Recently a very rich and successful publisher of several large websites emailed one of his editors. He was not happy.
From: Nick Denton
To: Jessica Coen
Date: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Subject: Seriously? It's a freaking geek show. I hate this quota shit.
The editor, who was stuck in an airport and perhaps a bit annoyed by this not-at-all-a-conversation conversation with her boss, fired off a response on her iPhone. Later she would feel like sharing much of it because, god, come on.
From: Jessica Coen
To: Nick Denton
Date: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Subject: Re: Seriously? It's a freaking geek show. I hate this quota shit.
Ok, so you hate quota shit — but if you're arguing who cares bc it's a geek show...well, aren't women allowed to care about what happens with wildly popular (amongst our readers, no less) geek shows? io9 is run by women! And surely you know that some of Kotaku's best and most successful feature work has been about the gender gap and the role/treatment of women in gaming. Girls are geeks too.
I know you're probably gearing up to roll your eyes and tl;dr this email. Don't. Hear me out, please.
The balance of the sexes, the leveling of the playing field, the role of women in all broad senses is a big topic right now, and I'm not talking about on Jezebel. I'm talking about the nyt or wapo or some other national news outlet running an article almost every single day regarding women at work, pay gaps, health, media treatment/depiction, cultural "gender norm" stuff; I'm talking about the Atlantic's successful website launching an entire vertical dedicated to the topic; I'm talking about the most buzzed-about book of the year being a feminist tome written by the COO of Facebook. (Have you read it? It is precisely about the lack of women in charge and it applies across all industries, not just boardroom shit. That's veering into quota territory, by your estimation, but the general public seems to find it compelling.)
This stuff (which definitely involves "quota shit") is a national conversation — did you hear about Joanna Coles repositioning Cosmo, the media apex of froth, as something more serious and issues-focused because there's so much happening right now that directly affects women? Because she is ("it’s very important that we stay on top of political issues that impact young women: Health care, gun violence, the wage gap, how do we close it. These are all issues that I’m personally passionate about”).
I mean this very respectfully, but perhaps you're not feeling this broader shift because it is of little personal interest and concern. That's not to say you're ignorant or don't care about ladies or your female friends and family; just that you are likely not drawn to the fact that these conversations are happening on levels far larger than Jezebel. Most men aren't!
But women care a lot — and I'm talking about average women, not "strident feminist" gender studies majors. The vast majority of my friends are not media wonks and they certainly wouldn't call themselves feminists or activists in any sense. But one glance at my Facebook and Twitter feeds makes it clear that women are talking about these topics.
(And yeah, Doctor Who is small potatoes, comparatively...but you know as much as anyone that Doctor Who has a rabid following; a great deal of those fans are women. There are 275 comments on that piece so clearly someone wants to talk about it. I can think of worse editorial sins than to publish something that connects a cult favorite to a bigger issue and inspires the sort of spirited Kinja discussion you've been pushing for.)
To ignore what you are calling "quota shit" is to remove ourselves from a very hot topic right now.
After she sent the email, the editor boarded her flight and took a nap. The publisher never wrote her back, but they did have a brief meeting when she got to the office the next day. The editor brought up the email, but the publisher shrugged it off. They talked about wedding planning. The dude seriously thinks he can book a great Manhattan venue only 9 or 10 months in advance. Absurd.