Media-Tech Star ‘Special Characters’ Goes to Press
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Media-Tech Star ‘Special Characters’ Goes to Press

Native Atlantan Laurie Segall tapped her years at CNN and now founder of her own company to craft her groundbreaking “tech titan” experiences into a memoir, “Special Characters.”

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Lauren Segall’s latest book, “Special Characters,” is a fascinating read. She puts it all out there, including growing up in Atlanta.
Lauren Segall’s latest book, “Special Characters,” is a fascinating read. She puts it all out there, including growing up in Atlanta.

You may have seen Laurie Segall alongside Anderson Cooper, Gayle King or Wolf Blitzer. Now the native Atlantan dishes on all of it in her new book, “Special Characters: My Adventures with Tech Titans and Misfits.”

Segall takes the reader on a journey from her years as a national media tech journalist to founding Dot Dot Dot, a news and entertainment company that “explores the intersection of tech and humanity.”

Segall first gained notoriety by identifying and interviewing founders of disruptive tech companies like Uber and Facebook when they were still “baby-faced.”

“I think people will be surprised at how personal the book is,” she told the AJT. “Although it’s about tech, it’s very human. … Surprises include a Silicon Valley swingers party, a robot engagement party and a scene where I interact with a digital copy of myself in the form of a text message bot.”

Segall attended Holy Innocents School in Sandy Springs before going to the University of Michigan. She paid her dues at CNN, carving out several niches for herself.

As a youth, Segall attended Holy Innocents Episcopal School where she was one of few Jewish students. “While I got quite a bit from school, the teachers, and friends, it gave me a larger appreciation for diversity,” she explained. “I was bat mitzvah at Ahavath Achim Synagogue. My torah portion was Bereishit, or creation. I’m pretty sure I chanted for all seven days of creation. It was like the Super Bowl of Torah portions.”

Segall still has that moxie. One noted interview she did for CBS, found her head-to-head with a QAnon [COVID-denier] who couldn’t stand up to Segall’s barrage of questions and facts. Gayle King commented, “I don’t see how you kept your face on straight [doing that interview].”

After attending the University of Michigan, Segall started at CNN’s breaking news desk, chasing stories like the Bernie Madoff scandal.

Segall’s interview with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg put him on the record as considering regulation.

“Years before, the iPhone come out, the App store launched, and out of the ashes of the recession, a new creative class was emerging – entrepreneurs who coded their ideas into the hands of millions,” she recalled. “In my free time, I started interviewing entrepreneurs who founded, what was then little-known companies like, Instagram and Uber. Soon, I created the ‘startup beat’ and these young entrepreneurs, went on to transform the world for better and worse. I became senior on-air tech correspondent for CNN and the editor at large of CNN Tech, riding the tech wave to the top, from the bubbly and exciting, to the challenging times. I was at CNN for a decade.”

Referencing Jewish thought on national television, Segall referred to a rabbi’s inspiration.

“When I was considering leaving CNN to start my own company, I became obsessed with a YouTube video of a rabbi explaining how lobsters grow by completely shedding their shells,” she recalled. “It’s a very stressful process, and at that moment, the lobster is incredibly vulnerable. It’s a great metaphor for change. Moments of change are uncomfortable, but oftentimes, if we allow ourselves the courage to shed our shell, we grow much stronger.”

“Special Characters: My Adventures with Tech’s Titans and Misfits” is a look back at the tech journalist’s rise to prominence.

Segall scored a major titan interview with Mark Zuckerberg during the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, which was the first time he had opened the door to regulation and willingness to testify before Congress.

Segall was less impressed with Travis Kalanick, former Uber CEO, who she interviewed about women being attacked in Uber rides.

“He was upset by this questioning and nearly walked away from the interview,” Segall says.

“For me, it was an important moment. It felt like some of the entrepreneurs – Kalanick specifically – didn’t feel like they needed to be accountable for the unintended consequences of their platforms. It was the beginning of an unsteady era.”

In conclusion, Segall said, “In my experience, tech happens quickly. One second you have skeptics, the next moment industries are transformed. When the money starts pouring in, it’s often hard to get entrepreneurs to pause and ask the important ethical questions as the infrastructure is being built.”

An unabashed “Bachelor/Bachelorette” fan, she will walk down the aisle this October in Telluride, Colo.

Segall’s media company, Dot Dot Dot, produces shows, podcasts and books. Their initiative, D3, is focused on building the media network for web3 to help people access a new generation of the internet. Because of these factors, the “human rights field” has found itself in a situation of decreasing support. In light of this, the D3 initiative aims to create a new “architecture of support” for the field.

Below, Segall shares some of her thoughts with the AJT:
Sexism in tech and media: “We haven’t talked enough about the more subtle type of sexism – ‘death by a thousand cuts’ sexism that plagues all industries. Many women, I included deal with subtle sexism that’s hard to place and therefore hard to speak against. Looking back, so many incredible women left the newsroom or tech companies because they were fed up.

Advice for 16-year-old: “The key to success is resilience. It’s not the smartest in the room who succeeds, it’s the most resilient.”

Book that impressed you the most: “Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem.’ She transformed how I viewed writing and storytelling with her ability to observe the world with openness and complexity and gave me the courage to be honest in my writing. She had an appreciation for the unseen corners.”

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