2017 Lifetime Award Honoree

Walt Mossberg


When Walt Mossberg started his career in tech more than two decades ago, he began his first "Personal Technology" column with this prescient sentence: "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault."

Hard to use. Yep. Isn't your fault. Double truth.

With those simple and forthright words, the most significant career in tech journalism was launched. It has changed the way most of us think about all the gadgets and digital change that has overwhelmed our lives ever since.

Throughout this digital invasion, Walt has been an unfailingly ethical, fair and savvy guide, leading his readers through a complex landscape and putting them at the center of everything he does. That's no small thing. Tech journalism had long been (and still is) littered with fanboy writers who can only seem to cheerlead everything that emerges from Silicon Valley. Even if it was too often not fully formed, and not nearly ready for the average consumer to use. Walt has never done that. Speaking with respect and in plain English to those who have relied on him over the years, he never made the mistake of descending into cynicism or its ugly sibling, snark. When Walt didn't like something, he said so; when he did, he didn't hide his enthusiasm for good work well done. That balance is harder to strike than you might imagine. Being loud and opinionated too often seems to win over an opinion based on rigorous reporting, analysis and, most of all, experience.

We have all benefited from Walt's experience, which has grown and become more profound and valuable over time. I know have. When I met him, I was a pretty green reporter working on a book about the then-nascent internet (it was so early that it was actually called "online services"). He was one of the few people who clearly understood what was about to happen, and quickly grokked its implications. As a longtime supporter of emerging talent, Walt was unfailingly generous with his time and wisdom, and more. He was the one who got me a job at The Wall Street Journal, even ovewr resistance, to cover this new digital beat.

To say that Walt changed my life is a massive understatement. I moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. and began a long journey, as the tech world became the most influential sector of business and, really, our whole culture. All along that way, Walt has been a mentor, an advisor, a business partner, a co-editor, a co-producer and, most of all, a true friend. I can count on my hand the number of times we have truly disagreed, and there are not enough stars in the sky to number the times he has helped me be a better journalist and person.

Lots of people know Walt - trying to walk with him down the corridors of CES, nearly trampled by admirers who want to say hello and thanks, is what I imagine it must be like to be a rock star - but here are some things I know that you might not:

He is a huge Star Trek fan, and can tell you the plot to every one of the shows, even if you didn't ask. (Don't ask!)

He loves to visit battlefields for reasons I have yet to understand lo these many years.

He smokes cigars, even if he shouldn't, at a cigar store I have never been invited to, ever.

He has been a champion of women his entire career. Once, he wouldn't let me invite Howard Stern to one of our events because he didn't like the way Stern talked about pretty much everyone, especially females.

He orders some sort of wacky Trenta Starbucks coffee that I still never get right after all this time.

He walked me down the aisle for my wedding, was my first visitor after my son was born, and has been present for pretty much every major event since, in good times and bad.

That is perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Walt Mossberg. He's a mensch, a very good man, and the kind of colleague and friend that is both rare and so very valuable to find. And he's always right: technology is still just too hard to use, and it still isn't your fault.

Gerald Loeb Awards