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Tech talk with trans journalist Ina Fried
by Sarah Toce
2014-12-24

This article shared 6846 times since Wed Dec 24, 2014
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After spending a decade at CNET, where she reported on Microsoft and Apple during the Hewlett Packard-Compaq merger period of computing, Re/code's Ina Fried is finally comfortable in her own skin. "I worked as a male for 10 years and I'd been at my job at CNET for three or four years when I transitioned there," Fried revealed.

Fried has been vocal in the media about her transition. In a CNET article dated Aug. 22, 2008, the Miami University of Ohio alum shared, "In the real world, I changed my gender from male to female a few years back and haven't looked back. But on Wikipedia, my pronouns seem to be changing all the time. In the last few weeks, there's been a debate as to whether 'he' or 'she' should be used on my page with different volunteer editors taking opposite positions on whether I am entitled to use female pronouns. After several days of being 'he' on Wikipedia, I was pleased Thursday to see that my pronouns had reverted back to the gender with which I identify."

In a Metro Weekly interview two days earlier on Aug. 20, 2008, Fried spoke about transitioning at work. "Transitioning here, people were very accommodating," she said. "But not everyone had familiarity with transgender issues. Other employees had transitioned, but what was new was someone in the newsroom, someone facing the public. One of my big concerns was that my gender would become the story. As journalists, we don't want to become the story. But I was able to go back to doing my job. My gender hasn't been an issue. I get lots of unfriendly email, but mostly from people who feel one way or another about Apple or Microsoft."

Six years later, Fried is still making a name for herself in the world of news—for something other than being transgender.

"One of the great opportunities I have as an open, out, visible transgender journalist is to be open and out and visible talking about things other than the fact that I'm transgender," said Fried. "It's still fairly rare for transgender people to be in the media for things other than being transgender. Thankfully, that's starting to change. One of the great joys I have is being able to go on CNBC to talk about Windows 10, like I did this morning."

Even with careful planning, overlap is oftentimes inevitable.

"There are issues where technology and the fields that I cover and LGBT issues overlap. And certainly, I don't see myself as an activist—and I'm not even an LGBT beat writer—but that doesn't mean that I'm not more sensitive and aware of issues that affect our community," said Fried. "I'm a sports fan—so I will write about the technology in sports; I will write about how LGBT issues are impacted by transgender issues, and I will encourage our staffers to do it so it doesn't have to be me."

A longtime member of the tech community, Fried recently shifted into a new position.

"I've been covering technology now for 15 years. What's really changed in the last four years is that I joined AllThingsD [in operation from 2007-2013] and then, as of Jan. 1, we went independent and became Re/code," Fried said.

Did the team stay together through the transition, so to speak?

"The same team is together, but we were owned by the Wall Street Journal, now we're an independent company with NBCUniversal as a minority investor," Fried said.

The team Fried references includes Co-CEOs Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the helm. Mossberg authored the weekly "Personal Technology" column in the Wall Street Journal for 22 years from 1991-2013. The prestigious Business News Luminaries inductee was the first technology writer to be awarded the Loeb award for Commentary. For her part, tech giant Swisher began covering digital issues for the Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau in 1997. The "Google Gal" is also a winner of the Loeb award for her coverage of Yahoo. She is the author of aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web [Times Business Books, July 1998].

Re/code is owned by independent media company Revere Digital LLC. Minority investors and strategic partners in Revere are the aforementioned NBCUniversal News Group and Terry Semel's Windsor Media.

As with any independently-owned company, the concerted effort of the group pays off exponentially when all parts are greased up and working cohesively.

"We have a mobile conference coming up at the end of this month [Code Conference]. We really view that as an extension of our journalism, so it's a chance to get the biggest names in our industry on stage and really have a serious conversation. We call it live journalism."

Live journalism has taken on a life of its own in Fried's case.

"It turns out this morning I was on CNBC talking, later this month we'll be onstage interviewing people … so I'm still definitely doing journalism, but it's certainly a broader type of journalism than I might have imagined when I started out 20 years ago as an intern covering city council meetings," she said.

Tech conferences may be the wave of the future, according to Fried.

"Conferences can be lucrative for media companies, and in this day and era of journalism, if you want to do good journalism you have to have a business model that pays for it; and one of the things that I really admire about Walt and Kara is that they are committed to every bit of the ethical standards of journalism, but they're also great entrepreneurs. Our conferences are great places, lots of news gets made there, we bring together people that you don't see anywhere else, and it's a good business. And both of those things are important to the future of journalism," Fried shared. "I really noticed, even when I was just coming out of school, where the industry was headed. I saw that the technology was going online, but I also saw that the business of journalism was changing, and I definitely have tried to go to places that were experimenting with both sides of those."

Surprisingly little has changed for Re/code since venturing off on its own accord. One thing that has been altered, however, is the manpower.

"I think what's great is that we've been able to grow. Our staff has increased considerably. Just since January 1, we've added a number of reporters, a number of top editors, so we're basically able to do more than we were before," Fried said. "I think in this era where everyone is trying to do more with less, that's probably the case for a lot of incumbents, but it need not be the case for all of journalism. If we're always just trying to do more with less, we're doing it wrong. We have to find the growth in our industry or we can't do our job."

Growth results in sustainability in the field of journalism, and Re/code appears to take this concept with the weight it beckons.

"We're always looking at 'How can we do this?' 'How can we do more of what we're doing?' 'What can we do better?' And I think that self-reflection and willingness to not question that just because something worked yesterday means it's going to work tomorrow is really important. NBC's a great partner, but they're not our owner," Fried said. "When we were part of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and News Corp. owned us and we were a part of that larger company. Now we have a very healthy and great partnership; we go on CNBC all the time, they come to our conferences, we've done stuff with The Today Show and Nightly News, and I think there will be more of that, and we're really partners in every sense of that word. Walt, Kara and the team are actually deciding where we're going next, how we're going to grow."

Swisher and her wife Megan Smith, who are the parents of two children, recently made a huge announcement: President Barack Obama named Smith to become the next United States Chief Technology Officer ( CTO ). Fried told us the news barely affected Re/code.

"It really hasn't at all. I mean, Megan was a top executive at Google before [the announcement] and we wrote about Google. One of the things that Kara pioneered was the idea early on of being very clear in our disclosures of our ties—I mean, we all have ties in our lives, we all overlap. Kara found her pathway of covering Google. We're certainly not going to stop covering the United States. We didn't stop covering Google and we're not going to stop covering the United States," Fried said.

Catch up with Ina Fried via Re/code at recode.net/author/ina-fried .


This article shared 6846 times since Wed Dec 24, 2014
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