When it comes to who gets the prominent news story byline, several factors are usually at play.
Thus far here at The Gender Report, we’ve been simply recording the gender of the authors of the articles we turn up in our weekly Gender Checks, which we pull from the articles that appear as top stories on the news sites at the time we examine those sites on that particular day. According to our first-quarter findings, women made up roughly 31 percent of authors of those news stories we examined.
In a series of posts (one from each of our geographical regions), we’re going to look at how these findings reflect the actual makeups of these news sites’ newsrooms. That will help us as we take a look at what other factors may be involved in those top-of-the-website bylines.
As a starting point for context since half of the news websites in our sample are tied to a traditional newspaper, in its most recent newsroom census, the American Society of News Editors reported that women make up 36.9 percent of those working full-time at U.S. daily newspapers.
For the sake of our study, most of our data for the breakdowns of the individual newsrooms we feature will come from what was readily available online through the news sites’ own contact and staff listing pages. From our experience in the industry, we know these aren’t always quite up to date, but it should give us a general idea of what the newsrooms look like. We’ve stuck to newsroom staff for our purposes. This may vary by news site, as some, particularly newspapers, include different staff positions on their lists.
Without further delay, in our first post in the series, here’s a look at the West.
In the first quarter, women bylined 26 percent of the stories we “gender checked” in the West. Six stories were by an individual woman and 17 were by one or more man.
Overall, the Seattle Times newsroom and seattletimes.com staff list (accessed May 25) shows women as 45.5 percent of the staff members listed. That about matches the percentage of female bylines we found (45 percent) in our newspaper-based news sites in the first quarter, of which the Seattle Times is one. Of the articles we examined from the Seattle Times in the first quarter, five were by a woman, five by a man, two with a shared byline with a woman and one or more man, and one by contributors.
Interestingly, on the Seattle Times’ staff, women matched or slightly exceeded the number of men in the executive staff, business and technology staff and local news staff.
As was to be expected, traditionally male-dominated fields within journalism appeared as such at the Seattle Times. Sports had 13 male staff and two female, according to its online staff list. The photography staff had 13 males and three females. The investigations staff had four males and one female. Women made up the majority of the entertainment staff with seven women to three men.
Of those who are specifically listed as staff of seattletimes.com, eight were female while six were male. The managing editor of digital news and innovation has been a woman, Kathy Best, since 2007. According to her LinkedIn page, Best is now the managing editor in charge of content creation after a newsroom reorganization this spring. That same reorganization likely caused other changes on the staff list.
The Seattle P-I, formerly a newspaper until it went online only in 2009, has a much smaller staff than its newspaper competitor, the Seattle Times. Of the 20-person news staff (accessed May 25), six are female, or 30 percent. In this case, however, our findings did not match up with the staff list breakdown. During Gender Checks, only one article in the first quarter was by a woman, while 12 were by males. Overall among our online-only news sites, women had 19.1 percent of the bylines in that time frame.
The main reason for this at the P-I, by our deduction, is that we see the same byline often producing the lead stories of the day. Most of the stories given top billing on the website are crime related and, therefore, written by crime news gatherer Levi Pulkkinen. Since we pull from the top stories displayed on the website at the time we visit it to conduct our weekly Gender Checks, the male-female byline ratio in this case is more reflective of editorial choices than the actual staff makeup.
It’s noteworthy that the executive producer of the P-I is a woman, Michelle Nicolosi. She also managed the site’s transition to become online only. Other woman-held positions include news gatherer (including aerospace), producer and community editor.
Watch for the next installment in the series looking at the staff breakdowns at our monitored sites coming soon.