Feathered Fortunes

Bloomberg tech reporter Kurt Wagner ’12 returns to campus to discuss his new book on Twitter’s takeover and the humans behind the corporate curtain.

Battle For The Bird 9781668017357 Hr
Published in February 2024, Battle for the Bird by Kurt Wagner ’12 investigates the messy corporate history of Twitter—including Elon Musk’s takeover in 2022 and it’s huge role in changing on how the world gets its news. Image courtesy Simon & Schuster.

Flash back to early 2022. After covering every crest and drop of Twitter’s rollercoaster existence for Bloomberg News, Kurt Wagner ’12 knew he wanted to write his first book. One that unfurled the decade-long struggle of the platform-of-the-people to translate its cultural influence into business success. So he pitched a 20-page proposal, only to have the richest man in the world take over Twitter three weeks later.

Back to the drawing board. But that was no worry to Wagner, who knew he was on the precipice of an even bigger story.

Cut to today and Wagner, former editor-in-chief of The Santa Clara, and award-winning technology journalist, returned to campus for a fireside chat to discuss the results of repurposing that pitch two years ago. His new book, Battle for the Bird: Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, and the $44 Billion Fight for Twitter’s Soul, details how Twitter’s three-year business plan made Elon Musk’s seemingly sudden acquisition of the media company possible.   

The transformation of Twitter into X—once a virtual town square where individuals from all over could gather and discuss important news, make jokes, or raise awareness—fell victim to the typical capitalist cycle: Taken over by a detached billionaire and stripped of the essence that endeared it to millions worldwide.

From Twitter’s origins in 140-character banter to becoming one of the world’s most consequential tech companies, the book unveils the human dynamics behind the platform’s corporate curtain. Through insider employee accounts and exclusive interviews, Wagner explores how the clashing personalities of a subtle Dorsey and a not-so-subtle Musk reshaped not just Twitter but the digital landscape around it, disrupting the flow of news and mass information users once knew.

Reporting on the tech world may seem impersonal—a cold, calculating landscape full of bots and robotic personalities focused on profit and power above all. Wagner’s writing on Twitter cuts through that to the human “soul” of the platform, as told through those who subscribed to the idealistic visions of its founder and are now concerned for its yet-to-be-determined future.

To Wagner, humans are always at the heart of his reporting. It’s an ideal established at Santa Clara University, before he even found his way to journalism.

Wagner explains his journalism career as unexpected, something he “fell into.” Joking about his dream of being a pro baseball player being crushed by, well, not being very good at baseball, Wagner thought the next best thing to being an athlete would be to write about them. At Santa Clara, Wagner began taking journalism classes, freelancing as a sportswriter and was recruited to be the top editor of The Santa Clara student newspaper.

Post graduation, Wagner found a niche in business and technology coverage at outlets like Fortune and Mashable. He’s reported on social media since 2013 and has been covering it specifically for Bloomberg News for the past five years.     

Wagner attributes much of his success to the unwavering support of his Santa Clara mentors like journalism professors Gordon Young and Barbara Kelley. Even today, he remains connected with faculty, expressing gratitude for the close relationships forged during his time as a Bronco. “With a school of Santa Clara’s size, I was able to be close with so many people that wanted to see me succeed. The fact that I’m back here, 14 years later, is extremely full-circle for me. I hope that support exists for other college students, but here at Santa Clara, it has happened repeatedly. And that’s pretty special.”

Screen Shot 2024 03 20 At 2.49.52 Pm
Kurt Wagner ’12 in San Francisco in December 2023. Photograph by David Paul Morris.
From the Law to the Page

Isabel Choi J.D. ’02 planned on becoming a judge. Now she’s an author with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cinematic Sisters

While sisters Malarie ’14 and Nia Howard ’15 always knew they’d be writers, Santa Clara’s communications department helped them discover their medium.

Super Powered Compassion

The latest children’s book from clinical psychologist Professor Shauna Shapiro teaches kids how to cultivate self-compassion.

In The Game

“We are going to showcase Santa Clara and what we are all about,” says the Warriors’ Brandin Podziemski ’23. Broncos take center court at Chase Center with a night of music, alumni reunions, and jersey swaps.