He’s been called “arguably the most powerful arbiter of consumer tastes” in personal technology. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer have sought out his opinion. And profiles from the height of his influence in the mid-aughts, linger droolingly on his substantial compensation. But Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s lead technology writer, began his career as a journalist in what might be thought of as the anti-capital of the digital age: Detroit.
After graduating from Columbia’s J-school in 1970, Moss was hired as reporter for the Journal, where he’s been ever since. He started off covering the auto industry in Detroit, then moved to Washington, where he reported on labor, energy, and national security. In 1991, he started writing “Personal Technology,” a weekly WSJ column that he conceived of and created while the personal computer was still in its toddlerdom. In the column, Mossberg reviews new products and analyzes issues that affect the industry—from the perspective of the consumer.
Along with his WSJ colleague Kara Swisher, Mossberg founded and hosts the Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, CA. The annual conference brings together technologists, and climaxes with a prominent industry leader or leaders being interviewed by Mossberg and Swisher on stage. (The most famous of these sessions was the joint interview of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.) The two columnists also co-edit the All Things Digital website.
From the now-famous first line of his first column—“Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault”—Mossberg has been demanding that companies build with the user in mind. And technologists, by their own testimonials, have listened, sometimes incorporating Mossberg’s criticisms and suggestions into their product designs. When it comes to personal technology of the past two decades, Walt Mossberg has been the most influential journalist writing, and the first consumer among equals.