I’m a longtime reporter specializing in enterprise and investigative work. I also do radio and podcast reporting and production because I love talking into microphones. Check out my resume.
The Promise and Peril of Smart City Surveillance Tech in a Crisis
Fast Company, March 2020
As countries scramble to respond to the pandemic, many have turned to surveillance in the name of public health. But when does tracking people’s movements go too far?
Stalled in Portland, Replica Mobility Data Project Lacks Transparency
Fast Company, March 2020
In Portland, former Sidewalk Labs firm Replica wants to inform government policy. But the company won’t reveal detail about how it sources data, how it builds its algorithmic system or even provide a full report of its privacy audit to the city despite city requests. This story, based on documents and emails from a FOIA request I made in November 2019, is my latest in an ongoing reporting series about Portland’s use of Replica’s promising but controversial city planning technology. Find my other Replica-related stories in Geekwire and here on RedTail.
Colleges Say Bus Program Doesn’t Help Low-income Students
WBFO Buffalo, March 2020 (Audio and Digital)
I reported and produced this digital and radio piece about Buffalo’s transit authority college bus pass program and how it doesn’t work for some schools and their low-income students.
A Church’s Bold Move to Normalize Opioid Overdose Drug
WBFO Buffalo, February 2020 (Audio and Digital)
When Western New York’s Erie County offered free wall boxes filled with Narcan, the opioid overdose recovery drug, I wanted to know where they were going. One destination was particularly surprising: a church in the affluent Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. A focus on this unlikely Narcan recipient, and a church member who lost her daughter to an overdose, illustrated the sprawling impact of the opioid epidemic in the region. I reported and produced this digital and radio piece.
Cryptocurrency firm in Plattsburgh fights $1 million electric charge
North Country Public Radio, January 2020 (Audio and Digital)
A visit to Massena, New York for an NPR story led me to uncover some unreported tidbits about crypto mining firm Coinmint, a firm operating there and in another North Country city, Plattsburgh. It turned out Coinmint had been in an ongoing legal battle in an attempt to evade paying over $1 million owed to Plattsburgh’s electric utility. And, the firm’s former local landlord told me the company had been evicted from its previous Plattsburgh location. I had the pleasure of co-reporting this with NCPR’s Emily Russell, who was on the ground in Plattsburgh.
Shuttered Factories Reborn as Data Centers
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, December 2019 (Audio)
I visited a former aluminum plant converted to a data center in Massena, New York for this NPR Morning Edition story about people there affected by the demise of manufacturing jobs and introduction of this high-tech facility.
New York Just Set a ‘Dangerous Precedent’ on Algorithms, Experts Warn
CityLab, December 2019
For CityLab, I reported about an initiative in New York City intended to guide policy for government use of algorithmic technologies, what critics believe went wrong, and what they think other cities can learn from the arguably flawed effort. This was a follow-up to my earlier reporting on RedTail about problems with the project.
Meat Raffles Aren’t Just About The Meat In This New York Community
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, November 2019 (Audio and Digital)
I love taking a break from the hard-hitting stuff. I had a blast at a meat raffle at the Polish Falcon’s Hall near Buffalo, New York. Here’s a taste of what it was like.
Converting a Coal Power Plant to a Data Center: Political Ties and a Spotty Track Record
Investigative Post and WBFO, October 2019 (Audio and Digital)
I investigated proposals to convert the last two coal power plants in New York State to data centers. My stories illuminated noteworthy ties between the private equity giant that owned the plants, Blackstone Group, and the Cuomo administration, which was in talks to provide state subsidies to fund the project. I also uncovered the firm’s spotty track record on a similar project in Montana, where it still owes the city of Hardin $2.5 million in back taxes. A companion piece explored the unlikely support of these data centers from environmental groups including Sierra Club, and explores whether the facilities really are clean energy projects at all. I also produced this companion audio story for Buffalo’s NPR affiliate WBFO.
These Companies Claim to Provide “Fair Trade” Data Work. Do They?
MIT Technology Review, August 2019
I wrote this enterprise/investigative piece about companies aiming to turn a profit while promising to provide fair trade data labor services to the cutthroat AI industry.
Why Old School Government Procurement Needs a Rewrite for AI Tech
Privacy Tech, February 2019
AI technologies can inform government policy and even make government decisions. Some say that means governments need new ways to evaluate these technologies that go beyond the traditional procurement process. This is one of many stories I’ve reported about AI, tech and data privacy ethics issues for IAPP’s Privacy Tech.
The Credentialed: A Podcast Amplifying Diverse Voices in Tech
While working as content strategy partner at consultancy SalientMG, I developed and launched The Credentialed podcast, an interview series featuring women and underrepresented minorities in tech and innovation. I booked guests, scripted, hosted and co-produced this show with Will Romey at XRAY.fm in Portland.
Covering the Data Industry for Advertising Age
I worked as a staff reporter covering the data industry for Ad Age from 2012-2017
The $24 Billion Data Business that Telcos Don’t Want to Talk About
To this day, there has been very little investigation of the role telcos play in distributing mobile phone user data throughout the data ecosystem. This story exposed this opaque, emerging business telcos had been operating, and introduced several startups working between telcos and data purchasers.
A Data Lab Rat in the Big City: Why Trackers Couldn’t Trap This City Dweller
This was a story I still can’t believe I made happen. Years before the New York Times investigated how the mobile location data sector operates, I was writing regularly about it for Ad Age. To pull off this investigative project, I spent months attempting to collaborate with companies in the space. I wanted them to give me my data, to show me how they were tracking me, and how they were able to match an array of personally-identifiable information about me using “data keys,” pieces of data tied to an anonymized string of location data used to discover my home address, and more. Ad Age hired a wonderful artist for custom illustration for this story, too.
Location Tracking and the Trouble with Opting In
The uses of consumers’ movements have already gone beyond our expectations. But not even the practitioners of the craft always know exactly where their data originates, or how. Marketers, ad exchanges, data aggregators and ad service providers are generally aware that some location data comes directly or indirectly from mobile apps, but an attempt to trace the connections back to specific apps exposes an increasing lack of control coupled with willful ignorance.
Why Obama’s Data Could Be Too Much for Many Dem Candidates
I have spent years building relationships with political campaign sources on both sides of the aisle. This story delved into the reality of the prized “Obama data” that was all the rage after his final presidential campaign.
How the Trump Camp’s Data Inexperience Helped Propel His Win
This headline may be deceiving, but the point here was that because the Trump campaign had such a late start to the data game, the RNC and several data firms stepped in to pick up the slack. While much of the Trump campaign data focus, rightfully so, has been on Cambridge Analytica, several other data operations worked behind the scenes to support his campaign. This story involved difficult investigative reporting only possible through my years of building trust with political data sources and Republican operatives.
Several more of my Ad Age articles can be found here.
Cambridge Analytica? Yep
I covered Cambridge Analytica’s role in the U.S. 2016 presidential race throughout the election cycle, long before the Facebook scandal broke. All of those stories can be found in this compendium.
Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media
Coupling my extensive research with information gleaned from campaign insiders, this 2009 book told the story of the most advanced political digital marketing campaigns in history. Copies still sell and are available for purchase on Amazon.
The Political Ad Practice Insiders Want to Keep Secret
I was among the first reporters to cover the use of data and digital media by political campaigns since as far back as 2002. In 2009, I exposed how voter information was collected by the Republican and Democratic Parties and merged with databases run by AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft to create targeted digital advertising campaigns.
Exclusive NY Event Helped Digital Advertisers Meet Mitch McConnell
This is another example of my data-reporter approach to enterprise stories. Publicly-available information is a treasure trove.
Other Original Audio Programs
Does Tech Care about Portland Culture?
XRAY.fm, September 2016
When I moved to Portland in 2014, I soon realized that the musicians, artists and other culture creators who had helped establish Portland as the unique destination it is today were being priced out of living here. And, speaking to friends in that community, it became clear that some believed tech industry employees earning much higher wages than others here were seen as culprits, driving up the cost of rentals, homes, and other expenses. What did tech think about it? This was my attempt to find out. I reported, scripted, narrated, produced and edited this piece – the first time I tried my hand at audio editing software.
I also wrote the zine-inspired program for Portland City Hall’s Dead Moon Night event in 2017 and co-wrote the official proclamation commemorating each October 17 as Dead Moon Night in Portland. You’ll find those here also.
Commentary and Analysis
When the Trump White House unveiled a flimsy executive order on AI, followed by a Pentagon AI strategy which emphasized investment and competition over ethics, I wrote this opinion piece for GovTech about it.
Degrassi, Fake News and Why We Need Media Literacy More than Ever
Yep, just like the kids of Degrassi, what we need are tools for engaging intelligently with media, deciphering its origins and processing it.
John McCain’s digital transparency bill probably would’ve gotten his 2008 campaign in trouble
McCain’s 2008 campaign went out of its way to disclose as little as possible about its web ads.
Portland’s Tony Robbins Event Uncovered an Infinity Loop of Self-Help Shlock
“In today’s world nobody pays attention to you unless you make a big promise.”
Oregon Public Radio’s Think Out Loud, 2019:
I discussed Portland’s use of mobile location software from controversial Google-sibling Sidewalk Labs on OPB.
Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, 2014:
Despite all the in-depth reporting I’m truly proud of, the time I got to go on Weekend Edition to talk to Scott Simon about Buzzfeed quizzes was a true pinnacle of my career.
WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, 2014
I appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show to discuss why I let data firms track me for my Data Lab Rat investigation, a true honor as a longtime WNYC listener.
On the Media, 2013
I spoke with Bob Garfield about a Senate attempt to uncover what data brokers know.
A Cookbook (Sort of)
The Punk Rock Kitchen Presents Cookie Chaos!
In 2004, I published a true labor of love (and kookiness). The Punk Rock Kitchen Presents Cookie Chaos! was my punk rock-themed cookie cook-booklet written under pseudonym Connie Sewer. This mini cookbook featured six original cookie recipes, each with a punk rock theme and suggested listening tune. It came with a copper electric guitar cookie cutter. Amazingly, people liked this ridiculous idea and over 800 were sold across the globe (with much thanks to Bitch Magazine).