The OpEd Project, whose mission is to increase the diversity of voices in public debate, released a byline survey of opinion articles from a 12-week period in 2011. The survey included 7,000 articles at 10 media outlets, including legacy (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post), new (Huffington Post and Salon) and college (Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale) media.
Not surprising, college media had the highest number of female bylines out of the three groups at 38 percent. However, one would expect that number to be even higher considering women have been the majority of journalism students for decades.
Women also had more op-ed bylines in new media (33 percent) than legacy media (20 percent). This is particularly interesting because our study as well as the Global Media Monitoring Project found slightly fewer female bylines at online news sites than traditional media. In the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project, only a small difference was found as overall 37 percent of stories were reported by women while 36 percent of stories in the online samples were bylined by women. Also, our 2011 Gender Check study (though admittedly with a much smaller sample size) found women had 33.9 percent of bylines at newspaper websites and 30.5 percent at online-only news websites. This definitely demonstrates there is need for further study and comparison, which is part of The Gender Report’s mission. The OpEd Project did note that there have been some improvements in the number of female bylines from 6 years ago.
Also noteworthy, The OpEd Project examined the subjects of the op-ed pieces by women. Women wrote the most in both legacy and new media about what the report dubbed “Pink Topics.” These were considered topics that have traditionally been considered the female “ghetto” in journalism including the “four F’s” (food, family, furniture and fashion). It also included articles on women-focused subject matter (for instance “woman-specific health or culture”), gender/women’s issues, and profiles of women for which gender is a “significant” issue.
Response and Reaction
Several blogs and organizations picked up on the report including Poynter and the Huffington Post. Often shared was Erika Fry’s piece from the Columbia Journalism Review, which puts the numbers in context and examines some of the related issues.
J. Bryan Lowder at the XX Factor questioned what was categorized as “Pink Topics,” suggesting it can perpetuate stereotypes by making it unclear what distinguishes between “women specific health and culture” and “serious” political topics.
Following the release, Poynter held a live chat on how to crack journalism’s glass ceiling. In addition to Mallary Tenore and Joe Grimm from Poynter, the chat featured Barbara Selvin, an assistant professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, who has recently written blog posts about the lack of women in journalism.
Additionally, stories noted that a panel was held Tuesday titled Throw Like A Girl: Pitching the Hell Out of Your Stories, put together by Her Girl Friday. This panel, according to Jillian Keenan at Poynter, encouraged women to gain confidence and overcome their fear of rejection. However, Jen Doll at The Atlantic Wire cautioned attributing the lack of female bylines to an issue of confidence, saying it continues to put the blame on women and is perhaps oversimplifying the issue.
This survey and others like it continue to raise awareness about the gender gap in journalism, but as Doll notes, “knowing these stats is only half the battle.”
-The Byline Survey Report, 2011: Who Narrates the World? (OpEd Project)
-It’s 2012 already: why is opinion writing still mostly male? (Columbia Journalism Review)
-The Problem with “Pink Topics” (XX Factor)
-Men Still Dominating Bylines In Journalism: Report (Huffington Post)
-How to pitch (stories) like a girl (Poynter)
-Do Female Journalists Have a Confidence Problem? (The Atlantic Wire)