From the development of the printing press in 1440 to the release of the first iPhone in 2007, as technology has evolved so has the media. Yet, in an ever-changing industry, one thing stays the same: It’s a field where quick-minded, risk-taking and passionate thinkers flourish. Here are three alumnae who, in a male-dominated business, have forged – and continue to build – new paths amidst the continuously evolving media landscape.
By Rachel Breitweser ’03
“The moment I started using the internet, I wanted to work in the digital space and be a part of the dot-com movement,” says Diane Seo ’85, thinking back to 1999 when the internet had taken hold.
Driven by the newfound interest in the burgeoning global computer network, Seo made the risky move of leaving the well-established Los Angeles Times to work at Salon.com, an internet start-up. Her reporter position with the iconic daily had taken her from inner-city Los Angeles after the 1992 riots to Wall Street. “It was a great experience and very intense,” she reflects. However, she could not resist the allure of the electronic sphere.
“I knew the internet had power and would grow,” says Seo. “I loved media, but didn’t want to stay confined to a traditional space. With the internet, you could break rules, and it opened up a whole new realm for me.”
Her transition into new media was motivated in part by a foundation laid at Punahou by Academy teachers Liz Foster and the late Paul “Doc” Berry. “She made me believe I could write. He made me a different kind of thinker, pushing me to dig deeper. I left Punahou feeling like I was a writer and a creative thinker,” shares the graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
After getting her feet wet in digital media at Salon.com, Seo, a former Punahou tennis player, revisited her dream of working in professional tennis. Winning points by flying to Lisbon for an in-person interview and giving a well-received New York restaurant recommendation, Seo was hired by the media wing of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the organization that runs men’s professional tennis internationally.
Seo toured the world with ATP as managing director of new media. “I realized I didn’t have to be in news to be in media,” she says. She could still pursue her interests while meeting her need to be immersed in the digital world.
After settling back in the Islands in 2005 to raise daughter Mia ’23, Seo was hired by a former fellow Los Angeles Times reporter to create new digital products for the Honolulu Advertiser, which included Metromix Honolulu, a go-to website for party photos, food coverage and event information.
Though the Advertiser ceased publication in 2010, Seo and an inspired team of creatives have kept Metromix’s spirit alive, transitioning the concept to the independent media outlet Nonstop Honolulu and drawing an audience with eye-catching photo galleries and food reporting, ahead of trends yet to come. “I like to create and forge new ground in digital media,” says Seo.
The process was a labor of love for Seo but with a rewarding payoff. In fact, while leading Nonstop Honolulu as founder and editor, she also worked as a contributing editor for Modern Luxury.
The latest evolution of her passion project, Frolic Hawaii, lives under the umbrella of aio Media. Now, as vice president of Upspring Media, Seo helps its sister companies and companies it consults to establish their presence through digital marketing and mobile apps. Her new role is stretching her to delve deeper into business and understand data, key elements of digital media.
“People go into media because they want adventure and want to be at the pulse of whatever world they’re in the midst of,” Seo explains. “In this line of work, you have to be open-minded to change and not just in a passive way – to jump ahead as survival and be excited by it.”
Not one to stand still, Seo feels there is still a new chapter for her. “There is something left to create,” she says.