On Thursday, Wired published a lengthy piece on a group of precocious, tech savvy students at Northeastern University with the title, “Meet the NU-Nerds: These College-Age Hackers Will Soon Shape Our Future.” Surprise—it’s a group of young men.
The particular framing was roundly mocked (by myself included)—not at the expense of this group of, by all accounts, talented teens—but for the utter lack of awareness on the part of Wired editors. When women are vastly underrepresented and mistreated in STEM fields, how can a group of media professionals think it’s a good idea to frame this story this way? (The answer is, generally, because there wasn’t a woman there to stop them.)
But on Thursday evening, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson took to his personal Facebook page (why?) to explain the editorial rationale and to apologize.
“As many readers have pointed out... none of the seven people is a woman. It’s not the most racially diverse collective either,” Thompson writes, pointing out that writer Tony Tulathimutte recognizes and attempts to address this in the piece.
That said, those of us—particularly me—who are ultimately responsible for the story and how it is presented to the world made a mistake. The piece ran in the print magazine as “Meet The Nu-Nerds.” But the online headline, “Meet The Brilliant Young Hackers Who’ll Soon Shape The World,” alongside the pictures of all the guys, one after another, suggests that only men code. This isn’t at all what we wish to imply. The hackers shaping the world will certainly include women as well as men. We hope, in fact, that they will do so in equal numbers. This is one of the defining issues in the world we cover right now, and Wired should play a role in helping the tech industry—and journalism about the tech industry—become more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming.
Thompson notes that they’re changing the online headline (in link-outs, but not on the page itself, the headline now reads, “The Genial, Brilliant, Candy-Loving Hackers of Stetson West”) and that the magazine will “continue working to both report on the world as it really is and to push it to become what we want it to be.”
This has been Friday in Man Learns a Lesson; have a beautiful weekend.