New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles is one of few journalists covering the intersection of technology and culture.
At TechfestNW this morning, she described the San Francisco start-up culture: "Weird as shit and interesting and disturbing."
For the past few years, Bowles has been observing and writing about the tech boom she says started to take off the Bay Area around 2010. Originally a party reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bowles' reporting placed her in circles with burgeoning new start-up communities, and she was fascinated with what she saw and heard.
"I saw the beginning of something that was going to be enormously powerful," Bowles said of her early tech reporting days. "Smart people were flooding in with a lot of hubris and the idea that anyone with no experience could create anything. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, and intoxicating in its weirdness and absurdity."
While she's still entertained by the tech stories that she covers, Bowles says she's also begun to notice a shift in the Silicon Valley ethos.
"People are starting, very slowly and maybe a decade late," Bowles says, "to realize that the products they are building have a cultural impact, and maybe even a negative impact."
Bowles says that covering startups like traditional business stories isn't working because they need to be placed in context culturally.
"Some of it is upsetting," she says of her coverage of people like James Damore, and the Silicon Valley "Men's Rights Movement." "I'm a lesbian from San Fransicso, I'm not a men's rights activist, but I wrote about them in a straight way and people got really really mad that I would give them a platform."
While covering disturbing, absurd stories can be difficult, Bowles considers her calling to write things like she sees them.
"Race in tech is an appalling situation right now. I would love if that changed, but I don't see myself as an activist," she says. "I show things as they are, and that might disturb people enough to make change happen. "