Percent of women in newsrooms unchanged in latest ASNE Newsroom Census

Women continue to comprise 36.9 percent of those working full-time at daily U.S. newspapers, according to the American Society of News Editors‘ 2012 Newsroom Census. That percentage remains unchanged from 2011’s survey.

ASNE Newsroom Census 2012

This year ASNE collaborated with the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Missouri School of Journalism for its annual survey effort. ASNE, which has conducted the census since 1978, unveiled this year’s findings at its convention this week in Washington, D.C. The employment survey showed declines in total newsroom employment as well as in positions held by minorities.

Though the organization’s press release on the Newsroom Census focused on these issues, the accompanying tables depict the current gender breakdown in newsrooms. The Newsroom Census tables, which include data from 1999 to the present, show that the percentage of women in newsrooms has not changed more than roughly a percentage point in that time frame. The high was 37.7 percent in 2006 and the low occurred in 2010 at 36.6 percent. The current percentage of women in newsrooms — 36.9 percent — is the same as it was in 1999, 2003 and 2011. In the current survey, the number of women working full-time at daily newspapers was 14,971, while 25,595 employees were men.

Additionally, survey results are broken down by gender and race. Based on these charts, about 15.3 percent of female staff members in the survey were minority women. Last year, ASNE reported that minority women made up 19.3 percent of female staffers. Meanwhile, minority men were roughly 10.5 percent of male employees in the current survey. That percentage was 10.8 the year prior. This is the first year the survey has included a “multi-racial” category, which may slightly skew our understanding of changes in the breakdowns by each race (For the complete breakdown, see Table K).

A separate table tracks gender and job category. Of the four job categories identified, women had the highest representation among copy/layout editors and online producers at 42.3 percent and lowest among photographers, artists and videographers at 25.2. percent. None of the categories had more than a one percent change from the previous year. The percentage of women in three categories — supervisors, reporters and writers and photographers, artists and videographers — dropped slightly, while the percentage of female copy/layout editors and online producers rose. Two categories set records this year, with women at their highest percentage in the past 14 years for copy/layout editors and online producers but at their lowest in that same time frame among reporters and writers at 38 percent.

Find out more about the latest census using the links below to the press release as well as charts related to newsroom gender breakdowns.

Read our post on the 2011 Newsroom Census here. For more studies and resources on gender in the news media, view our “Useful Resources” page.

By the numbers: Women visibly absent from contraception stories

Since the issue began blowing up, The Gender Report has kept track of a small slice of the news stories about the birth control ruling from the Obama administration. We separated our data from stories about the original ruling (starting Jan. 20), as well as stories after his announced compromise with Catholic leaders (after Feb. 10). We looked at news stories on the issue from the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, POLITICO, and USA Today. We did our best to avoid stories that came from other services (such as wires) on these sites or stories posted to the sites’ blogs or special feature services. Keep in mind that this is just a small sample of stories coming from dominant news sources. Here are our results of women in these stories:

Before the compromise: 37 stories, published Jan 20 – Feb. 10

  • Bylines: 48.4 percent women (15 female bylines, 16 male bylines); 6 shared bylines between men and women
  • Sources: 30.9 percent women directly quoted (60 of 134 sources), 29.1 percent of all persons named or mentioned (88 of 302 mentions)
  • Author gender and sources: Women were 38.1 percent of sources in articles by female authors; they were 29.7 percent of sources in articles by males.

After the compromise: 16 stories, published Feb. 11 – Feb. 17

  • Bylines: 38.5 percent women (5 female bylines, 8 male bylines); 3 shared bylines between men and women
  • Sources: 24.7 percent (14 of 43 sources), 24.2 percent of mentioned sources (22 of 91 mentions)
  • Author gender and sources: Women were 26.7 percent of sources in articles by female authors; they were 22.2 percent of sources in articles by males.

Overall: 53 stories, published Jan 20 – Feb. 10

  • Bylines: 45.5 percent women (20 female bylines, 24 male bylines); 9 shared bylines between men and women
  • Sources: 29.5 percent (74 of 251 sources), 28 percent of mentioned sources (110 of 393 mentions)
  • Author gender and sources: Women were 35.9 percent of sources in articles by female authors; they were 28 percent of sources in articles by males.
  • News sites: The New York Times had the highest percentage of female sources with 46.8 percent (33 male vs. 29 female sources in 12 articles). Politico had the lowest percentage at 17.6 percent (56 male vs. 12 female in 17 articles).

Other groups have also found similar trends in data. ThinkProgress, a division of the Center for American Progress, found that out of a total of 146 guests who discussed contraception on cable news shows, 91 men were invited compared to 55 women as commentators. In other words, males comprised 62 percent of the total guests who commented on contraception. (The study looked at shows on Fox, MSNBC, and CNN.) In a more balanced finding, in a self-conducted survey, NPR discovered that of those interviewed and quoted between January 13 and February 13, 26 were women, ranging from Catholic students to lawyers to professors. This compares to 18 men who were quoted by name.

This image from Think Progress of a witness panel of all men testifying in the Congressional hearing on contraception Thursday went viral. (Photo via @ThinkProgress)

It’s important to take a closer look at some of the potential causes, and subsequent pitfalls, behind these numbers. First, much of the debate has involved leaders of the Catholic Church; these voices are, by church rule, male. Some groups interviewed included female leaders in the Catholic church, but even when Methodist or Lutheran pastors were included in the sources, these were male pastors or church leaders. The second group taking the spotlight in much of the coverage, especially in stories from the past week, looked at the responses of the candidates for the republican presidential nomination. Again, all these candidates are male. The third group is Congress, which we’ve stated before is currently only 17 percent female; if you’re interviewing a senator or representative, you’re most likely going to end up with a male voice due to basic probability.

However, despite these caveats, we still are asking the question: Where are the women? While the percentage of women represented in birth control coverage is slightly higher than the representation of women in the news overall (see our Findings & Statistics section for details), the lack of women’s voices in these particular stories is especially glaring considering it is an issue related to women’s health.

The individuals quoted in these stories (with the exception of a few features such as those about experiences with and opinions about birth control at Catholic campuses by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times) were often the same people repeatedly across media outlets. For women, Sister Jane Marie Klein (chairwoman of the board of a system of 13 Catholic hospitals) was most often quoted, followed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebeliu and then Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Both Klein and Richards were named among the three people (the other being Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan) that President Obama is said to have called to alert to the change in the policy.

In our research, only a small handful of non-expert female sources were quoted in the 53 stories. This included the woman whose testimony was canceled in this week’s congressional hearings on the ruling. In any policy story, we would expect to see the perspective of not just the policy makers, but the people whom the policy impacts the most: users of birth control. In the case of contraception, this almost exclusively means women, since male forms of contraception such as condoms do not require a prescription and thus are not a main focus of insurance policy.

A photo (above) from the Congressional hearing quickly went viral this week, as it highlighted the all-male panel in Thursday’s debates. NPR’s ombudsman also pointed out this lack of female representation, writing: “Airing diverse voices and views that reflect the country is critical.” We will continue to follow this story, and provide updated statistics and findings as the debate continues.

Looking for more opinion? Check out these stories and opinion posts on the contraception debates:

One year: Examining the prominence of female sources in Gender Check study

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.


As we unveiled earlier this week, women made up 26 percent of human sources referenced in the articles we monitored as part of our Gender Check project. This percentage gives us a general idea of representation of women’s voices in the news, but it does not reveal how prominently these voices were incorporated. We’ve explored our data a little more indepthly so that we can address this issue and questions such as this: Was the first source in a story – a position of more weight in some respects — even more likely to male than female?

We looked at this after the six-month mark of our study, and found were at least some small signs of a lack of prominence of women sources in the online news articles we monitored. After a year, we find similar evidence.

In our year-long study, we had examined 354 articles from eight U.S. online news websites (for more details on the study, click here). Thirty-one of the articles contained no human sources. Less than 10 percent of articles had nine or more sources. The most sources a story had, as was true at the six-month point, was 25 — an article in June from ProPublica about the criminal justice process in murder cases involving children.

Roughly 15.5 percent, or 55 articles, were single-source stories. That source was male in 35 of the articles, female in 18 and unidentified in two. That made women 32.7 percent of sources in single-source stories.

The number of female sources only exceeded that of male sources twice: when we were down to two articles at source No. 21 and down to one article at source No. 25. Female sources only exceeded one-third at two other times – source No. 16 (five articles) and source No. 22 (two articles). This has remained consistent since since the six-month mark.

The first source of the articles in our sample was female 23.5 percent of the time, but the percentage of sources that were female jumped 5 or 6 percentage points for the second and third sources and then dropped back down to 21.2 percent for the fourth source.

Here’s what we found for the first five sources in a story as well as the last source in the articles.

  • First source: 23.5 percent female (in 323 articles)
  • Second source: 29.5 percent female (in 268 articles)
  • Third source: 28.3 percent female (in 205 articles)
  • Fourth source: 21.2 percent female (in 151 articles)
  • Fifth source: 25.9 percent female (in 108 articles)
  • Last source: 29 percent female (in 269 articles – not including single source stories)

In addition to the order of sources, we also examined the number of expert and non-expert sources of both genders. An expert source is an official or public figure, a person in position of authority or someone with significant knowledge on the subject.

In the articles we monitored, a larger portion of the female sources referenced in were non-experts compared to male sources. Non-experts made up 29.2 percent of female sources but just 14.1 percent of male sources. Overall, 17.9 percent of sources were non-experts.

These findings in particular raise more questions for us. Does this reflect a lack of female experts as a whole or is something different at work? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or using the #GRdiscuss hashtag on Twitter.

For more results from our year-long Gender Check project revealed this week, review the links below:

For more information on gender representations in online news, check out our “Findings and Statistics” and “Useful Resources” pages.