Examining gender representations in the New Media Index

Here at The Gender Report, we’ve been wondering: Of the most talked about articles on the web, how many feature women? How many are produced by females?

In addition to our monthly (and quarterly) roundups of our findings on gender representation in online news through our Gender Checks, we’ve been seeking other ways to examine these issues.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s weekly New Media Index gave us a way to try to answer those questions. The New Media Index chronicles the top five linked to and discussed news stories and opinion pieces around the web in a Monday through Friday week based on leading commentary on blogs and social media sites.

Starting with the first week of the year, The Gender Report has pulled a Gender Check on each of the top articles based on the links PEJ provides in addition to our geographical checks each week. We chose to focus on the main top five in the blogosphere and not that just for Twitter or YouTube. When more than one link was provided on the subject, we’ve selected the first mentioned or that which appears based on the writing as more dominant, unless it is specifically mentioned that two articles shared the glory for that subject, in which case we checked both. It’s noteworthy that the vast majority of the links PEJ provides come from either the Washington Post or the LA Times with occasional appearances by the BBC. Other news sources are rarely used as the link article.

From these articles and posts, we’ve been recording the subject matter, the gender of the authors or creators, and the source breakdown by gender. This first post on these checks provides a round-up of the first four months of the year. In the future, we’ll be sharing them on a monthly basis.

Overall, the four-month span had these findings:

  • Approximately 21.5 percent of sources in were women. Of those whose gender could be identified, the articles contained 55 female sources and 201 male sources.
  • One or more woman authored 21 of the articles, while a man or multiple bylined 46. Four had a shared byline between a man (or men) and a woman. Also interesting, of the op-ed pieces that made their way to the weekly top five, two were by women and five were by men. One was a staff editorial.

Here are the findings by month:

January 2011

For the month of January, with weeks starting Jan. 3 through that ending Jan. 28, these were our results.

In that time, there were 23 articles referenced at a rate of the top five per week. One week had two at No. 5. One article (a video interview with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer) repeated in the top five two weeks in a row, so these numbers only count it once. For one subject, the shooting in Tuscon, Ariz., no link to a specific individual article was provided. Another link, that for the subject of violence in Zimbabwe, was dead.

Here’s the gender breakdown:

  • Overall, there were 37 male sources and 10 female sources referenced in these articles during the month of January. That made women 21.3 percent of sources.
  • Of the authors or creators that could be identified by gender, 12 were male and six were female. One article had a shared byline with a man and a woman. Four had no byline.

In addition to those statistics, it was also noteworthy this month that while eight articles explicitly were about male subjects, only one was specifically about a female subject. The single article about a woman, which occurred in the first week of the month, was regarding the death of actress Anne Francis, whose obituary (the link provided) cites her most-remembered role as that of “Honey West” in a 1960s TV series about a “sexy female private detective.” She’s also described as a “shapely blond with a beauty mark next to her lower lip.”

This is a trend that carried throughout the months. More articles appeared in the top five about male subjects for any number of reasons (like this fun one on a 103-year-old male cyclist). Articles on female subjects usually made it around the blogosphere when an actress died, like Francis, and later Elizabeth Taylor.

February 2011

Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 25, these were the findings. There were 14 articles, with two No. 1’s one week. In subsequent weeks when Egypt and then Libya were the No. 2 story, the PEJ roundups did not include a link to an article.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • This month women made up 28 percent of sources. The articles included 41 males sources and 16 female sources.
  • In February seven articles were written or produced by one or more male, five were by females and one was by both a man and a woman. One article had no byline.

March 2011

For the weeks that began Feb. 28 and ended April 1, a total of 23 subject articles or links were provided at the top-five-per-week rate. This month saw much more tying among subjects in terms of their percentage of the links referenced in the blogosphere. Two links were either not provided and couldn’t be externally identified or were no longer functioning.

The breakdown was as follows for the month:

  • In the low of the first four months, women made up only 15.2 percent of sources. Of sources that could be gender identified, just 14 were female while 78 were male.
  • Six articles were written by a woman, 15 by a man, three by two or more men and one with a shared byline with a man and a woman. One had no byline.

April 2011

Starting with the week of April 4 and ending April 22, a total of 17 articles were referenced. It appears that no New Media Index was completed for the week of April 25 to 29, at least not that we could find. Both the second and third week had six articles, as two articles shared the No. 2 spot for economy during the second week and the fourth week saw two subjects sharing No. 1 and No. 4 (with no No. 5).

Here’s what the month brought:

  • Approximately 25 percent of sources were women in April. A total of 15 sources were female and 45 were male.
  • On the byline front, four articles were by one or more woman, 10 were by a man and two had shared bylines between a woman and one or more man. Again, one article had no byline.

Looking at the New Media Index is again one of several ways we’ll be examining the issues of gender representations in both the coverage and creation of online news. For some context or a basis of comparison for these statistics, read our earlier post on the statistics found in the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project’s report. For more information or research on women’s representation in the news media, check out our “Useful Resources” page.

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