Editor’s note: Six months ago, we set out to look at how women are represented in online news both as sources and as authors. To mark our progress, this week we’re reviewing our findings as well as unveiling new statistics based on what we’ve uncovered thus far in a series of posts. View other six-month coverage here.
On Jan. 18, 2011, we began a project to monitor U.S. news websites as part of an effort to look at gender representations in online news.
In this effort, we monitored two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one that was online-only — in four different geographic regions once a week. These websites included the Seattle Times, Seattle P-I, New York Times, ProPublica, Stltoday.com, St. Louis Beacon, Miami Herald and Patch (Seminole Heights).
We pulled 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.)
Last week, with our Gender Check from the South, we completed six months’ worth of monitoring. Between Jan. 18 and July 22, we monitored a total of 190 articles, averaging about 32 articles a month. This included 52 articles each from the West and Midwest regions, 46 articles from the Northeast and 40 articles from the South. These lower counts in the Northeast and South may have some slight affect overall, but these regions’ standings among the others have remained fairly consistent over time.
Without further ado, here are our findings:
During our first six months of Gender Checks, women made up 25.3 percent of human sources referenced in the articles we monitored. This broke down to 572 male sources and 194 female sources. This does not include those whose gender could not be identified.
The high came with women as 30.4 percent of sources in the fourth month followed by our low at 19.5 percent in the fifth month.
Seventy-one of the 190 articles monitored contained only male sources (no female sources), or roughly 37.4 percent. This compared to 11 articles with only female sources, or 5.8 percent. Four articles contained no sources at all.
Among geographic regions, the West and the South both had the highest percentage of women as sources at roughly 30 percent. The Northeast was the lowest at 20.7 percent.
Here’s how that broke down geographically:
- West: 128 males, 55 female (Women at 30 percent)
- Northeast: 207 males, 54 females (Women at 20.7 percent)
- Midwest: 158 males, 51 females (Women at 24.4 percent)
- South: 79 male, 34 female (Women at 30.1 percent)
Online-only outlets have continued a trend of using a slightly higher percentage of female sources than those associated with a newspaper that we first started observing in our first quarter findings. After six months, women were 28.1 percent of sources at online-only sites versus 22.4 percent at newspaper-connected sites. This trend of the online-only sites having the higher percentage of female sources held true in every region. Among the newspaper sites were the two lowest percentages of woman as sources, coming from the New York Times (only 14.2 percent) and Stltoday.com (at 19 percent). We’ll note that when you divide out the numbers by individual news sites, the number of articles in our sample is still low, so that should be kept in mind. We’ll still need to see if those trends for specific news sites hold over time.
Online-only sites also had a few more sources overall, attributable to the fact that the St. Louis Beacon and then ProPublica had the highest number of sources in our study. However, the number was brought down by the Patch site in the category, which had the lowest number of sources in our sample.
- Newspaper website: 291 males, 84 females (Women at 22.4 percent)
- Online-only: 281 males, 110 females (Women at 28.1 percent)
Overall, women wrote 66 of the articles in our study, while men bylined 109. Fourteen articles had a shared byline between a man (or men) and a woman. One article was by contributors. This meant women bylined 34.7 percent of articles in our study, and 37.7 percent of articles by a person (or persons) of one gender or the other.
Eleven articles were written by more than one man, but no articles in our sample were written by more than one woman.
During one month of our study, 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.
When the numbers are looked at by geographic region, the Northeast had the lowest percentage of female bylines with 23.9 percent of the articles. In our sites from the South, women were near parity with 45 percent.
- West: 17 stories by an individual woman, 32 by one or more man, two with a shared byline between a man and a woman, one by contributors (Women at 32.7 percent overall)
- Northeast: 11 by an individual woman, 28 by one or more man, seven with a shared byline (Women at 23.9 percent overall)
- Midwest: 20 by a woman, 28 by one or more man, four with a shared byline (Women at 38.5 percent overall)
- South: 18 by a woman, 21 by one or more man, one with a shared byline (Women at 45 percent overall)
In bylines we again observed another trend we began seeing during our first quarter findings. Though newspaper-related sites may have fewer female sources than their online-only counterparts, they do fair better than them when it comes to bylines. Of the articles from newspaper sites in our study, 38.9 percent were bylined by women. This compared to 30.5 percent at online-only outlets. The same trend held true in all geographic regions, except the Northeast, where ProPublica had a very slightly higher percentage of female bylines than the New York Times — a difference at this point of less than a percent.
- Newspaper website: 37 by a woman, 47 by one or more man, 10 with shared bylines between a man and woman, one by contributors (Women at 38.9 percent overall)
- Online-only: 29 by a woman, 62 by one or more man, four with shared bylines (Women at 30.5 percent overall)
Author gender and source selection
Like we have with our other recent monitoring studies, we also looked at how the author’s gender affected the use of female sources. Again, we saw a difference, with women having a higher percentage of female sources than men, though the difference was not as large quite as large as in the other studies.
In this case in our first six months, females were 28.1 percent of sources in articles written by women and 21.8 percent in those written by men. Articles with a shared byline between a man and women had women as 33 percent of sources. Though differences in sourcing between articles by men and those by women have been consistent across our three studies, these shared bylines have not, which is something we’ll continue to explore.
We’ll still be doing our weekly Gender Checks for the next six months. Be sure to keep an eye out for our other monthly tallies as well as individual Gender Checks. Review past posts on Gender Check findings below:
As a note to our readers, we hope you remember that our study is still young and has some limitations. Further research is still needed. For other data on gender representations in online news and to compare these findings to others’, check out our “Findings and Statistics” category and our “Useful Resources” page.
We’re interested in what you make of the findings. Share your thoughts in the comment section below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for posts coming Friday and Saturday that recap all of our findings here at The Gender Report thus far and what we’ve learned from them.