it stands on the shoulders of public funding and financing, but it does a lot of harm. And it extracts a lot of value from the rest of the world. It also has a huge amount of externality that no one really bothers to reckon with and when they do are dismissed. Some of them insists that we’re in the midst of this tech-lash, we’re in the midst of this upsurge of criticism. I think there’s a difference between it being more visible, and us being able to talk more about it, and there actually being a larger shift. Because at the end of the day, if we were, then would we have had the past four years that we did?

Would we have had the proliferation of surveillance tech during COVID as these firms unilaterally tried to introduce emotional surveillance or affect and facial recognition in public spaces? As police departments integrated these, would we have an upswell of military contractors operating with relative impunity, while integrating these businesses into their tech companies and their platforms? Would we have the implosion of controlled demolition that feels like, of news media, of advertiser supported news media? I don’t think we would if the criticism was not just on the outside looking in or outsiders criticizing — or even at some legacy publications criticizing — but if we also had some of these people who are acts as journalists naming how problematic, and how immoral these things were, instead of just simply giving everything in a very demure, detached, objective tone. I think that’s part of the problem here.

It’s like: What is journalism to be? If we’re going to pretend like tech criticism is everywhere, then we should ask: Why is it that if there’s so much criticism of tech, they seem to still be charging along? And part of it is because of how much power they have, but then also part of it is because that critical attitude has not actually penetrated the core of what reporting is understood to be. The core of what reporting is understood to be is still largely influenced by these access journalists who are marketing themselves as brands. The real dynamics driving the shape of the industry are there. Maybe the flavor, maybe some of the language, maybe some of the positioning, maybe some of the acknowledgments are influenced by criticism. But this is not a fundamental change and this has been apparent.

Evgeny Morozov wrote in The Baffler a review of Nick Carr’s book, “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us,” like 10 years ago, and the problem was still there. What is the role of a tech critic in the United States? When it comes to technology, it’s hard to think of the task, he wrote essentially, as a useful one. Even though we are surrounded by people insisting that tech criticism has never been more universal. We are still dealing with firms that have immense amounts of power, and their main interlocutors and their main channels to the public being subservient and obsequious and stenographers, and until that relationship changes, it doesn’t really matter, because that primary relationship still provides them a channel directly to people’s minds and hearts and brains to spill propaganda about what technology should be, and what form it should take in our daily lives and to policymakers.

PM: Absolutely. I think that’s such a good point. And you’ve laid it out so well. The really serious problems in the approach that journalists like Swisher have and what that means for how the public understands the tech industry, what these companies are doing, technology more generally. I think that you see that time and again throughout the book, where she talks about how she was still a believer in technology, in Silicon Valley, after the dot-com crash, which she admits that she didn’t see coming. There’s also of course, the mantra that she says that she held throughout this whole period that “everything that can be digitized will be digitized,” suggesting that this is inevitable. Nobody should try to stand in the way of what Silicon Valley is doing.

She tells stories where she’s chiding, for example, the Wall Street Journal for not shutting down its printing presses in the 90s, or something when they were still making a ton of money off of this stuff, just accepting digitisation and how they were going to be trampled over. And similarly, as you you were saying earlier with streaming services, saying the same thing to Hollywood, like: Why aren’t you just giving up all these legacy parts of your business and just going fully in on digital early and sacrificing all these profits that you’re making. And the other piece of it, that I felt was really revealing about the approach that she has and why she tends to hold up these CEOs and these billionaires who she does have these close relationships to, even though in the book she tries to present it as more of a distance sort of thing that, I don’t know about other readers, but I wasn’t really buying.

When she talks about having a prick to productivity ratio, where she gives “flawed people a little break.” These CEOs can be doing terrible things to workers, can be thrashing the environment, can be disrupting the way that economic systems and legacy industries work. But that’s okay for Kara Swisher, as long as they are being productive, as long as they are changing the world, being disruptive and of course, returning her phone calls, most importantly of all. What does that say to you about the approach that she has about these things? And the idea that even though she is a journalist, even though she’s trying to present herself as a critic, ultimately, this worldview of Silicon Valley is still very closely held and promoted by this person who you would assume, being a journalist, is trying to hold the industry to account.

EO: I have gotten arguments with some people who trade in this. It’s hard because there’s some journalists who obviously have access and they’re a million times better than the other types of access journalists. I mean, look at Platformer for example. Casey Newton versus Zoë Schiffer. Zoë Schiffer is a great labor journalist and has been for years.

PM: I think Zoë Schiffer is fantastic as well.

EO: That is someone who obviously is well-sourced and does not seem to let it clutter her head the way that Casey Newton has, for a long time. I think that there are lots of journalists who are able to — and I mean, that that’s part of it — being able to get a source, communicate with them. Maybe they give you some insight information. Maybe they give you some quotes. Maybe they help provide some some color on background or off the record that that can help you think about what’s going on and get to the facts. And there’s a difference between having these sources that are helping you actually get to the facts and find that information you wouldn’t have been able to get on your own, snd having these sources shape your worldview. I feel like what most of these access journalists will have a deep problem with, are that they allow them to shape their worldview.

They don’t usually talk too much about the relationship that they have with some of the most powerful sources that they have. But I mean, if we’re being real, if some motherfucker runs a massive tech company, and you’ve got his number and he’s just calling you, as a rule, me personally, I would discount most of what you have to say about that person. Maybe that someone might hear that and think: Oh, that’s a little too harsh. But reading Swisher, for example, like you talked about, answering the phone calls. Maybe before reading the book, you think: Oh, well, she has their phone number, because maybe they’re gonna call her and talk about a story she just wrote. Or maybe they’re gonna try to push back and she’ll write about that conversation. But then you read the book, and the phone calls are like: Can you help me write this essay, please? Can you help me do my homework? Can you help me sell this to the public? What the fuck!

Also, if you just think about it for a second, it is fine if you have a bunch of mid level managers or workers — people actually doing things that might be contrary to the company’s public persona and narrative — with your number and calling you. If you have the chief executive of a company on call, what are they really going to say to you other than: That’s definitely not what happened, I think you should drop the story. Or some fluffy access profile, where you get a chance to sit down and talk with them, and they give you really rehearsed and practiced, and massaged points about how beautiful their next innovation is going to be. How brilliant their next product is going to be. How everything is going welll. Or why that failure, that misstep, wasn’t actually a failure or a misstep, it was a valuable lesson. It’s the value to me of having access to someone who is running the ship approaches zero, when thinking about the cost, and the ability that the have in influencing your opinion over time.

But that’s why I’m not the Times columnist. And that’s why I don’t have the New York Mag podcast, right? All these things, which if I did, I would blow my head off. What I want and what I enjoy is talking with workers, because talking with workers is where you learn the most about how a company actually operates based on the ways in which the managers interpret commands from the top and subject the people underneath them to them. You learn the most about Uber’s business model from its drivers, you learn the most about Facebook from its content moderators. You learn the most about Google, from its contractors who are essentially employees, but are just misclassified for a multitude of reasons. These are the places where you learn the most, where the most vulnerable population, how they are treated by people immediately above them who have more power, but don’t actually have a reason to fully subject people to the power.

I feel like the value of a scoop, or of insight into the company and its operations and its business model declines once you get up to a certain point and reaches zero. Once you get to that CEO or you get to that C suite, how much are you really going to learn from Sheryl Sandberg for an hour and a half? You’re probably going to get some new theory that she’s trying out for a book that she wrote, or had someone ghost write, about the value of the nonsense and the word salad that she just gave you for an hour and a half. You’re not actually going to get a good sense of why it is that Facebook does what it does. Then if you do, it’s probably going to be one pocked, redacted, obfuscated and spun to distract from important points. So, I think that’s also then the second point, which is how much do you think that these people are telling you the truth?

A lot of these access journalists really do believe or maybe think: Hey, look, if I’m in a room, one-on-one with this chief executive, and maybe their PR person, they’re going to tell me the truth, or they’re going to be frank with me in a way that they wouldn’t if I were in some other way trying to get or ferret the truth from the company. Or I’m smart enough where I can ferret it out, that I can present to them this narrative that I got with everyone else, and confront them and their inability to confirm or deny, or their deviation from the truth is an important part of the story and should be recorded. I think all of this just comes down to the fact that you can construct a really good story without having to have a chief executive buzz in your ear all the fucking time, or chief marketing officer or some executive.

I understand the narrow ways in which it’s valuable, especially if you’re trying to construct a gotcha. Or if you’re trying to construct a fuller picture and their denial or their adherence or their openness as part of that, or if you’re profiling them. But to have their number on call, or to be answering their calls at any point, or to have a Discord where they come in and they chat with the members of your Discord, is disqualifying almost immediately to me. And it’s hard to imagine scenarios, where wouldn’t be. Unless you’re going to record every single conversation and leak it. If you’re doing that then Godspeed, fifth columnists, but are any of them doing it? No, because they’d lose their career in a second and then ever get access to journalism or whatever.

PM: That’s a little bit hard to hear because I was going to take this episode as an opportunity to announce that Tech Won’t Save Us is pivoting and we’re going to be having Sam Altman on next week’s are talking about how generative AI is so great and changing the world.

EO: Yeah, I’m taking a job at Uber. I’m going be working in their PR team.

PM: You’d do good at that, you wouldn’t be the first. But picking up on what you were saying, you can clearly see that with Swisher, going beyond the book, what she was doing recently during the ouster of Sam Altman from OpenAI, where she was kind of the conduit for Altman’s narrative of what was happening. In the book you have that reprinted as what actually happened in the case of Sam Altman’s ouster as CEO of OpenAI and his eventual return. When we actually had reporting that came out later that suggested that there were quite a number of concerns with the way that he was running the company and the way that he was treating employees, that were actually playing into what happened there, but were not part of the Swisher narrative of how that all played out.

You can see that quite clearly in the book where certainly she’ll say some critical things about the people who it’s okay to criticize these days, the Travis Kalanicks of the world, the Mark Zuckerbergs, of course. Elon Musk, we haven’t even gotten into all that. But then still lauds praise on many of these people who are doing incredibly terrible things, like the CEO of Airbnb, who has obviously had an incredible impact on people’s access to housing and housing prices. Sam Altman, of course, is in her good books, despite everything that he has been up to. I guess, just briefly, before we end these things off. There were two people in particular that I did want to bring up and talk about her relationship to. And that is, of course, Steve Jobs, who is this figure who’s basically held in reverence as this godlike person. For people who believe in this sort of Silicon Valley ideology, because of what he did with the iPhone and the iPad and how he turned Apple around.

But at the same time, there is plenty of reporting on how he was not just a terrible boss, how he took credit for the work of people below him, how he mistreated many of the employees at Apple, but also how in his personal life, he was pretty much a piece of shit. And then, of course, the other one is Elon Musk, who some people would say took up the mantle of Steve Jobs after his death, who Swisher was very close with for a very long time, helped forward this narrative of his genius because of his rockets and his electric cars. She only broke with him when he called her an asshole and actually cut off contact with her in 2022, around the Twitter acquisition. So what do you make of the relationship that she has with these two powerful men? How she presents this in the book and what it shows about her and her relationship to these things?

EO: The only executive that really gets like a love letter in “Burn Book” is Steve Jobs. The others get the admission of love letters having been written for them, but burned because they disappointed her in some key way. But it’s Jobs that sails and soars above it in ways that when you called your review “the reality of distortion field” kind of gets to the heart of it. There are points in the book where Kara Swisher suggests that she views a kinship with other people in Silicon Valley. That she was bored by school, she was too smart for school, she could have done anything she wanted. She deals with a lot of people who are dumber than her, who have antiquated ideas about technology, that she’s an innovator and entrepreneur. That she has visions for merging the digital and the physical. Of all the tech executives Jobs is probably the one that’s easiest — if that’s what you think about yourself — to project that onto him.

Like you pointed out, Jobs is someone who stole ideas, ran a horrible workplace. The influence he had on the digital and on the world is undeniable. And what is to be argued and contested is was it good or bad? And you would think, as Swisher goes through and talks about many of the things in our world, that there would be a reflection that goes: Huh, almost all of these things have been amplified and carried forth through the world because of Job’s influence and the pushing out and merging and converging, most of the digital onto the phone and on to the App Store. Creating and pushing and helping catalyze this process of solving problems through apps that can then be mass downloaded. I think opening the way to this solutionism, where every social problem, every political problem, every economic problem, there’s an app waiting to be made, or that has been made, which can solve it.

PM: Which it’s clear to say in the book Swisher says has been disastrous, and mainly puts the blame on Zuckerberg, but Jobs escapes all responsibility for that.

EO: Yes, exactly. Jobs is either a saint or someone who I think the biggest criticism she has of him is that he was an asshole sometimes in interviews, and lied to her. Yeah, no fucking shit.

PM: She has basically two chapters of praise for Jobs, and maybe a couple sentences where she admits that he wasn’t always the greatest person.

EO: It’s a bit insane because as your review talks about, as we’ve talked about here, this is a guy whose phones were constructed in factories where people were killing themselves, and threw themselves out of windows, such that they put suicide nets. And that after that, even when labor practices were changed a bit that suicides might have dropped, being exposed to chemicals that were creating, up until that point, unseen cancers and chronic illnesses and fatal disorders. That took advantage of almost every single person that came across him in the C suite, and the company itself, and the contracted and subcontracted workforce. In the regulatory landscape and the consumers and the firms that were working with them. But this is someone who’s praised because they had a transformative effect on the world, because they represented the avatar of the digital as inevitable.

This is a perfect encapsulation of Kara Swisher’s really shallow analysis of technology. Is much thought put on thinking about what it meant for the digital to be advanced and the way that Jobs did? Is very much thought put into how the advent of a smartphone changed people’s relationship to technology or changed the relationship of startups and of entrepreneurs to technological development? Is there any thought put towards how those shifts narrowed or expanded certain possibilities for technology? Or changed incentives, or accelerated capital accumulation in these firms, or the valuation of these firms? No! Is there any thought put onto the effects of having these phones put everywhere? Having parts of society modeled on this experience of having a device, specifically a smartphone, a communication device, constantly in communication with other devices, having it being your main browsing portal, having advertisers, surveillance platforms, be the gates through which you have to pass through constantly to access any part of the digital world? No!

There’s no actual interest in thinking about how the world works only in describing it in such a way where everything is wonderful all the time, until it isn’t. And the reason why it isn’t isn’t because there was a snake in the garden. It isn’t because the apples were rotten. It’s because they didn’t know how good they had it and some of them were seduced by Trump. Or, as maybe the book, like you said, by the end, when it admits it’s disastrous, that some of them didn’t get into this with the best of intentions. They weren’t true to technology. They failed technology, technology didn’t fail us. On almost all the analysis when there is a pointing out, it’s like: Well, if Zuckerberg had never been born, then I’m sure we all would have had a much better society.

It’s not clear if that’s the case, because again, if you do an analysis of thinking through: Okay, what affected the creation of this App Store, of smartphones, of an app-driven solution-oriented mindset to Silicon Valley, and to the flush of capital, and to the tightly concentrated network. What affects did all of these converge on, and have on ideas about community, ideas about politics, ideas about labor? Well, inevitably, someone probably would have tried to make something like Facebook. And inevitably, they would have also tried to make a giant pile of money, leveraging advertising, and surveillance and data collection on people.

PM: That makes me think of Malcolm Harris’s book, “Palo Alto,” and the arguments that he makes that it’s more about the forces than the individual. If Zuckerberg or Musk weren’t around, there would have been somebody else to move these things forward, even if it wasn’t specifically them and their companies. This was the direction that capitalism was going, where it saw the opportunity for these profits. And you can’t just say: Oh, if Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t there, then everything would have been better, because there just would have been a different Zuckerberg.

EO: It’s funny you mentioned “Palo Alto,” because it was published almost a year to the date before Swisher’s book. You couldn’t have two more different analyses of what’s going on with Silicon Valley. We have Malcolm Harris’s analyses, which spends a lot of time on individuals, but situated in their context, looking at the forces that they were a part of and swept up by and the forces that they unleashed, constructing a very historical, very materialist account of what Silicon Valley is, why became the way it is, what effect that had on the world, and what effect the world then had on Silicon Valley. Versus someone who thinks that the sun shines out of Steve Jobs’ ass and is so narrowly concerned with an almost pageantry of avatars of the digital that there’s almost no concern with how the world is actually working with financial flows, with political economy, or with social dynamics, or with labor. There’s almost no concern about any of that. It’s just a horse race. It’s just a commentator looking at a horse race.

That sort of analysis has been advanced by her for a long time, and to great detriment. Because it also makes me think about, for example, how some people might have reacted to “Palo Alto.” I think the book got largely near universal praise, but when it got criticism, you would see it along the lines that made it sound like there wasn’t enough respect for the individuals. And it’s like: What the fuck are you talking about? This is a tome, looking at how this region of the world became such a consequential force, across centuries. It is insane to bemoan that this or that figure wasn’t probably focused on enough. When we’re looking at forces that transcend people’s lives, and that are unleashed by some of the actions that individuals do sometimes, but that more often than not, are shaping scores, more people, millions more people, billions more people at this point.

Kara Swisher gets it backwards and thinks: Well, the digital only comes into being around the time that she starts reporting. She’s born. There’s a section where she has an interesting history of the internet. And she basically like: Whether or not you think the internet was made by the government, or the private sector, whether or not you think it was a product of weapons research in the military or bootstrapped entrepreneurs, I was born the same year as it. That the digital begins there, and everything that comes out of it is solely individuals and business dynamics that sprang out of individuals and their psychologies and are acting with one another. And that also is one of the shallow things.

When you don’t have the large material explanatory framework, you fall back on this lower level psychoanalytic one. What are the main analyses of Zuckerberg and Kalanick and Sandberg and every single fucking executive mentioned? Largely, if you really sit down, she just goes back to the level of: This is an asshole. This is a weird kid. This is a sweating, nervous motherfucker. This is a shifty motherfucker. This is a duplicitous guy. Focus on personalities, and this idea that the personality shapes the product. Sure, to some extent. It takes a certain type of person to make a certain type of firm.

A business model that views people as expandable is probably going to be a product of someone who views people as expandable. But to end the analysis there and not ask: Okay, well, why are these sorts of people being drawn into this sort of development? I’m using this descriptor constantly to describe people in these types of work. Is it that there’s a larger great attractor here that is pulling in these sorts of personalities? Then maybe I can focus on that great attractor itself and ask: Well, what feature of the market, what feature of the industry, is selecting for these types of behaviors and these types of personalities? That maybe that’s worth more analysis than trying to psychoanalyze why Mark Zuckerberg was sweaty the first time I met him. That’s more interesting, and would yield more realistic answers, then it’s: Because he was scared of how tough I was in writing. Or whatever it is that she said in that section.

PM: To end off this interview, thinking about that way of approaching the tech industry, but also the broader criticisms that you’ve been making through this interview about the way that tech journalism actually works. One of the things that stood out to me, as I was thinking about this, as I read the book — as I was seeing the response to the book, and to my review, and things like that — is that, we were talking about how there are journalists who were mentored by Swisher and some of them took her mold and others didn’t. One thing that, and I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but every time I write about Swisher, I always have journalists reach out to me saying: You’re spot on, this is right, but it’s not something that I can say publicly.

I never dig further than that, I usually assume it’s because of some past connection to her or not wanting to burn bridges or whatnot. You were also talking about how a lot of the journalists who did write these positive things in the past haven’t come out and made amends for that, or talked about why they did it. I wrote recently on my Disconnect newsletter about how I became a critic and back in the day, I was total Apple fanboy. And for a while, I believed that streaming services were good for artists. I believed in fully automated luxury communism and that everything was gonna get automated, this was going to be good for everybody. Like, these were very dumb beliefs that I held for a little while and it was seeing those things fail that really woke me up to what was going on.

I hope that people feel that I’ve been open enough about that, and how that has shaped my views on the tech industry and how I developed the views that I have today to become the critic that I am. So, I wonder, to close off this interview, what do you think it says about Swisher and about her approach that she has felt the need to rewrite her story in this way, in this moment, to present herself as someone who has always been critical of the tech industry and is not just putting it on today as a facade or some way to present herself and make up for the history that she has. Also, how do you think it benefits her and the billionaires who she talks to, to suggest that she is actually a critic, and that she is holding the industry to account in a way that she isn’t?

EO: If I were a journalist who got a lot of it wrong, I would try to rebrand myself in a few ways. Of course, you do a first rebrand, which she did, where it’s not really a rebrand such as like a “whoa, what the fuck is going on here?” moment. That’s them going to Trump Tower. Part of that might have been genuine, I’ll grant in the most generous reading, and that a lot of people who were incurious about Silicon Valley’s core dynamics, when Trump won and the tech company said, “Well, what’s up, dude? How you doing?” and kissed the ring at the tower, I think some people realized and woke up that that was because they were being naive. And some people realized or felt that they could make a career for the time being about how this suggests something new is happening in Silicon Valley.

Other people, and maybe Swisher is part of this group, realized: This, plus the techlash — the so called techlash that was happening, or in the moment of happening — suggested that there was going to be a critical shift, in at least the tone of journalism. That one could, as she has done over the years, she’s presented herself as hard hitting when she’s not, as a tough questioner or an interviewer when she’s not. And similarly, you could present yourself as a hard critic when you’re not. Or tough commentator when you’re not with the post-Silicon Valley-Trump collaboration. Much in the way that she did in general for tech. So I think part of it is that pivot, that revisionism, was an understanding that you don’t really have to do too much. In fact, you just have to do what you’ve been doing for a while, where you say one thing and you do another.

That for the most part, people will cover for you, because just looking at our two reviews — our two reviews, and maybe the New York Times reviews are probably the only negative reviews I’ve seen. If you look at them, I think at least our two mention a real life interview she does, and how she talks about it in the book. The disconnect is so large that you have to wonder why no one has done that. Maybe it’s because everyone just doesn’t see it. Or maybe everyone did think that that was very critical. Or maybe a lot of people are, like you said, personally connected and invested and owe something to her or are friends with her and don’t feel comfortable supporting a criticism of her, even if they might recognize that it’s valid.

So looking at that gulf between how she actually is in these interviews and how she’s covered and talked about, throwing softballs to people at the Code conference for years, and then being able to talk about it as if she’s a hard hitting journalist, and then seeing that the coverage of her is as a hard hitting journalist. I mean that helps fortify your mind, whether you’re cynical or not, that you don’t really need to change too much, that you’re on the right track. The most critical you get of Swisher — outside of these tech critics who are saying she’s part of the problem — is Swisher herself being like: Oh, well, sometimes — as she says at the end of the book — I was a camera; I was a little too envincing. I was a little eviscerating, but sometimes I was useful. I really liked how you put it when you talked about it, and sometimes you were in the camera, sometimes you were in the shot, spreading the propaganda with them.

Swisher’s attempt is to tap into the imagery of that early period, where she used to carry a camera around with her to these parties to suggest a sort of youthful naivete. There is youthful energy about it that she’s trying to connect to like: Oh, well, I missed some things for good reasons, I had the best intentions going into this, it just turns out that these people were hiding something behind the surface that I couldn’t capture, because I was just capturing the surface level. And that metaphor is a lot more correct than she understands. I think she was a superficial-level observer of technology for many years, realizes it, and also realizes that she can continue to like position herself as such but still get her flowers and still get her accolades, still get her access because she has forged ahead the path because of how unwilling people are to challenge and criticize her. Because of how she’s cultivated her network. And because it’s advantageous to everyone involved to pretend like she is. If you’re a chief executive, like: Whoa, whoa, look at me. I went on Kara Swisher’s show, the most feared tech journalist.

PM: I got asked the hard questions.

EO: Yes, got asked the hard questions. I don’t need to do all this other shit with actual journalists who would would put my feet to the fucking fire because it was with Swisher. So she plays a role in their ecosystem and their propaganda, in allowing them to also avoid confrontation on hostile interviews. I think about, for example, one version of this at The Verge. I think they had this interview with Dara Khosrowshahi, maybe four years ago, where he was like: Uber is going to be the operating system of your city. No pushback, though. No pushback at all.

PM: The Verge is also the go-to for a lot of Mark Zuckerberg’s softball interviews as well.

EO: And Google! In fact, didn’t they have an executive editor leave for one of Google’s divisions and he’s an executive at Google now. It’s like Dieter Storm or something like that.

PM: Dieter Bohn, I think.

EO: The executives know where to go, and will go there, because they understand there’s some dance, there’s some agreement. They’re not going to get hit over the fucking head, they’re not going to get shot in the back. There’s no ambush that’s really going to happen in a lot of these instances. And if there is, they’re not going to come back again. So, you have to preserve that access in one way or another. If you’re smart enough, if you’re a smart chief executive, you’re gonna go to the places that might seem like they’ll draw some blood, but in reality aren’t. And they’ll give you enough space to say something insane, like: We’re going to be the operating system for a city, or we’re engaged in a war with big taxi and the cartel, they’re just bullying a little old startup like us. You are going to be strategic about it. You’re not just gonna go there, because you’re like: Woah, I love journalism, and I want to support the third or fourth estate, whatever the fuck it is. No, you’re there, you’re the chief executive, because you’re looking for ways to ensure that you’re seeking profits. You’re doing your duty to your investors, you’re preserving your firm, and you’re somehow undermining competition, regulation, oversight. And what’s a great way to do it? Well, if Kara Swisher was actually a critical tech journalist it wouldn’t be going on her show at all, and yet, they’re all on the show.

I mean, it’s such a very simple thing to think about. Why is it that they all talk to her? It’s not because they love the game. It’s not because they love journalism. There are efforts by her to insist that it’s a game of sorts, that they’re there because they understood how it works. She ghost wrote for some conservative nut in the early 80s and 90s, who was a monster and sexually harassed a bunch of her colleagues. She basically gives away way the game and her worldview where she’s like: I kind of got along with him. I liked him because we understood that it was a game. That I despised him, but I liked him. I respected him, but I hated him.

PM: She also says that she publicly criticized him or spoke to a journalist about what he was up to. And she was like: He respected that.

EO: Yes, he was like: You stabbed me in the front! [laughs]. That’s how she views all of this. It’s a game. And I think she assumes other people think it’s a game and doesn’t stop to think: Oh, why are all these executives talking to me? Is it because of how smart I am? Is it because of how brilliant I am? Is it because of how much I get to the bottom of it, and they appreciate these things? She’s smart enough to maybe understand that it’s not, but her ego is large enough and she says it herself. It’s one of her points of pride. That’s someone who is a poison pill for journalism, just straight up, has been bad for journalism, has made tech journalism worse, has narrowed the standards and the ideas and the visions other people have had for journalism, and has infected a lot of people with this idea that digitization is inevitable and good. And even if she does this fake bullshit mea culpa in the book, it’s insufficient because the damage has been done.

PM: Well hopefully Ed, she’ll respect us stabbing her in the front, in this episode and in our reviews. I suspect she won’t because she has blocked me on Twitter. But Ed, always fantastic to speak with you, to dig into the issue of Kara Swisher, her attempt at a rebrand. But also what she tells us about tech journalism and the relationship between Silicon Valley and the journalism industry. These are all things we need to understand, especially if we want to better hold them to account and make sure people actually understand what these companies are doing and how their business models work. Always fantastic to speak with you about these things. Thanks so much.

EO: You too. Thanks for having me on.