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.