On Quora, Journalism and Disintermediation

February 10, 2011 § 73 Comments

By: Kim-Mai Cutler

When I turned down my parents’ Tiger Mom-like ambitions in favor of journalism years ago, the technology and media industries were worlds apart.

The best-known tech companies of my parents’ generation were plodding giants. Take Your Daughter to Work Day was kind of like this video of Conan O’Brien visiting Intel. Drab, gray cubicles. Rows of thousands of people staring endlessly into glowing black screens with command-line interfaces. It seemed draining and bureaucratic.

At the time, many news organizations could still afford to have foreign correspondents. I admired reporters like Anthony Shadid, who is writing from Cairo this week with a historical perspective, eloquence and empathy that few in the Western world can match.

Today, the worlds have switched places. Jobs like Shadid’s have all but disappeared. Now reporters are the ones who must stare into screens, hunting the confines of Tweetdeck or Quora for an extra nugget of insight or a quick hit that can meet their pageview goals.

Technologists are the ones who are giving voices to the voiceless and are able to tie people in distant corners of the world together in profound ways. On Instagram, I follow a young woman from Kazakhstan who one day randomly started following me. I see the world through her eyes – what it’s like to stand on the docks by the Caspian Sea, how the snows in Aktau still have yet to recede. I know that she has a long scar on her left-arm. From what? I have no idea. She says, “Sometimes it saves me.”
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