At the height of her acclaim in 2015, Elizabeth Holmes, the entrepreneur who founded the blood testing startup Theranos, was named Glamour's "Woman of the Year." Time put her on its list of 100 luminaries. And she graced the covers of Fortune, Forbes, Inc. and T Magazine.
Theranos collapsed in scandal three years later, failing in its mission to revolutionize the health care industry. But it did change the world in another way: It helped sour the media on Silicon Valley.
That point was brought home when Roger Parloff, a journalist who penned the Fortune cover story on Holmes and Theranos in 2014, testified in a federal courtroom in San Jose, California, where Holmes is on trial for 12 counts of fraud. Parloff said Holmes had made misrepresentations to him, including the volume and types of tests that Theranos could do, as well as its work with the military and pharmaceutical companies.
The discovery that Holmes, the tech industry's most celebrated female entrepreneur, was misdirecting the world about her company marked a turning point in the tech press, ending a decadelong run of largely positive coverage. Reporters cringed over glowing articles they had written about tech companies that turned out to have stretched the truth, glossed over the negative consequences of their products or generally abused the trust they had enjoyed with the public.
"Holmes just becomes this fable of 'You can't just buy what they're selling,' " said Margaret O'Mara, a professor at the University of Washington and a historian of Silicon Valley. " 'This was not what it purported to be, and we fell for it.' "
After The Wall Street Journal published exposés in 2015 and 2016 showing that Theranos was not what it appeared to be, coverage of tech companies generally became more probing.
Reporters dug into Facebook's role in the 2016 presidential election, as well as scandals at Uber and a series of #MeToo accusations and labor uprisings at tech companies. The shift happened alongside the realization that the tech industry was no longer the niche realm of idealist computer geeks. It had become the dominant force in the global economy and needed to be held more to account.