I thought about writing a traditional “bio” here, but that seems like a waste of a home page. It’s all on LinkedIn. Instead of my work history, here’s my work philosophy:
I believe that whether you’re writing for a behemoth or a small publication, the practice of journalism is the same. At the heart of most good articles is a truth that someone never wanted exposed.
I talk to people who want to see the real story told and then I look for ways to make that happen. Usually, those people start out afraid of the powerful interests working against them. But when they go through with it, I have yet to meet someone who regretted it. The powerful are less scary when people know the truth about them.
Often in my industry, the “traffic” an article gets is seen as an end goal. I don’t believe it should be. Good journalism results in good traffic, but so does bad journalism. What motivates me is not the traffic a story might generate, but the difference it might make in people’s lives. Vicky Triponey, the whistleblower who helped reveal the truth about then Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, wrote this after the article was published:
“I just wanted to send a quick follow up note to say thank you . . . for being such a professional and a pleasure to work with and for helping me to gain the courage to break my silence. … You have certainly reminded us of the power of the press and demonstrated why good journalism is so vital in our world today!!!”
Niniane Wang, who helped expose sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, had this to say:
“Reed, when you were asking me to go on the record, you said that this article might turn out to be a positive force in my life. I thought that was a laughable concept … But in fact, your prediction is exactly what has happened. This article has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It has changed the way that I view myself. I now have ironclad confidence that when the going gets tough, I’m able to stand up.”
People often ask me why I write for The Information. Here’s my answer in three parts.
- I have seen first-hand how powerful journalism, in the age of the internet, always finds its way to the correct audience and makes an impact, no matter how small the publication that produced it. The Information’s impact on sexual harassment in Silicon Valley in the summer of 2017 is one example.
- Business models never used to matter in journalism. But in the age of digital advertising, business models are everything. Unlike print ads, digital ads only earn revenue if someone clicks on an article. If revenue comes from clicks, then content will be designed to generate the maximum number of clicks at the minimum cost. That’s not journalism. The Information is one of just a few publications that do not accept advertising so it can stay focused on quality journalism. Working for a digital publication that has found a way to profitability without advertising is refreshing. Being part of its growth is fulfilling.
- I always try to remember that a publication’s biggest responsibility is to its readers. The Information’s readers will call us out on our mistakes and they will stop paying us if they think our journalism isn’t up to par. They keep the bar high and constantly raise it on us. If our readers were nameless, faceless personas on social media who clicked on our articles without paying, it would be a whole different story, literally.
When I die, I don’t think I’m going to regret not spending more time on Twitter or trying to become a bigger media personality. If I think of my career, I’ll remember the handful of articles I wrote that helped people.
Here’s a little more about my background that goes a little deeper than LinkedIn:
Born in Minneapolis, I graduated from San Diego State University, where I was a reporter, humor columnist and editor for The Daily Aztec and a member of the school’s NCAA Div II hockey team.
I’m an out-of-shape Category 2 bike racer who owns too many bicycles and loves to ride around the roads, single track and fire roads of Marin County when I’m not spending time with my wife and two young children.
I joined The Wall Street Journal in 2003 as a news assistant, I answered phones, sorted mail and made travel arrangements for top editors. I majored in journalism in college, but I learned a lot more by overhearing conversations between top editors like Joanne Lipman, Paul Steiger, Barney Calame, Steve Adler and Dan Hertzberg, who used to plan the next day’s paper within earshot of my cubicle.
I had hoped to be a Middle East correspondent, but somehow I ended up being a founding member of the WSJ’s sports page. It turned out to be a lucky break. I got to work under the amazing Sam Walker.
My biggest story came in May 2010, when, I broke the story that Floyd Landis, an estranged teammate of Lance Armstrong, had detailed a massive doping program in emails he sent to a small group of cycling officials. The news sent shockwaves around the sports world and led to a two-year federal investigation. My colleague Vanessa O’Connell and I spent a year digging into the story and getting the scoop on every major development. The reporting led to our bestselling book, “Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, The Tour de France and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever.”
Sports was a great beat for learning how to do investigative journalism. My in-depth article about the troubled Cincinnati Bengals stadium deal led to changes in the Los Angeles City Council’s own stadium negotiations. My investigative piece on a former Penn State administrator’s clashes with football coach Joe Paterno shed light on the child molestation scandal that rocked the school. While reporting on the Vancouver Olympics, I was the first to reveal how the construction of the luge track there was driven by commercial interests at the expense of safety, ultimately leading to the athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death.And in 2009, I broke the news of a secret deal in 2007 between Tiger Woods and the National Enquirer that made it possible for Woods to protect his image by suppressing exposure of his infidelity.
Some stories were lighthearted. For instance, I wrote about secret video footage the NFL doesn’t want its fans to see, which led the NFL to change its policy and offer the footage to its fans. One of my favorites was finding a video – hidden for 25 years – showing the First ever slam dunk in a women’s college basketball game. I discovered the NFL’s first and only vegan, wide receiver who catches with his eyes closed and a Wall Street Banker who started riding a bike for fun and became a pro. I also produced several popular online videos. My series “The Olympics: How Hard Can it Be?” was featured in Sports Illustrated and shown in national TV broadcasts and at NHL games.
I spent a year and a half covering white-collar crime for the WSJ, covering FBI and SEC investigations into insider trading and other financial crime. I spent part of that time writing a book.
At the end of 2013, I moved to San Francisco to cover technology for The Wall Street Journal, where I focused on Facebook and sometimes wrote about the darker side of the world’s biggest social network.
In 2015, I took a risk and joined The Information, a journalism startup founded about a year earlier by a former colleague and friend, Jessica Lessin.
It turned out to be a great decision. The Information has given me the time and freedom to pursue stories that have changed the conversation in Silicon Valley.
This past summer, a single article I wrote about sexual harassment sparked a massive change. Before the article ran, the women who went on the record were afraid their careers would be hurt but they spoke out anyway. But when the article published, they were instead treated like heroes. Big names in Silicon Valley chimed in and called for wholesale change. It felt like a dam had broken. Later that year, more women spoke out about Harvey Weinstein and the “Me Too” movement was born. As the father of a young daughter, that work was the most meaningful of my career.