By All Digitocracy Contributor
After the horror of the Friday the 13th terror attacks in Paris that left more than 100 people dead, your All Digitocracy Correspondent opted to quit the Internet for two days. Really, compared with the grief and trauma unfolding in the City of Light, our daily focus on the intersection of the news and technology industry, and diversity and inclusion seemed…less than urgent.
Clearly, we mourn the loss of so many lives in Paris, and understand, again, that our global community is indeed connected now in ways both seen and unseen — but deeply felt. Keeping perspective at such a time is a good idea.
Now, we think it’s fitting to take a look at the human aspect of our mission here: exploring the intersection of diversity and inclusion within the merging worlds of tech and media.
Overnight came a dispatch from behind the curtain of an influential digital news and entertainment company , that is as notorious for its internal squabbles as it is for its big growth in the past several years. Late on Sunday, a former editor at Gawker Media, Dayna Evans, dropped something of a bombshell in a post at the Medium sub-brand known as Matter. It carries the unsubtle headline, “On Gawker’s Problem with Women.”
In sum, Evans accuses the company’s leadership of routinely (alternately belligerently and obliviously) engaging in discrimination against women staffers and editors:
Gawker Media, an allegedly progressive, whistle-blowing aggravator in the easily-bristled media landscape — one that was the first to break stories on Josh Duggar’s attempted infidelity, to expose Greg Hardy’s buried domestic abuse, to reveal The Daily Show’s staff gender inequality, to time and time again call out all sorts of people and publications for their wicked or misleading behavior — was deserving of a harsh critique. Gawker Media itself, despite its proud claims to enlightenment, has a woman problem.
From there, Evans takes us through an apparent Hellscape of Manliness that prevails at Gawker, one in which yelling at subordinates and bypassing qualified women editors when top jobs open are routine; she contrasts the boorish treatment of several popular women writers and editors by Gawker’s leader, Nick Denton, and a retinue of male top editors, with Denton’s on-the-record comments to the New York Times last summer in which, to paraphrase, he waxed on and on about the value of a diverse workforce.
Overall, Evans notes, the hypocrisy and double-talk from Denton should be kept in perspective. She observes, correctly, that diversity across Gawker Media properties — the company publishes under its digital umbrella several distinct brand sites, including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and others — is lagging. This fact is wholly in keeping with the dismal demographic picture at most other large-scale news and information outfits, too, legacy and newbie.
Given our mission of charting exactly the Incredible Whiteness and Maleness of the news biz — which is as old, sadly, as the century-old mass media industry itself — it’s cold comfort to note this reality: For all the talk of “changing the world” and “meritocracy” that prevails at tech companies that are swiftly remaking the news business, the stubborn presence of Ye Olde Sexism and Racial Discrimination continues to withstand the passage of time and shifting demographic winds.
And since our mission here also involves providing solutions to these seemingly intractable human problems in the tech+news business, here’s a suggestion for Denton and other leaders of these powerful new digital mass communication vehicles: Try innovating a culture shift in hiring, retention and promotion by casting a wider net, judging individual candidates and workers based on their skill, talent, work-ethic and creativity, rather than on how well or poorly they jibe with your personal sensibilities. Easier said than done, we know. Yet if the brash, well-funded, self-proclaimed Disruptors of Stodgy and Pokey Legacy Media can’t do it, who can?