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'Greater Focus on Technology's Human Impact': Sisi Wei Named New Editor-in-Chief of The Markup

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This morning, Markup, a non-profit investigative journalism organization covering big tech, announced: Sisi Way I will be the new editor-in-chief.

Markup was launched in 2020 (after some issues) to explore the social impact of technology and algorithms. We publish all our data and code and have found interesting ways to report platforms that we do not publish through initiatives such as the Citizen Browser project.

OpenNews co-executive director Wei succeeds founder Julia Angwin Currently a general editor of markup. Her first day is Monday, August 22nd.

I caught up with Wei about her experience at ProPublica and OpenNews and how founding the DEI Coalition Slack brought her to the markup. Questions and answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Hana Tammys: What made you join Markup?

Sisi Way: When I first started talking to Nabiha Syed, CEO of The Markup, I already had a deep respect for both her and the organization, but I was also very happy with my role at OpenNews, and I was very pleased with the editorial. I had no interest in becoming a chief. But the more we talked, the more I felt Markup was a good fit for all the different types of experiences I’ve had throughout my career. Not only that, but it was also a great opportunity to really make an impact and bring a very rare skill set to a leadership role within the industry. I started asking a million questions.

Tammys: Why markup? Why now?

Wei: I said earlier that this is a rare skill for an editor-in-chief. Over the years, I’ve done the core research, data analysis, writing, editing, and coding work for The Markup. Just as we inspected the code that websites are built on and detected cheating, we’ve been racking our brains with coding problems that seemed unsolvable. I have designed and edited visual journalism that conveys the emotional significance of an issue in seconds. This is the same as creating tools to democratize the data that all members of the public should have the right to see and use. I also look at journalism from a broader perspective, to think critically about how newsrooms should operate and how we best serve and listen to our communities. Marrying all these experiences together made sense.

Why now, The Markup’s technical accountability scope addresses one of the most important and urgent issues of our time. Technology is ubiquitous in so many people’s lives, and the need to delve deeper into what the technology we use every day is actually doing is often without real consent. What we haven’t given much thought to is how tech accountability is also included in many other types of reporting. These include Labor Compensation, Climate Change Compensation, Medical Compensation, Criminal Justice Compensation, and Immigration Compensation. Every system in our society uses technology and I assure you that you are not using technology in a way that is harmful. You can bet on

Tammys: How has your work at OpenNews taught you how to approach your role at The Markup?

Tammys: What are your plans for coverage? What kinds of stories would you like The Markup to do more? What do you think about coverage in terms of big tech regulatory momentum?

Wei: When it comes to reporting, especially for investigative nonprofits that serve the public, our work is about where we have reason to believe the most harm is done, who is affected, and who is affected. Focus on what real-world impact you can have in your case. We publish it and focus our time and resources on covering those stories and building public resources and tools to address them.

When it comes to covering big tech, we can’t be limited to a few powerful companies. We also have to include the invisible tech companies in the name, the algorithms that are becoming literal bosses, and the glitched apps that ICE uses to track immigrants.

I also have my own thoughts on high-impact reporting, but by and large, the best parts of high-impact journalism don’t come from editors. They came from reporters. I work to shape and hone my reporting, so I don’t make decisions without first hearing what reporters now consider to be essential reporting.

Tammys: What do you think markup has achieved so far? Where do you see room for improvement?

Wei: Markup is a very important and unique organization. Because we know in our DNA that we journalists need to have our own technical expertise to hold strong institutions accountable, especially when it comes to the technology that powerful institutions produce. . The Markup journalists then not only showcase their work, but also create tools like Blacklight and Amazon Brand Detector. These tools literally take the hidden layers of technology we encounter using the internet and make them obvious and obvious to everyone. look. Our incredible team of journalists also includes some of the most fragmentary, most detailed, and thorough reporters working in the field today.

It’s our job to look to the future and build on that great foundation. Markup is proving that it can tell important stories about technology, especially for lawmakers and regulators. We are pleased to bring greater focus to the impact of technology on humans. Our research shows that, in addition to what regulators can do, an equal effort to communicate to the public how what is going on is affecting them and what they can do about it. In addition, we are working with other newsrooms and partners to ensure that The Markup’s great journalism reaches where its audience is, and is harmed by the abuse we report. We are excited to build a truly deep relationship with the community. , and make sure our work really serves and reaches them.

Tammys: How do you plan to incorporate your work and learning from the DEI Coalition Slack into The Markup?

Wei: The DEI Coalition Slack is dedicated to sharing knowledge and taking concrete action for a more anti-racist, fair and just journalism industry. These are the values ​​I get from both the Slack and OpenNews communities, and what I bring to my markup and every decision I make.

One of the key ingredients in building a culture of belonging is trust. It also takes time to build and nurture. Our work and processes are never complete to ensure a collaborative, psychologically safe and impartial newsroom filled with diverse experiences and opinions.Markup and other newsrooms are their own world It can’t be because it’s not operated by We are all affected by the world around us and how its systems and other people treat us. We never cease to actively seek, engage and listen for better approaches to everything we do, both from our colleagues across the industry.

Tammys: Julia Angwin has built Markup as a technology watchdog over the last few years. What are your thoughts on her original vision for the project? What will be your working relationship with her?
Wei: I was at ProPublica when Julia and Jeff [Larson] I left to start markup and I still remember how great and on point I thought their vision was. There was an incredible need for an investigative journalism organization with data and coding chops dedicated to monitoring technology, and they built it. I still remember. This is one of my all-time favorite studies, not only because it proved how biased the technology used was, but because it showed the devastating impact it had. to people’s lives. Needless to say, I think Julia’s vision is great. We’ll just take it further — how can we reach out to communities that don’t read our markup but whose lives are affected by the harm we’re exposing? What information does the community need to hold techies accountable? What tools can we give the general public? Can you be the primary place to get it?

Julia is the founder and editor of The Markup. She also wears so many different hats, from investigative reporter to editor to manager to startup founder. Once she officially embarks on her new role, she will have a thorough discussion and decide what makes the most sense.

Tammys: what are you most excited about? What challenges do you foresee?

Wei: As The Markup continues its strong focus on true impact and begins working more deeply with communities to hold powerful institutions and algorithms accountable, we will all be empowered with the information and tools we need to make a difference. I can’t wait to offer it to the general public.

The challenge is also clear. We are looking to hire in bulk and quickly. You have to do it in a quick and fair way, and it takes a lot of time just by quantity to get it right. That’s one of the reasons we’ve launched an all-new jobs newsletter for people interested in working at The Markup and wanting to be notified as soon as we post new jobs. The odds of hiring editors, reporters, data journalists, journalist engineers, etc. are very high. We share newsletters at the same time to learn more so that as many applicants as possible learn about our jobs and are encouraged to apply.