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8 Women Leading Innovation in Digital Media & Storytelling

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re profiling eight women who are pioneers in digital media, storytelling, and journalism. Whether…
8 Women Leading Innovation in Digital Media & Storytelling
Lara Setrakian, photographed in front of an image of the Church of St. Simeon, in Qal’a Sim’an, Syria. Photo Credit: Fast Company

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re profiling eight women who are pioneers in digital media, storytelling, and journalism. Whether they’re just starting to make waves, or well into established careers, these women are influencing the media industry for the better.

Nonny de la Peña, founder of the production company Emblematic Group, gives a speech on ‘VR journalism’ at the 2016 Next Content Conference, in Seoul on Nov. 15. Photo Credit: Jeon Han, Republic of Korea.

1. Nonny de la Peña

Nonny de la Peña, nicknamed the “Godmother of Virtual Reality,” is a pioneer in immersive journalism. Before creating the first ever VR documentary, which premiered at Sundance in 2012, de la Peña founded the Emblematic Group, a company focused on producing virtual, augmented, and mixed reality journalism and storytelling. Since then, de la Peña has used virtual reality to talk about social issues, such as homeless LGBTQ youth and the border patrol beating of migrant Anastasio Hernandez Rojas.

Latoya Peterson speaks to journalists as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford.

2. Latoya Peterson

Forbes named Latoya Peterson as one of their 30 Under 30 in Media in 2013 for her work as the owner and editor of Racialicious.com — a blog exploring the intersection of race, identity, and pop culture. That year, she was also a recipient of a John S. Knight Journalism fellowship at Stanford University, where she focused on mobile technology and digital access. Peterson continues to push the boundaries of storytelling in her current position as the Deputy Editor, Digital Innovation for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Previously, she was an editor at Fusion and a producer for Al Jazeera America.

Vox.com co-founder Melissa Bell, right, says a company’s culture is more important than its technology. Photo Credit: Jonathan Seitz, via Nieman Reports.

3. Melissa Bell

Melissa Bell has risen quickly at Vox Media — recently named the company’s Publisher — where she helped launch Vox.com, Vox Media’s news vertical. Previously the Platforms Director at the Washington Post, Bell continues to spearhead initiatives to connect and grow audiences on emerging media platforms like Snapchat.

4. Lara Setrakian

After working as a correspondent for Bloomberg TV and ABC News for years in the Middle East, Lara Setrakian founded News Deeply and Syria Deeply, the first News Deeply site which reports on the Syrian Civil War. Setrakian is the CEO and Executive Editor of News Deeply, and she has continued to grow the media company with three more sites focused on issues around the ebola epidemic, draughts, and climate change.

June Cohen and the crew at TED Media receiving a Peabody Award in 2011. Photo Credit: Peabody Awards.

5. June Cohen

June Cohen is the former Executive Producer of TED Media, where she built their digital media operations from the ground up. After leaving TED, June launched a media start-up and content incubator with her partner and the former Head of Media Partners at TED, Deron J Triff. Since then, they have partnered with Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin at Within to create the first virtual reality documentary series, The Possible. Storyhunter recently interviewed her about the series, which tells the human story behind incredible scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs.

rethahill at a Federal Communications Commission hearing. Photo Credit: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University

6. Retha Hill

Retha Hill is the Executive Director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at Arizona State University. She’s been a pioneer in digital journalism for years. From launching the digital platform for BET to winning a 2010 Knight News Challenge for SeedSpeak, an app for empowering citizen journalism, Hill continues to drive innovation in media. Recently, she has been overseeing the creation of virtual reality apps that tell the story about life on the border of the US and Mexico.

The panelists included Lakshmi Chaudhry, Mandy Jenkins, Youyoung Lee, and Shazna Nessa.

7. Lakshmi Chaudhry

Lakshmi Chaudhry started her career in journalism and digital media as a writer for Mother Jones and WIRED during the dotcom boom. She went on to be a cofounder and the Executive Editor for Firstpost.com, which was India’s first news company to be entirely online. Recently, she’s worked as an Investment Advisor to the IPS Media Foundation, which funds independent Indian media startups and keeps Chaudhry at the forefront of digital media innovation in India.

Cory Haik, Washington Post — Fact checking. Photo Credit: Journalisme & Citoyenneté

8. Cory Haik

Cory Haik, the Chief Strategy Officer of Mic, has followed a career path focused on digital journalism and emerging media platforms. At Mic, she leads the company’s efforts to connect with millennials through engaging and impactful news. Previously, she spent five years at the Washington Post, where she led their mobile and innovation teams. In 2015, the Washingtonian named her as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Washington.” Once a journalist with the New Orleans Times-Picayune and then at the Seattle Times, Haik has shared in three Pulitzer prizes for news coverage.

By D. Simone Kovacs, Writer at Storyhunter