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
“Scaramucci has been fired!” Michelle Broder Van Dyke ’04 announces President Trump’s recent ousting of his communications director. Her dog, Kolea, sitting comfortably on a plush office chair nearby, perks up her ears.
“Sorry, I’m distracted by my Twitter waterfall right now,” says Broder Van Dyke from in front of her computer as she sips a mug of coffee made from beans picked from 100-year old trees visible outside her Tantalus home office’s window and roasted by her husband, Chris Ritson ’04.
Having cut her teeth in journalism in San Francisco and New York City, Broder Van Dyke is back at her family home perched atop Round Top Drive. With working remotely so accessible these days, Broder Van Dyke is able to continue her career from Hawai‘i.
As BuzzFeed News’ night editor and reporter, her location nearly 5,000 miles away from New York City means she can continue patrolling for breaking news after her East Coast counterparts have gone to bed.
Founded in 2006, BuzzFeed has seen a meteoric rise as a social news and entertainment company focused on digital media. While many know the organization for its entertaining and off-the wall listicles and quizzes – think “29 Cats That Forgot How To Cat” and “This ‘Would You Rather’ Test Will Reveal If You Love Food More Than People” – BuzzFeed has joined the ranks of other major players in the international news arena. And from her fresh-cut heliconia-adorned workstation, Broder Van Dyke is connecting Hawai‘i to that larger picture.
“I think people on the mainland are interested in seeing how different our perspectives are in Hawai‘i,” says Broder Van Dyke. “We have different demographics here and because of that, we often are considering issues before other people elsewhere are, and I see that, more and more, Hawai‘i is at the forefront of new developments.” She cites the recent ban on texting while crossing the street that Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into action. “We’re the first major city to do that so it rose to national news,” she comments.
Broder Van Dyke was pivotal in reporting about Hawai‘i’s challenge of President Trump’s travel bans in court, live tweeting at a hearing where no cameras were allowed. Tweets from Broder Van Dyke and a colleague, who was simultaneously reporting from a similar hearing in Maryland, were compiled and added to by fellow BuzzFeed reporters and experts on politics and law in Washington D.C. Broder Van Dyke has also reported live from one of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s town hall meetings as well as from the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. She recently earned an award of excellence for “best reporting using social media” from the Hawai‘i Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for a story about Disney’s “Moana.”
Broder Van Dyke lived in the continental U.S. for eight years before returning home to Hawai‘i, where brother Jesse ’97, communications director for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, is also located. She attended Oberlin College and earned an undergraduate degree in English with a minor in psychology, then moved to San Francisco, where she freelanced for the San Francisco Chronicle as a music columnist and journalist with an arts and culture focus. Later, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
It was at Punahou where her passion for writing bloomed. Steve Wagenseller, eighth-grade journalism and writing teacher, encouraged her to see that journalism was as much of an art form as creative writing. As a senior, she enjoyed the freedom of pursuing four English classes and lists Liz Foster, Greg Puppione, Sheryl Dare ’66, Adam Ruderman, Shannon Lowrey and Alex Selarque as influential teachers and mentors who reinforced how important writing and photography are as forms of expression.
“Ten years ago I couldn’t have even imagined this job because in the past you had to be on the mainland or in places that were media centers, but now I can work with people in New York and California and live here, and even have it be to my benefit, instead of a detriment, that I’m far away,” Broder Van Dyke reflects. “And I think Hawai‘i deserves attention.”