Online-only news sites provide more female sources but fewer female bylines than their newspaper counterparts, at least according to our findings at the nine-month mark of our Gender Check monitoring project.
Last Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, marked nine months of our project which aims to monitor gender representations on U.S. news websites.
Through this project, we’ve been monitoring two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one that was online-only — in four different geographic regions once a week. These websites included the Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, New York Times, ProPublica, Stltoday.com, St. Louis Beacon, Miami Herald and Patch (Seminole Heights).
During each “Gender Check,” we selected the lead article from each site at the time we visited and recorded information on the gender of the author and the breakdown of the genders of the human sources referenced in the articles among other details. (For more on what Gender Checks are, read our introductory post here.)
Between the project’s start date, Jan. 18, and the conclusion of nine months, we’ve monitored a total of 272 articles. This broke down to 78 articles from the West and from the Midwest, 64 articles from the Northeast and 52 articles from the South. As we’ve stated previously, these lower counts in the Northeast and South may have some slight affect overall, but these regions’ standings among the others have remained fairly consistent over time.
Here are our findings from our first nine months:
Women made up 25.3 percent of human sources referenced in the articles we monitored during this time period. This matched our findings at the six-month point. In total, the articles contained 775 male sources and 263 female sources. This does not include those whose gender could not be identified, such as unnamed and unidentified sources.
Roughly 36 percent — 98 of the 272 articles monitored — contained only male sources (no female sources). In comparison, 20 articles had only female sources, or 7.4 percent. Nineteen articles contained no sources at all.
Our highs and lows still belong to the fourth and fifth months, respectively. The high came with women as 30.4 percent of sources in the fourth month followed by our low at 19.5 percent in the fifth month.
As was true at the six-month mark, the South had the highest percentage of women sources, with 33.6 percent. The lowest again belonged to the Northeast at 20.5 percent.
Here’s how that broke down geographically:
- West: 192 males, 74 female (Women at 27.8 percent)
- Northeast: 244 males, 63 females (Women at 20.5 percent)
- Midwest: 248 males, 80 females (Women at 24.4 percent, the exact same as at the six-month point)
- South: 91 male, 36 female (Women at 33.6 percent)
As we’ve found since the first quarter of our study, online-only outlets have continued to use a slightly higher percentage of female sources than those associated with a newspaper. At the nine-month mark, women were 28.3 percent of sources at online-only sites and 22.5 percent at newspaper sites. This held true in all regions except the West, where both sites had the same percentage of female sources.
- Newspaper website: 416 males, 121 females (Women at 22.5 percent)
- Online-only: 359 males, 142 females (Women at 28.3 percent)
The two lowest percentages of female sources are still coming from newspaper sites — the New York Times (only 13.28 percent) and Stltoday.com (at 21.3 percent). The number of articles in our sample is still low, so that limitation should be kept in mind, but this trend has held thus far.
While source percentages appeared to hold, the percentage of female authors increased between the six-month and the nine-month mark. In total, women wrote 104 of the articles in our study, while men bylined 144. Twenty-one articles had a shared byline between a man (or men) and a woman (or two). Three articles were by staff or an unidentified author.
All of this meant women bylined 38.2 percent of the articles in our study, and 41.9 percent of articles by a person(s) of one gender or the other. This compares to 34.7 percent and 37.7 percent in our six-month findings.
Of the articles, seventeen were written by one or more man, but only one was written by more than one woman.
Our low to-date in this study came during the ninth month, when women wrote six of 28 articles, while men wrote 18. Our high came in the fourth month, when women bylined 16 of 32 stories, the only time in our study that women’s bylines exceeded those of men. Men in turn wrote 12 and the remainder were shared bylines between a man and a woman.
By geographic region. the Northeast again had the lowest percentage of female bylines at 25 percent. The South’s percentage remained fairly consistent, with women near parity at 44.2 percent.
- West: 24 stories by an individual woman, 50 by one or more man, three with a shared byline between a man and a woman, two by contributors (Women at 30.8 percent overall)
- Northeast: 16 by an individual woman, 37 by one or more man, 11 with a shared byline (Women at 25 percent overall)
- Midwest: 29 by a woman, 43 by one or more man, six with a shared byline (Women at 37.2 percent overall)
- South: 23 by a woman, 26 by one or more man, two with a shared byline, one contributor (Women at 44.2 percent overall)
In bylines, a similar trend continued that we’ve seen since our first quarter findings. Even though they have fewer female sources, newspaper websites have continued to show a higher percentage of female bylines than their online-only counterparts.
Approximately 37.5 percent of articles from newspaper websites were bylined by women. This compared to 30.1 percent at online-only outlets. This again held true in all regions, expect the Northeast. ProPublica has widened the gap from our six-month mark, with 28.1 percent female authors compared to the New York Times’ 21.8 percent. It’s also noteworthy that one newspaper website has actually turned up more female bylines than male bylines at this point — the Miami Herald — with 13 articles by females, 11 by males and two with a shared byline. Our sample size is smaller for this site, so we’ll be watching to see if this holds once it increases.
- Newspaper website: 51 by a woman, 70 by one or more man, 13 with shared bylines between a man and woman, one by contributors (Women at 37.5 percent overall)
- Online-only: 41 by a woman, 86 by one or more man, eight with shared bylines and two other (Women at 30.1 percent overall)
Author gender and source selection
Again, like we have in other monitoring studies, we’ve looked at how the author’s gender affected the use of female sources. At this point, female authors have a slightly higher percentage of female sources.
In the nine months of our study thus far, females were 27.2 percent of sources in articles written by women and 23.6 percent in those written by men. Articles with a shared byline between a man and women had women as 28.6 percent of sources.
Up next and review
Watch for an update on our findings on female authors and sources by article subject and on source order and gender in the coming weeks.
We’ll still be doing our weekly Gender Checks for the next three months to finish out a full year of data. Be sure to keep an eye out for our other monthly tallies as well as individual Gender Checks. Review past posts on Gender Check findings below:
- Lowest showing of female bylines yet found in ninth month of Gender Check project
- Women see increase in bylines in eighth month of Gender Checks
- Despite reduced sample, women lose ground in authorship in seventh month
- Six months: Findings on women as sources, authors in Gender Check monitoring project
- Women wrote more than 40 percent of articles in month six of Gender Checks
- Gender Checks show higher count of female bylines in fourth month, fewer female sources in fifth
- First quarter: Women are 24.6 percent of sources, 31 percent of authors
- Third month finds dip in percentage of female authors
- Second month sees decrease in female sources
- Women make up 27.6% of sources in first month
We hope you remember that our study is still young and has some limitations. Further research is still needed. For other data on gender representations in online news and to compare these findings to others, check out our “Findings and Statistics” category and our “Useful Resources” page.
Related: Nine months: Science and health articles showing high female sources, low female bylines (A look at our Gender Check data by article subject)