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Alumnus Shifts Focus from Ph.D. to PC

North Park Theological Seminary Alumnus Eric Bangeman

CHICAGO (January 22, 2010) – Eric Bangeman wrote his master’s thesis on the 19th-century Holiness Movement, looked forward to getting a Ph.D., and intended to teach church history. Becoming the managing editor of, Ars Technica, an influential technology website was not in the plans.

Bangeman, who earned his Master’s Degree in Theological Studies in 1996 from North Park Theological Seminary, understands that others are amused by the irony in the change of career direction. But he was excited when the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve always had a love of computers,” says Bangeman, who was doing mobile computing long before many contemporaries. “I think I only saw one other student carrying a laptop during my whole time at the Seminary.”

Bangeman never attended school for his Ph.D. because he discovered that job openings for church history professors were as scarce as laptops on campus. He wound up taking a job as a graphics designer for a management firm.

His passion for computers led Bangeman to start reading Ars Technica (Latin for the “Art of Technology) in 2000 and become a forum moderator in 2001. A couple years later, he successfully pitched a story idea to an editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

Less than a year later, he was hired to be the managing editor. Among his responsibilities, Bangeman dishes out story assignments and maintains the daily news list. He reads about 70 percent of the articles before they are posted.

The site has more than five million readers, according to the company, which was purchased by Conde Nast in 2008 for $25 million. Although a lot of technology sites cover gaming and offer reviews, as well as provide news about the industry, Ars Technica differs from other sites in its approach.

“There’s not another site that does what we do,” Bangeman says.

The reader is immediately struck by the odd variety of stories. Recent headlines have included, “Ubuntu 10.04 alpha 2 brings Pitivi, panel changes,” “Week in gaming: LEGO MMO, fake X-wing, Microsoft MW2,” and “Gene variant prolongs anxiety reactions in mice and men.”

The science focus developed as writers came into the fold and began to share their expertise and interests. “The place where we’re most distinct is our science coverage,” says Bangeman.

“We’re a collection of geeks writing about different things,” Bangeman adds. They are well-educated geeks. Many of them are scientists or Ph.D.’s in their fields, which has enabled them to provide deeper analysis than a lot of other sites, he says. “They don’t just read
about the studies; they read the studies.”

Ars Technica writers are also encouraged to mix opinion and analysis within their stories. Bangeman’s academic work taught him why this approach is important. “You don’t just write a thesis on the Holiness Movement and not write what you think,” he explains.

Bangeman acknowledges that such an approach flies in the face of what is supposed to be “just the facts” journalism, but then again, none of the writers have formal journalism training (Bangeman’s undergraduate degree is in history).

The breadth, depth, and analytical reporting have made the sit not only popular but also influential, Bangeman says. Regulators to investors and technicians, as well as people who are passionate about the latest technology, make the site part of their daily reading.

Bangeman says he feels the responsibility of being the managing editor for such a prominent site. “There’s a lot at stake. We have a reputation for smart reporting.”

Still, he looks forward to going to work each day, which doesn’t take long since he works out of his home. You can’t do that when you’re teaching history.