Editor’s note: In January 2011, we set out to examine the ways in which women are represented in online news both as sources and as authors. To mark our first year here at The Gender Report, we’re revealing our findings from our year-long studies as well as other statistics and commentaries in a series of posts. View other coverage of our one-year anniversary here.
Women bylined 32.2 percent of all articles monitored in a year-long study of eight news websites.
This finding was based on the results of The Gender Report’s Gender Check project that aims to monitor gender representations in online news. In this study, we monitored the lead articles from two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one considered online-only — in each of the four geographic regions as defined by the U.S. Census. The websites we examined included the Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, New York Times, ProPublica, Stltoday.com, St. Louis Beacon, Miami Herald and Patch (Seminole Heights).
On a weekly basis, we selected the lead article from each site at the time we visited and performed a “Gender Check” by recording 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.)
This project began in January 2011 and concluded earlier this month. For the purposes of this study, this made a total of 53 weeks, but due to a missing week, resulted in a total of 52 weeks of monitoring for at least two of our geographic regions. Between Jan. 18, 2011 and Jan. 19, 2012, we examined a total of 354 articles, averaging about 29.5 articles per month. In total, this broke down to 104 articles each from the West and Midwest regions, 78 articles from the Northeast and 68 articles from the South. These lower counts in the Northeast and South are the result of missed weeks. Though this may have have some slight affect on the overall findings, the standings of these regions among the others have remained consistent over time. Earlier today we released the first findings from this study regarding sources in these news articles, reporting that women were 26 percent of human sources referenced overall.
When it came to bylines, women wrote 114 of the articles in our study, while men wrote 209. Twenty-five articles had a shared byline between a man (or men) and a woman. Six articles were by contributors, staff or unbylined. These totals mean women bylined 32.2 percent of articles in our study, and 35.3 percent of articles by a person (or persons) of one gender or the other.
Twenty-two articles in our sample were written by more than one man, while only one article was bylined by more than one woman.
In only one month of our study did the count of women’s bylines exceeded that of men. In the fourth month, women bylined 16 of 32 stories. Men wrote 12 and the remainder were shared bylines between a man and a woman. The lowest percentage of female bylines came in month nine, when women byline 25 percent of articles by authors of one gender or the other and 21.4 percent overall.
In terms of geographic regions, our sites from the Northeast have continued to hold the lowest percentage of female bylines with 24.4 percent of the articles overall. In our sites from the South, women were nearest parity at 42.6 percent.
- West: 29 stories by one or more woman, 68 by one or more man, four with a shared byline between a man and a woman, three by contributors or staff (Women at 27.9 percent overall)
- Northeast: 19 by an individual woman, 47 by one or more man, 12 with a shared byline (Women at 24.4 percent overall)
- Midwest: 37 by a woman, 58 by one or more man, seven with a shared byline, two by staff (Women at 35.6 percent overall)
- South: 29 by a woman, 36 by one or more man, two with a shared byline, one unknown (Women at 42.6 percent overall)
Newspaper vs. online-only websites
As we’ve discovered throughout our study, though newspaper-connected sites may have fewer female sources than their online-only counterparts, they do fair a bit better than them when it comes to female bylines. Of the articles from newspaper sites in our study, women byline 38.2 percent of articles by a person(s) of one gender or the other and 33.9 percent overall. This compared to 32.5 percent and 30.5 percent respectively at online-only outlets. This trend held true in all geographic regions, except the Northeast, where ProPublica had a higher percentage of female bylines than the New York Times.
- Newspaper website: 60 by a woman, 97 by one or more man, 17 with shared bylines between a man and woman, three by contributors/staff (Women at 33.9 percent overall)
- Online-only: 54 by a woman, 112 by one or more man, eight with shared bylines, three by contributors/staff (Women at 30.5 percent overall)
Individual news websites
The New York Times had the lowest percentage of female bylines overall at 17.95 percent. We did have one site — the Miami Herald — that at the time of our study’s completion showed women as 50 percent of bylines overall.
We want to note that when broken down by each individual news site, our sample size is still small so readers should keep that in mind. More research will be needed to determine whether these percentages are indeed accurate for the individual sites. For now, this is what we’ve found:
- Seattle Times: 17 by a woman, 31 by one or more man, three with shared bylines, one by contributors/staff (Women at 33 percent overall)
- Seattle P-I: 12 by a woman, 37 by one or more man, one with a shared byline, two by contributors/staff (Women at 23.1 percent overall)
- New York Times: Seven by a woman, 25 by one or more man, seven with shared bylines (Women at 17.95 percent overall)
- ProPublica: 12 by a woman, 22 by one or more man, five with shared bylines (Women at 30.8 percent overall)
- Stltoday.com: 19 by a woman, 26 by one or more man, five with shared bylines, two by contributors/staff (Women at 36.5 percent overall)
- St. Louis Beacon: 18 by a woman, 32 by one or more man, two with shared bylines (Women at 34.6 percent overall)
- Miami Herald: 17 by a woman, 15 by one or more man, two with shared bylines (Women at 50 percent overall)
- Patch (Seminole Heights): 12 by a woman, 21 by one or more man, one unknown (Women at 35.3 percent overall)
Later this week, we’ll be providing a recap of all of our write-ups related to this study’s findings. We’ll also be looking at our Gender Check project data by article subject and by source order.
As a note to our readers, this study does have some limitations. This data simply reflects our findings from eight news websites and results should not be assumed to represent all sites in the regions or the industry as a whole. Further research is needed to confirm or elaborate on these findings, which is something we’ll be looking to do in year two. Stay tuned for more.
We’re interested in what you make of the findings. Share your thoughts in the comment section below or using the #GRdiscuss hashtag on Twitter.