Chris O’Brien is a freelance business and technology reporter based in Toulouse, France where he writes about a wide range of European tech issues and companies for U.S.-based publications.
Before that, O’Brien spent 15 years covering Silicon Valley as a reporter and columnist. Most recently, he worked for the Los Angeles Times, covering Apple, cybersecurity and Silicon Valley. His stories focused on the challenges facing Apple in its post-Steve Jobs era, the heightened security risks consumers and businesses face online, and the economic boom that was transforming Silicon Valley.
Prior to that, he spent 13 years at the San Jose Mercury News, including the last five as a business and technology columnist. His column explored the people, ideas, and companies that drive the world’s leading innovation economy.
As a columnist, O’Brien wrote about a wide range of topics, including the crisis facing the venture capital industry, the rise of Facebook, the stumbles of Yahoo, and the influence of Google. More recently, his column has challenged the conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley of using mergers and layoffs to reinvent companies. He has also explored the economic impact and the disconnect between local technology companies and the struggling local governments.
O’Brien first came to the Mercury News in 1999 and held several beats, including the Internet, enterprise software, and the economy. The major stories he has covered included the dot-com boom and bust; the California energy crisis; Oracle’s hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft. His 2002 series of articles, “Rich Man, Poor Company,” won several journalism prizes for the way it exposed the people who made the most money running the companies that turned into the biggest disasters. His 2005 story, “A Tale of Two Valleys,” also received several awards for exploring the widening gap between the region’s wealthiest technology executives and its non-technology workforce.
Outside of the Mercury News, O’Brien has also been active in exploring ideas related to the future of journalism. In 2007, he received a News Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation to research and design the newsroom of the future (www.nextnewsroom.com). He also blogs about the changing media landscape for PBS’ IdeaLab.
Before moving to Silicon Valley in 1999, O’Brien worked at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., where he covered several metro, business and technology beats.
He graduated from Duke University in 1991.