The Online Journalism “Revolution” Will Produce More Powerful White Men

What Women Really Think
March 13 2014 3:13 PM

The Online Journalism “Revolution” Will Produce More Powerful White Men

Ezra Klein is Vox's editor in chief.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The New Yorker

At the Guardian on Wednesday, Emily Bell asked why a new fleet of marquee online journalism startups—including Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, Ezra Klein’s Vox, and First Look Media, which recruited Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and John Cook (husband of DoubleX editor Allison Benedikt) to lead their own digital magazines—“have been spattered with words that denote transformation,” like “revolutionary” and “innovative,” and yet are staffed with a very traditional slate of mostly white and male journalists. “Remaking journalism in its own image, only with better hair and tighter clothes, is not a revolution, or even an evolution,” Bell writes. “A revolution calls for a regime change of more significant depth.”

Bell is correct. But I wonder why there was ever any expectation that these new platforms would be more diverse than the stodgy magazines and newspapers they’re positioning themselves against. These online platforms represent the merging of journalism (which is a traditionally white and male-dominated field) with technology (which is even more so!). If anything, their marriage should only produce more powerful white men. In the launch video for Vox, Trei Brundrett, Vox Media’s chief product officer, says Klein came to the company because: “We’re not just a media company, we’re also a technology company.” Of the 17 members of Vox Media’s “leadership team,” two are women.


Diversity has never been a serious metric for a company’s “innovation” status, in either journalism or tech. Steve Jobs may have thought different, but he looked the same. It's the product that's new, not the inventor. (And sometimes, women are the product: Investors gave Bleacher Report's deeply male Bryan Goldberg $6.5 million to start a website for women.) In 2012, the Columbia Journalism Review heralded Klein's fresh perspective in political reporting because he’s a “California kid” who did not earn his “fame at The New Republic.” Instead, he interned at the Washington Monthly and joined the American Prospect at the age of 23. These are incredibly fine distinctions to draw. Why even pretend that the demographics are shifting? What really made Klein different was that he was an early master of an emerging technological tool. That’s not to dismiss Klein’s personal accomplishments, which are well-earned; it’s just that his background is not particularly surprising. (Even if he did—gasp!—graduate from UCLA.) Journalism and technology won’t just magically diversify when they shift over to a new platform.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 6:30 PM Nothing Succeeds Like Secession Breakaway movements across the United States want to get on the Scottish bandwagon. 
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.