David Smydra: Fast Break

It was one hell of a Q4 for my friend, former Twitter Curation Lead, David Smydra.

David has been at the forefront of assuring that tech platforms deliver personalized, high quality news by leading “humans in the loop,” journalists who bridge the gaps between editorial quality, product and audience development, and algorithmic design for more than a decade.

He grew up in Detroit, attended Kenyon College, UVA and Stanford. David spent fifteen years helping Google orient to news, is a Media Transformation Challenge and Harvard Nieman Fellow, and current President of the Online News Association’s Board of Directors.

So he was well equipped for the havoc Elon Musk wrecked on Twitter.

This week, David shares how an early love of math and ambition to author the Great American Novel informed his eventual roles at two of the biggest tech platforms on earth.

We talk about our sometimes similar, sometimes fraught experiences as journalists inside tech companies, including a discussion about Facebook’s Trending News fiasco – my very public, very painful brush with front-page bias allegations and Congressional inquiry.

And we hear firsthand what it was like when for David when the SpaceX and Tesla CEO showed up at Twitter at his place of now former employ.

David is unceasingly positive and unyieldingly optimistic throughout, and asks the right questions for these fraught times of polarization, inequality and anxiety.

“When there’s not an infrastructure for you, what are you gonna do?” he asks. “How are you still gonna get it done? How are we gonna find some third or fourth way outside of the conventional path?”

Listen to the Friends & Neighbors Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get yours. 

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