Someone is wrong on the internet, and I wonder if it might be me. Last week I wrote a piece for the Guardian about what I saw as a disappointing trend: high-profile journalism startups reflecting the structures of old media. Namely, they’re led by white men. Many women cheered both publicly and privately, saying, “Everybody wants to say it, nobody quite dares.” Others did not, saying that I was both overlooking and diminishing the roles of women in new journalism startups by writing them out of the script.
Had I forgotten Melissa Bell, the co-founder with Ezra Klein of new venture Vox? Why underplay Laura Poitras, who Glenn Greenwald consistently and meticulously includes as a co-founding inspiration in the Pierre Omidyar-funded First Look? What about all those other women who were starting journalism businesses?
The most thought provoking responses came from Melissa Bell, who elegantly pointed out that if my coverage overlooked her, then it added to the problem of visibility in the media. This is true. It made me wonder how many editors had asked to interview Klein and Bell together. Another excellent piece came from BuzzFeed’s deputy editor in chief, Shani O. Hilton, who wrote about the difficulty of building a diverse newsroom and what steps can be taken to help with hiring.
Men were more eager to point out what was wrong, and others wrote to me privately saying that they thought there was a problem, both in new startups and in existing mainstream outlets. Those directly dealing with introducing diversity—founders and editors—were generous in explaining how iniquities exist but remain difficult to solve. As someone who was briefly in the unenviable position of being ‘board champion for diversity’ at the Guardian several years ago, I feel their pain. Numbers do not change without investment and hard work, nor without counting and prioritizing.