‘Riptide’ is great — but where’s the diversity?

Harvard’s “Riptide” project promises an important dive into the causes of the media-industry meltdown via dozens of interviews with industry leaders who saw digital technology redefine their businesses.

But Meg Heckman says the study’s authors, John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan, “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.


There are but a few minorities interviewed as well. Reached by email, Huey, Nisenholtz and Sagan sent the following:

We started by identifying the institutions that we believed were central to the Riptide story – the change of news through the rise of digital technology, beginning around 1980. Then we sought to interview many of the key people at those institutions. At that time, they were, regrettably, overwhelmingly white and male.

Riptide was always intended to be an organic project that would be expanded over time with other voices exploring more and more parts of this story. That’s why we created it as a website. We welcome suggestions for voices or topics that could now be added to Riptide. People should feel encouraged to send them to us via shorenstein_center@hks.harvard.edu.

This is not a new issue,” Rachel Sklar, who’s spoken about gender diversity at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, tweeted. “COME THE EFF ON.”

Below, some more tweets:

Related: ‘Riptide’ project explains how legacy media got washed out to sea by digital currents

Correction: This post originally referred to the project as “Nieman’s.” Huey, Nisenholtz and Sagan produced the report for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center; Nieman gave it a home online.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.