Welcome to Compiler

Welcome to Compiler


There’s really nothing that compels deep reflection like Christmas week aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, one of the largest ships in the world. It was my parents’ idea of forced togetherness with more than 5,000 strangers. Still, I was there for it. I was mostly looking forward to getting away from work – silencing Slacks, not checking email – and spending time with my family. It was the end of 2022 and I was contemplating changing jobs again. I was editor-in-chief of the tech publication CyberScoop and at odds with my boss over a controversial story we had published just before the holiday. It seemed like I might even get fired. Still, I thought I should try to work it out. I’ve moved jobs a lot. In my early 30s, when I was the Middle East editor at The Christian Science Monitor, a former manager told me I had itchy feet. Maybe so.

On the cruise, I was also contemplating my age (although my elderly shipmates did make me feel young). I had turned 50 that year, and if I was going to make a move, it had better be big and important. For several years, I had considered launching something on my own, an attempt to produce the kind of journalism I felt was meaningful, productive, and interesting. I had started publications before, but always on someone else’s terms. But there was something intoxicating about sitting on the cruise ship balcony alone and listening to the sea. Fuck it, I thought, maybe I can actually do this. I began sketching out plans for a new publication, something that would bring a fresh perspective and new voices to the evolving storyline about all the ways technology affects our lives – from societal issues like artificial intelligence to online trust and safety to annoying robocalls. I’d already been covering those issues for more than a decade. I envisioned something that would be global, about the people making and influencing policy, the ideas that could improve how we interact with devices.

I also wanted to build a newsroom for great policy journalists to have room to tell the important stories. But there was already Axios, Politico, WIRED, Ars Technica, and The Atlantic. They were all doing great work on tech policy issues. There were also a growing number of Substacks from exceptionally talented tech reporters. But I couldn’t name an outlet that reported on tech policy from a truly global perspective and wasn’t also chasing clicks or suffering from layoffs, buyouts, or consolidation. I wanted to focus on solutions and share them through content that wasn’t behind expensive paywalls. Still, I kept the idea to myself – my wife had lived through too many of my journalism transitions. I didn’t need to stress her out as we were about to send our daughter to college. We docked in Miami and returned home to Washington, D.C., and I shelved the idea. But it nagged at me like a song I couldn’t get out of my head. It wasn’t long before I once again started talking about the project that I began calling Compiler, this time with friends and colleagues. I eventually mustered up enough gumption and details to pitch the idea to the Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative for funding. It was a long shot, but they were receptive and liked the mission. Several months later, Hewlett emailed to say they would provide a grant to turn Compiler into a nonprofit media company.

That was almost 10 months ago, and a lot of work has gone into turning the wild idea I cooked up somewhere in the Caribbean into Compiler. Thank you for opening and reading our first edition. And thanks to everyone who has supported this effort. I’m especially thankful to Eli Sugarman, the previous director of the Hewlett Cyber Initiative, and Sherry Huang, who also worked on the Cyber Initiative and is now a special projects fellow and adviser on artificial intelligence at the foundation, for believing in this idea and having faith that I can achieve this rather lofty mission. I’m honored to have David Grant and Melanie Teplinsky as board members. And thanks to a growing list of advisers and mentors who are willing to give their time and attention to Compiler. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our first edition. I am grateful that so many people believe in this effort and are willing to help support it. And especially thanks to my wife, Umi, for supporting me on yet another adventure. (This will be the last one, babe.)

There’s still much work to be done to make Compiler a success. If you think this is a worthy pursuit, please consider supporting us. If you’re a funder who cares about creating a more sustainable model for news, please reach out. If you want to expand access to critical policy news and get it past paywalls, let’s talk. If you care about the effect technology has on society, I know how you can help. None of us have all the answers, so let’s work on these problems together.

Mike Farrell is the founder and CEO of Compiler Media, Inc. He's an award-winning journalist who has worked at numerous national publications such as Politico, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor and CyberScoop.