Taming tech: Kara Swisher teaches J-School students how to report on Silicon Valley

Kara Swisher on campus as part of the Wojcicki Lectureship Series (Photo by UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)

Journalists must be more skeptical of the tech sector, UC Berkeley journalism Dean Ed Wasserman says. To help fill that void, the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley has invited Kara Swisher, one of the nation’s most respected tech reporters, to share insights and wisdom with the next generation of reporters and editors as the inaugural speaker of the Esther Wojcicki Lectureship.

Swisher – the executive editor and co-founder of the technology news website Recode, host of the Recode Decode podcast and author of two books about AOL – has been writing about the digital economy since 1997 and is considered one of the most influential journalists covering Silicon Valley.

“Kara is someone the school has known and admired for years,” says Wasserman. “She exemplifies a sophisticated, hard-nosed style of reporting that is both appropriately adversarial and reflects a deep understanding of the industry she’s covering. She’s the kind of reporter that is not beholden to anybody.”

Swisher has been on campus this week teaching master classes, exposing students to the finer points of reporting, including techniques for handling adversarial interviews. Accompanying Swisher have been authors and editors from some of tech’s prominent news outlets, including Wired, Recode, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed and The New York Times.

On Thursday (March 1), she will deliver the first Wojcicki lecture — “Can Silicon Valley be tamed?” — an examination of pressing tech issues, including monopolies, gender bias, privacy destruction and global disinformation. A conversation with Swisher and Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times will follow. The event is open to the public, but an RSVP is required by the end of today (February 28).

For Wasserman and the J-School, tech reporting is an area ripe for emphasis.

“I like to think that [Swisher’s lectureship] is part of a more concerted and sustained outreach that will burnish our credentials as a place where coverage of Silicon Valley and coverage of tech is part of our curriculum,” says Wasserman. “I think we’re well-positioned to respond to that and to help lead.”

The week-long Esther Wojcicki Lectureship, named after a Berkeley journalism alumna and current member of the school’s advisory board, is intended to bring industry leaders to campus to teach classes, invite other guest speakers and deliver a public lecture. The annual lectures are funded by a gift from the Taube Philanthropies.

“This lectureship a gift to the students,” says Wasserman. “We hope that they like it.”