Conversationalist 1: Robin Miller
Conversationalist 2: Elise Ackerman
During the dot-com boom, I interviewed Robin during his role as editor-in-chief of Slashdot.org, a trailblazing publication that produced “news for nerds.” I knew Robin was a smart and savvy technologist, but I didn’t know that he started out, like I did, at writing for an alternative weekly, in his case one in Baltimore. Robin was known as the mad-man reporter, the guy who the police respected so much they let him into crime scenes. At one point he interviewed 500 people in order to figure out how much crime in Baltimore was not reported to the police. It turned out that as much as 70 percent of crimes were not reflected in official statistics. Then he made the mistake of writing about the digital divide and fell into technology reporting. He ended up as the gadget guy on morning television and then was offered the gig at Slashdot.
Slashdot had layoffs recently and Robin is reinventing himself again as a videographer and working on some business plans. Right now half of his work is commercial production and the other half is reporting he does for himself. He said, “I’m trying to figure out how to make money so that I can turn reporting into a hobby.” He also said the only thing that mattered is telling interesting stories. Five years from now he thinks citizen journalists will be paid. He believes journalists of the future will work out of shitty home offices, feel good about themselves and have great sex.
My reaction: I loved talking to Robin, who tells the kind of wonderful stories that drew me into journalism back in the late 1980s. Like Robin, I’m also worried about how professional journalists are going to eat during the next five years.