Five more women who should have been part of ‘Riptide’

Over the weekend, the Nieman Lab* unveiled Riptide, a sprawling, interactive oral history of “the epic collision between journalism and digital technology.” The project is interesting in both its content and its design, but the  authors repeat a mistake made by too many media historians: The contributions of women are largely omitted.

It’s true that men continue to dominate the top ranks of the journalism industry, but Riptide is more lopsided than even the most depressing newsroom demographics: Of the 61 people interviewed for the project, only five are women.

Here are five others the authors should have included:

1.) Lorraine Cichowski. USA Today launched its first website just days before the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an event the American Journalism Review called a “watershed event” for online journalism. Cichowski was in charge of USA Today’s digital operations at the time and helped develop many of the conventions of breaking news online. Here’s more from AJR.

2.) Jennifer Musser-Metz.  USA Today wasn’t the only major news organization building a digital identity in the mid-’90s. Musser-Metz played a critical role in developing Philly.com. She also led the effort to create one of the first major multiplatform stories — a project that eventually became Blackhawk Down. In C.W. Anderson’s Rebuilding the News, Musser-Metz describes how the traditional newsroom structure struggled to adapt to the online world.

3.) Emily Bell. Former director of digital content for the Guardian and current director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Bell is an expert on the evolving media business. There are few people better able to clearly describe the industry’s recent history and the challenges it faces today.

4.) Debbie Galant. The creator of Baristanet.com could have provided important insight about the rise of hyperlocal digital publications. She’s also one of the founding members of the Local Independent Online News Publishers, a fast-growing trade organization that supports local news startups.

5.) Kara Oehler. As chief creative officer of Zeega, Oehler is creating the next wave of disruptive tools, ones that make projects like Snow Fall possible for independent journalists working on shoestring budgets.

Including the voices of these women or any other female reporters, editors or media entrepreneurs would have made Riptide even more innovative. It’s unfortunate that, in telling the latest chapter of journalism history in a fresh, narrative format, the authors of Riptide make an old mistake by continuing to devalue the contributions of women.

* It’s important to note that the Nieman Lab’s involvement in Riptide was limited to web design. The authors were fellows at the Shorenstein Center, which is affiliated with Harvard’s Kennedy School.  For more background, please see the comment below from Nieman Lab Director Joshua Benton.

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17 thoughts on “Five more women who should have been part of ‘Riptide’

  1. Adrienne Lawrence Mendonca says:

    Great list. I’d also like to nominate Fara Warner, editorial director of Business, Technology and Entertainment Group at AOL. This includes overseeing the editorial content and direction of brands including Daily Finance, AOL Autos, Engadget, TechCrunch, MovieFone, AOL Music, AOL Travel and AOL Industry.

  2. Benet Wilson (@benetwilson) says:

    I think Retha Hill of Arizona State University should be included. She worked at BET from 1999 to 2007 as vice president for content for BET Interactive, the online unit of Black Entertainment Television and the most visited site specializing in African-American content on the Internet. In that senior role, she was in charge of content strategy and convergence with the television network.

    Before that, she was executive producer for special projects at washingtonpost.com, developing new products for The Washington Post’s Web site. She joined The Post’s early online operations in 1995 as the editor for local news, arts and entertainment.

  3. megheckman says:

    Great suggestions. Here are some more Jeanne Brooks (@jmfbrooks) sent via Twitter:

    1.) Dori J. Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

    2.) Jezebel founder Anna Holmes

    3.) Lydia Polgreen, Johannesburg Bureau Chief for the NY Times

    4.) Latoya Peterson, senior digital producer for The Stream, Knight Fellow and Berkman Center Affiliate.

    Keep the names coming!

  4. Khadijah says:

    The authors of this book introduced me to some women responsible for the transition from print to digital: http://www.amazon.com/Wired-Women-Gender-Realities-Cyberspace/dp/1878067737. Among these is Netta Gilboa, editor and publisher of Gray Areas, which was an award-winning magazine on tech that went fully digital in 1995! Wiki stub: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_Areas, back issues and site viewable at http://www.grayarea.com/. From her LinkedIn profile, she certainly seems like she would have made an interesting interview! http://www.linkedin.com/pub/netta-gilboa/13/5ba/21

  5. megheckman says:

    Another name for the list: Amy Alexander, author of Uncovering Race: A Black Journalist’s Story of Reporting and Reinvention. Find her on Twitter @AmyAlex63.

    Thanks, @BethWellington, for the suggestion. Who else?

  6. Joshua Benton says:

    Hey Meg: I run Nieman Lab. I’m glad you’re pushing back on this. But I do want to clarify one thing: We had no control over the editorial choices made in Riptide — like who was interviewed, what was asked in those interviews, or what was written in the essay. It was produced by the three Kennedy School Shorenstein Fellows you see here:

    http://www.niemanlab.org/riptide/about/

    My/our role was building them a website — which is why we/I don’t get mentioned until the 5th paragraph of the credits. They approached me months ago saying that they wanted to do this project but didn’t have a good way to get it online. I volunteered to host their work product and build a website for it, which is why it’s hosted at niemanlab.org.

    So I just want to say: I think the concerns about diversity are very much legitimate, and I’m glad you and others are raising them. But just as Nieman Lab shouldn’t get the credit for the good stuff in Riptide — and I think there’s a lot of good stuff in there! — we shouldn’t get all the blame for someone else’s editorial choices.

  7. Tracy Record says:

    Hear hear. I commented elsewhere on the lack of female interviewees and am glad to see this. My journalism career (in almost every format) spans the entire time period chronicled by “Riptide” and while I’m no trailblazer, my current line of work (independent, community-collaborative, online-only neighborhood news) was indeed pioneered by one of the women you mention – Debbie G – and she would have been an awesome addition. Maybe we can have the all-woman sequel, Wavemakers. Tidal Waves. Or …

  8. Randy Bennett says:

    More: Lorelei Van Wey was the news editor at Viewtron, Knight-Ridder’s early videotex experiment and she helped define the way textual news is organized and edited for the TV screen. Also, along with Steve Case, Audrey Weil, Jean Case and Jan Brandt were instrumental in AOL’s explosive growth through the 1990s. Oh, and blog pioneer Lisa Stone.

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