Independent journalist Walter Thompson on the most impactful stories he’s written, the biggest surprise about podcasting, and concerns impacting journalism


A decade ago, Walter Thompson was working in startups. That is, until a discussion with a co-worker inspired him to create a documentary around how the tech industry was impacting housing and transportation in San Francisco.

That fateful conversation catapulted him back into the world of journalism. Walter served as editorial manager at TechCrunch, where he was integral to growing the publication’s  subscription news product, TechCrunch+, and made it his personal mission to amplify the voices of women, BIPOC, and non-binary people featured in the publication.

Walter is also passionate about podcasting, and hosted The Golden City, a podcast exploring all-things San Francisco: from news, to history, to culture. More recently, he started the Fund/Build/Scale podcast where he interviews founders on what it really takes to build a startup. 

We had the pleasure of connecting with Walter for a Q&A session about his life and career. Here’s what we learned: 

How do you begin your workday?

I’ll make a pour over, play Wordle and browse the news until it becomes self-obvious that I’m procrastinating. Then, I’ll prioritize 3-4 tasks for the day before getting into my email.

If you could interview any person in tech, who would it be and what would you ask them?

That answer depends on my mood: right now, I’d like to talk to the people at SETI in charge of developing algorithms to review the record of signals they’ve picked up from deep space over the years to see if we’ve missed something important.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Time management.

Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

In 2016, I wrote my first long-form magazine article: a 7,000-word piece about a violent three-day uprising in San Francisco that took place in 1966 after a police officer shot an unarmed Black teenager. I was the first reporter to revisit the event in decades and found an eyewitness to the shooting who’d never been interviewed. That same year, I wrote a deep dive about the history of urban renewal in the city’s Fillmore District. On the same night, I received awards for both articles from the San Francisco Press Club.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I run a treadmill 5K most weekdays; my PR for a mile is 8:14.

How have your skills and lessons learned as a tech reporter translated to launching your own podcast? What are the biggest surprises you’ve faced thus far?

Moderating multi-person discussion panels in front of large audiences and doing one-on-one interviews with founders and investors was a great way to prep for the work I’m doing now with Fund/Build/Scale. The biggest surprise has been how much I’m actually enjoying this work — they feel much more like conversations than interviews.

Looking ahead, what emerging trends or issues do you think will significantly impact journalism in the next few years?

Journalists should be worried about generative AI and media consolidation, but I’m more concerned about the growing spread of apathy and mistrust among consumers. Reporting is a flawed enterprise, but at least it aspires to reflect what’s truthful and accurate. Social media only aspires to capture attention, and it literally alters our brain chemistry. Not great, Bob.

​​What career would you have/want if you weren’t a journalist?

A noted screenwriter and restaurateur.

Favorite place in San Francisco to grab a coffee or a bite?

b. patisserie (2821 California St. at Divisadero) may have the best Parisian and Viennese pastries in the city, and that’s saying something.

Follow Walter on X at @YourProtagonist and tune in to the Fund/Build/Scale podcast on your preferred podcast platform.