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Byline Report, Findings and Statistics, Our studies

Byline Report: Who writes the news online? (3 months)

Women wrote less than one-third of articles at online-only news sites during the first three months of our Byline Report project.

The six-month project, which began July 1, examines the gender breakdown of bylines at six online news websites weekly based on the sites’ RSS feeds. Research has long demonstrated a gender gap in who writes and produces the news, but less is still known about how it has materialized online. The goal of this project is to contribute to our knowledge of how this plays out at online-only news websites.

The project is still ongoing, but here’s what we’ve found 13 weeks in:

Three Month Totals: July 1, 2012 – Sept. 29, 2012

During the first three months of this study, 7,145 articles were monitored in total. Men wrote 60.6 percent of these articles, while women wrote 29.3 percent. Additionally, 4.3 percent of articles had a shared byline between men and women and 5.9 percent of articles were by staff or wire services.

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The percentage of bylines for males exceeded that of females at four out of the six sites. At both ProPublica and California Watch, female reporters bylined more articles than their male counterparts.

Here are the breakdowns by website:

California Watch

  • Percent by women: 52.3%
  • Percent by men: 38.8%
  • Percent shared (both male and female authors): 3.8%
  • Percent by other*: 5.1%

A total of 237 articles were published in the California Watch RSS feed during this time period, an average of roughly 18 articles per week.

The Center for Public Integrity

  • Percent by women: 30.5%
  • Percent by men: 34.5%
  • Percent shared: 6%
  • Percent by other*: 29%

The Center for Public Integrity, or iWatch, published 348 articles in its RSS feed, an average of 27 articles per week. iWatch changed its name back to The Center for Public Integrity as of Aug. 19, 2012. Read about the change here. The relatively high percentage of “other” articles can be attributed to the second week in the study, when iWatch used a larger number of articles from wire services.

Politico – “2012 Live

  • Percent by women: 27.7%
  • Percent by men: 61.6%
  • Percent shared:  4.8%
  • Percent by other*: 5.9%

Politico does not offer a general RSS feed so the “2012” RSS feed was selected for monitoring. During the first 13 weeks of the study, Politico published an impressive 4,606 articles in this feed, averaging roughly 354 articles a week. This total does not include any dead links.

ProPublica

  • Percent by women: 50.4%
  • Percent by men: 37.6%
  • Percent shared: 8.5%
  • Percent by other*: 3.4%

ProPublica published the fewest articles of the set with 117, or nine articles per week.

Slate

  • Percent by women: 29.2%
  • Percent by men: 65.5%
  • Percent shared: 3%
  • Percent by other*: 2.4%

Slate published 1,083 articles during the time frame, or approximately 83 articles per week.

Texas Tribune

  • Percent by women: 28.5%
  • Percent by men: 69.9%
  • Percent shared: 1.2%
  • Percent by other*: 0.4%

The Texas Tribune published 754 articles, or roughly 58 per week. Duplicate articles in the RSS feed were removed and not counted in the total so each article was only counted once.

Monitoring for these sites will continue for another three months to see if these numbers hold over time. Weekly reports can be accessed on our “Byline Report” page. The study’s six websites were selected from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Guide to Online News Startups. Two websites were randomly selected from the three top editorial staff size filters used in the database (More than 40, 21 to 40, and 11 to 20). Read more about the study’s background in our introductory post here.

*The other category includes articles that have no byline as well as those by staff and wire services.

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About Jasmine Linabary

Jasmine Linabary is a PhD student with an interest in media, technology, and feminist theory. Her background is in newspaper journalism.

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