Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.

He came to San Francisco from Washington, where he focused on national breaking news and politics. Before that, he covered criminal justice at member station WHYY.

In that role, he focused on major corruption trials, law enforcement, and local criminal justice policy. He helped lead NPR's reporting of Bill Cosby's two criminal trials. He was a guest on Fresh Air after breaking a major story about the nation's first supervised injection site plan in Philadelphia. In between daily stories, he has worked on several investigative projects, including a story that exposed how the federal government was quietly hiring debt collection law firms to target the homes of student borrowers who had defaulted on their loans. Allyn also strayed from his beat to cover Philly parking disputes that divided in the city, the last meal at one of the city's last all-night diners, and a remembrance of the man who wrote the Mister Softee jingle on a xylophone in the basement of his Northeast Philly home.

At other points in life, Allyn has been a staff reporter at Nashville Public Radio and daily newspapers including The Oregonian in Portland and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has also appeared in BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, a former mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Allyn is the son of a machinist and a church organist. He's a dedicated bike commuter and long-distance runner. He is a graduate of American University in Washington.

For an idea of why independent restaurants have long complained about food delivery apps, just ask Anil Bathwal, who owns The Kati Roll Company, a group of New York City restaurants serving Indian street food.

Bathwal relied on a handful of food apps to supplement his dining-in purchases, despite hefty commissions the apps tack on to every sale; he used Grubhub-owned Seamless, Uber Eats, Postmates and other food-ferrying services.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

With its ride-hailing business devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, Uber is in talks to acquire online food delivery company Grubhub.

If the two sides can reach a deal, the combined company would emerge as the dominant food-delivery app with 55% of the U.S. market, according to analyst Dan Ives with Wedbush Securities.

After two weeks of working from her Brooklyn apartment, a 25-year-old e-commerce worker received a staffwide email from her company: Employees were to install software called Hubstaff immediately on their personal computers so it could track their mouse movements and keyboard strokes, and record the webpages they visited.

They also had to download an app called TSheets to their phones to keep tabs on their whereabouts during work hours.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Twitter is now labeling misleading, disputed or unverified tweets about the coronavirus. It is even removing content it believes could lead to harm, the company announced Monday.

The labels warn users about the problematic tweets and steer them to authoritative sources, including public health agencies and credible news outlets.

Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, said on a call with reporters that the mission is not to "fact-check the entire Internet," but rather to limit the spread of potentially harmful tweets.

Business was humming for Airbnb host Josep Navas Masip in Philadelphia. So he purchased a second home and planned to renovate it and add it to his Airbnb offerings.

"In the middle of the renovation, the coronavirus crisis hit," he said. "I had to cancel my renovations, and I had to tell the contractor to stop working."

Navas Masip, 44, was bringing in about $2,000 a month from the two rooms he was renting from his South Philadelphia home.

Updated Thursday at 6:51 p.m. ET

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users' data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Airbnb says it's cutting 1,900 employees — about 25% of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs to hit Silicon Valley as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The global pandemic is the "most harrowing crisis of our lifetime," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in an email to employees on Tuesday. The virus's devastating blow to the travel industry means the company's 2020 revenue is forecast to be less than half of what the startup pulled in last year, he said.

Dan Munro changed his Twitter handle to "Dan is interviewing" after finding out he lost his job via a Zoom call.

The method of firing is becoming the norm in the tech industry during the coronavirus recession.

"No one enjoyed it," Munro said. "It was pretty rough for everyone because we're a pretty small company and everybody knows each other pretty well."

The CEO of Airbnb has made a lot of chocolate-chip cookies since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"People call it stress-baking," Brian Chesky said. "If that's the case, I'm going to be a Michelin chef pretty soon, because I got enough stress to do a lot of baking."

That's no surprise given that the lure of Airbnb — to have a unique experience by staying in a stranger's home — has lost considerable appeal as the pandemic courses its way through the world, paralyzing travel.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The short-term rental company Airbnb is in trouble. The pandemic has nearly stopped travel and made staying in a stranger's home less appealing. So what now? NPR's Bobby Allyn has been talking with the company's CEO.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: His name is Brian Chesky. These days, he's holed up in his San Francisco home all by himself, and he told me over Zoom he's been making lots of chocolate chip cookies.

Bill Hinshaw's phone has been ringing off the hook lately.

From his home in Gainesville, Texas, which Hinshaw describes as "horse country," he runs a group called the COBOL Cowboys. It's an association of programmers who specialize in the Eisenhower-era computer language. Now their skills are in demand, thanks to the record number of people applying for unemployment benefits.

Monikers have followed Martin Pichinson for his whole career, given his line of work. He winds down technology companies, selling off their assets in their final days. And so, in some corners, Pichinson has become known as the "Undertaker of Silicon Valley."

It's a grim practice he has honed since the dot-com bust of the late 1990s, when he shuttered nearly 200 tech companies.

"If there's no revenue incoming and there's no money investing, the company is basically insolvent and out of business," he said. "We basically come in and clean up the messes."

The middle of an economic downturn may seem like an odd time to debut a new iPhone, but Apple on Wednesday announced its latest model — a cheaper, smaller version that may just fit with the times.

The new iPhone SE features a new and improved processor and camera. But for the most part, it looks and feels like models of yore. With a smaller size and screen, it is nearly as compact as the iPhone 6, which launched in 2014. It also features the home button that disappeared in the most recent models.

The popular photo app VSCO has terminated about a third of its staff, NPR has learned.

After being contacted by NPR, VSCO co-founder Joel Flory took to LinkedIn to go public with news of the layoffs, saying he had to "say goodbye" to 45 of his 150 employees.

Updated at 9:12 p.m. ET

President Trump doubled down Sunday on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says the Democratic National Convention may need take place virtually as a result of the deepening coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday the party delayed the presidential nominating convention from mid-July to mid-August over pandemic fears, but Biden on Sunday raised the specter of Democrats choosing their White House nominee online for the first time.

The federal government on Thursday relaxed restrictions on receiving blood donations from gay men and other groups as the country confronts a severe drop in the U.S. blood supply that officials described as urgent and unprecedented.

Updated Thursday at 3 a.m. ET

In describing steps the military is taking to confront the coronavirus pandemic within its ranks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that some are calling for the U.S. military to cease operations.

"There seems to be this narrative out there that we should just shut down the entire United States military and address the problem that way. That's not feasible," said Esper during the White House's coronavirus task force briefing.

During Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is "a great governor" who "knows exactly what he's doing" in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence added to the DeSantis accolades, saying the Republican governor has "been taking decisive steps from early on."

But according to public health experts, thousands of heath care workers and a pending lawsuit, DeSantis' leadership has been woefully inadequate.

Michigan now ranks third in the country for coronavirus-related deaths, trailing only New York and New Jersey, after the Midwest state on Tuesday reported a new surge of cases.

State officials confirmed another 1,117 cases, bringing the coronavirus tally in Michigan to 7,615.

Officials on Tuesday said the virus claimed the lives of 75 more people, pushing up the number of COVID-19 fatalities to 259.

More than 1,200 people have now died of the coronavirus in New York, but the worst of the outbreak has yet to arrive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

Cuomo said the coronavirus is overtaxing the state's health care workers. He asked for the assistance of medical volunteers from other parts of the country as the pandemic continues to devastate New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Updated 8:13 p.m. ET

President Trump said on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus will remain in place for another month and could last until June.

Under the recommendations, the Trump administration is imploring people to avoid restaurants, bars and other situations involving more than 10 people and restrict traveling to trips deemed essential.

The nation's leading expert on infectious diseases and member of the White House's coronavirus task force says the pandemic could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans and infect millions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said based on modeling of the current pace of the coronavirus' spread in the U.S., "between 100,000 and 200,000" people may die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Major League Baseball players are bracing for a 2020 that might not see a single game played.

Another possibility forced by the coronavirus outbreak is that the baseball season will move down the calendar.

On Friday, players and the Major League Baseball owners ratified a deal fairly quickly and with both sides taking concessions on economic issues in the face of the pandemic complicating and possibly axing this year's season.

President Trump claimed during Friday's White House coronavirus briefing that the federal government shipped droves of ventilators to New York. What did New York officials do in response? According to Trump, they ignored the new supply and instead attacked the White House for not doing more to assist the state.

"We sent thousands of ventilators to New York, and they didn't know about it at the time they were complaining," Trump said. "They were going there in large numbers."

More than 200 million people in about half of the states are under orders to stay indoors to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

Under those decrees, businesses have closed unless deemed "essential," which has sparked a nationwide debate among state and local leaders: Should gun stores be considered essential?

During the White House's Thursday coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump boasted about a "terrific meeting" he had with state governors about coordinating a response to the outbreak.

"We had a great meeting," Trump said. "It was no contention. I would say virtually none."

The suspect in the shooting deaths of 51 worshipers at two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques has pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism charges in a surprise deal with prosecutors.

Brenton Tarrant, 29, an Australian who espoused a white supremacist ideology, had been scheduled to go on trial in June.

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