In an era when coverage of President Donald Trump saturates the cable-news spectrum, viewers know they can turn to CNN to get the latest reactions from politicians and analysts. Increasingly, they’ve also been able to hear from some of the titans of Silicon Valley.
Laurie Segall has nabbed sit-downs with tech moguls like Apple’s Tim Cook and Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff at a time when such stuff would be the province of CNBC or a few business-news outlets (Cook has on occasion granted interviews to ABC News’ David Muir). Now Segall’s tech-news acumen will get a TV spotlight when CNN runs a special documentary report, “Facebook at 15: It’s Complicated,” which is scheduled to air Sunday February 10 at 9 p.m. eastern. The program features never-before-seen interviews with top Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.
Segall credits her ability to snare the interviews to a few simple facts. She’s been covering technology for a long time, and she’s tried to focus on the intersection between the new things companies like Facebook bring to society and their effect on the way we live.
“You feel a sense of responsibility to tell the human part of these stories,” says Segall, in an interview. “What is the cost of connecting the world? What were they thinking about, and where did they miss the most important lens you should look through for technology, which is the human lens?”
The documentary hits CNN’s TV schedule after the AT&T-owned news outlet has placed more of a spotlight on its online news operations CNN Money, the longtime business-news site that is part of CNN’s overall operations, recently was revamped as CNN Business, and the company has put a new emphasis on tech news as well.
Segall has logged a lot of time trying to understand what makes Silicon Valley work. She joined CNN out of college, working as a news assistant, writer and producer. She says she became interested in entrepreneurs at a moment when social media was in its infancy.
“I like to joke that I discovered the band before the band got cool,” she quips. “Around 2009 and 2010, I became obsessed with entrepreneurs,” she recalls. “When the smartphone became ubiquitous, these people were doing things differently. They were creating solutions to problems we didn’t know we have.”
In the special, CNN will present information and views on Facebook’s business practices and operations, relying on former employees, critics and political leaders, along with Faceboo’s own executives. Getting some sources to go on the record was challenging, Segall notes, and she also had to press for face time with people inside the company’s headquarters as well.
She feels like Facebook took CNN’s inquiries seriously. The company “gave us a decent amount of access,” she says. “You always have to push in these situations, but look, we have Mark Zuckeberg. We have Sheryl Sandberg. I’d say it’s really an extraordinary amount of access.”
The documentary’s debut presents something of a bittersweet moment for Segall, whose last day at CNN after working there for a decade. was Friday. “I couldn’t be more grateful to CNN for the support and encouragement I’ve had over the years,” she says, crediting Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, who “has been a mentor since he arrived and gave me a platform to cover technology and its growing responsibility.”
She will be covering the topic more in the near future. “I feel really strongly about this current moment in tech. It’s why I’m leaving to start my next chapter: a venture devoted to the intersection of technology and ethics. I’ll be sharing more details about it soon.”