How Female Reporters Are Changing Tech Journalism
By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)
While diversity among founders may be slowly improving, there is one area of the tech industry where women are already contributing their fair share – and then some.
“VentureBeat has closed the tech gender-gap,” Christina Farr, a writer there who is curating and moderating a panel on health tech at our upcoming conference, told Women 2.0. And her site isn’t the only industry news outlet with a healthy representation of women. According to Farr, more and more women are now reporting on the tech industry – even its driest and most traditionally male-dominated parts, like development and security.
A Different Lens
The influx of female reporters is great news for the careers of these journalists, who get to cover one of the hottest and most impactful areas around, but also a happy trend for consumers of tech news. These women are bringing a fresh perspective to tech reporting, according to Farr.
“Female reporters really want to profile and highlight some of the great women in tech,” she explains, but the changes go deeper as well. “It’s tough to make generalizations, but I do know that a lot of our women reporters are more interested in covering the people behind startups — the culture that drives companies.”
Farr uses herself as an example. A native of London, England she was more interested in art history than tech growing up and didn’t even own a cell phone until her 20s. Coming late to technology gives her, and other reporters like her, a unique lens through which to examine an industry that has often gotten uncritical cheerleading in the media in the past.
“I’m not looking at technology and thinking this is a good thing inherently, that it’s always a good thing that a tech company is expanding or raising money. Why is it a good thing? Why is it a good thing that Facebook exists? It’s taking more of an objective lens. That’s a little different than what we used to see in the past, which was people who grew up obsessed with gadgets,” she explains.
A New Approach at VentureBeat
How is the influence of these more tech-critical female reporters playing out at VentureBeat? Farr announced a new direction for the site to Women 2.0. “We’re upping our investment in investigative reporting and making a few key hires,” she said. Most recently, Venture Beat reporter Jolie O’Dell, who previously wrote for ReadWriteWeb and Mashable has been promoted to managing editor.
Farr has already published some investigative pieces including a story she broke last week about California regulators attempting to shut down ‘learn-to-code’ boot camps and a piece on the new Samsung smart watch.
“That’s interesting because at many leading technology blogs, it’s been more of a pressure to constantly get out content.” But following a few recent, successful forays into long-form pieces, Farr explained, VentureBeat is “trying to figure out now how to bridge the old, traditional world of journalism, especially investigative, with the demands of new media and digital journalism.”
“That’s going to be a whole new direction for VentureBeat and one, I think, that could signal a shift in new media from just news to thinking more thoughtfully and analytically about why something happened,” she adds. What it won’t mean is an entirely new business model for site, which doesn’t plan any radical changes like putting up a pay wall, though having individual sponsors for their long-form section is under discussion.
Like Farr’s panel at the conference, VentureBeat is also planning to focus more on changes in health tech. “Editor-in-chief Dylan Tweney said the other day it’s the largest shift he’s seen since we invented the computer. In 40 years he thinks it’s the most important thing that’s happened,” she says of the radical changes to how healthcare is being delivered now underway.
“The changes in policy and regulation in DC have opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs to come in and do, for the first time in a long time, really new and interesting things in healthcare,” she says. “We’re literally going from doctors getting paid per procedure, to doctors getting paid on the outcome, like how healthy his or her patients are, which is huge. We’re going to need a ton of new technology to help initiate that change. I think it’s going to create a whole generation of billionaires.”
Jessica Stillman (@entrylevelrebel) is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com, contributes regularly to Forbes and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others.
Photo credit: Michael O’Donnell.