Research has long demonstrated a gender gap in who writes and produces the news, but less is known about how and if that gap has materialized online. The goal of our Byline Report project has been to take a look at how this plays out at online-only news websites. This six-month project examined the gender breakdown of bylines at six online news websites weekly based on the sites’ RSS feeds.
The 26-week byline count took place between July 1, 2012, and Dec. 29, 2012. Weekly reports were made throughout the study’s duration and can be accessed on our “Byline Report” page.
The study’s six websites were selected from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Guide to Online News Startups. Two websites were randomly selected from the three top editorial staff size filters used in the database (More than 40, 21 to 40, and 11 to 20). The six sites selected were the Center for Public Integrity, Politico, Slate, ProPublica, California Watch and the Texas Tribune. (You can read more about the study’s background in our introductory post here.)
Over the course of this study, a total of 14,048 articles were monitored. The percentage of bylines for males exceeded that of females at four out of the six sites. At both ProPublica and California Watch, there were more female bylines than male bylines, though by narrower margins than those of the sites were males outnumbered females. At ProPublica, the difference was only 1.1 percent.
The three websites with the highest numbers of articles published also had the smallest percentages of female bylines. At all three — Slate, Politico and the Texas Tribune — women were less than 30 percent of authors.
Here are the breakdowns by website:
- Percent by women: 51.2%
- Percent by men: 40.4%
- Percent shared (both male and female authors): 4.6%
- Percent by other*: 3.8%
A total of 369 articles were published in the California Watch RSS feed during this time period, an average of roughly 14 articles per week.
- Percent by women: 31.8%
- Percent by men: 38.7%
- Percent shared: 7.1%
- Percent by other*: 22.4%
The Center for Public Integrity, or iWatch, published 522 articles in its RSS feed, an average of 20 articles per week. iWatch changed its name back to The Center for Public Integrity as of Aug. 19, 2012. Read about the change here. The relatively high percentage of “other” articles can be attributed to the second week in the study, when iWatch used a larger number of articles from wire services.
- Percent by women: 27.1%
- Percent by men: 62%
- Percent shared: 5%
- Percent by other*: 5.8%
Politico does not offer a general RSS feed so the “2012” RSS feed was selected for monitoring. During the 26 weeks of the study, Politico published an impressive 9,037 articles in this feed, averaging roughly 348 articles a week. This total does not include any dead links.
- Percent by women: 43.8%
- Percent by men: 42.7%
- Percent shared: 9.5%
- Percent by other*: 4%
ProPublica published the fewest articles of the set with 274, or 11 articles per week. ProPublica showed the biggest change from when we reported our findings from the first three months of this byline count. At that time, women wrote 50.4 percent of the articles and men wrote 37.6 percent. That gap has since narrowed.
The percentage of articles by women at ProPublica is higher than we found in our 2011 Gender Check study. That study looked at lead articles on news websites and found that women wrote only 30.8 percent of those articles monitored at ProPublica during the study’s time frame.
- Percent by women: 29.4%
- Percent by men: 63.3%
- Percent shared: 4.2%
- Percent by other*: 3.1%
Slate published 2,411 articles during the time frame, or approximately 93 articles per week.
- Percent by women: 25.1%
- Percent by men: 72.7%
- Percent shared: 1.8%
- Percent by other*: 0.4%
The Texas Tribune published 1,435 articles, or roughly 55 per week. Duplicate articles in the RSS feed were removed and not counted in the total so each article was only counted once.
*The other category includes articles that have no byline as well as those by staff and wire services.