Women in journalism: Reading list for 6/16/2013

The Gender Report provides a weekly round-up of links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. The links below are to noteworthy articles on topics related to women in journalism and the media during the past week. Articles included in this feature do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gender Report or its writers. View past week’s round-ups here.

Reading List

A letter to the editors on Port magazine’s cover (JimRomenesko.com) Related: “Just a bunch of white male editors standing around

Are women writers pushing men out of their chairs at the high-toned navel-gazing table? (She the People)

Style guide aims to make it easier to cover stories like Plan B (Poynter)

Who Do Journos Listen To? (Women In the Media)

The Femisphere: Bloggers From Canada (Ms Blog)

Helen Brush Jenkins, early LA news photographer was 94 (LA Observed)

Erin Lee Carr Leaves Vice for The Verge (New York Observer)

BuzzFeed Names Miriam Elder Foreign and National Security Editor (Fishbowl NY)

CNN Rehires Kelly Wallace, Primarily as Digital Reporter (NY Times Media Decoder)

Wednesday Q&A: Susan Glasser on heading to Politico, the state of foreign reporting, and balancing blogs and longform (Nieman Journalism Lab)

We encourage readers to submit suggestions of articles to include in future editions of this feature by sending an email to genderreport[at]gmail.com. For links to articles like these throughout the week, follow @GenderReport on Twitter.


In the Spotlight: Q&A with the 4th Estate

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts featuring organizations working on issues related to gender representations in the news. View other posts in this series here.

Silenced: Gender Gap in the 2012 Election Coverage by the 4th Estate (Click to go to the site for more)

The 4th Estate released the report “Silenced: Gender Gap in the 2012 Election Coverage” last week. The report (see graphic) shows that even on topics related to women, very few of the sources quoted are, in fact, women.

The study showed that on topics such as abortion, birth control and Planned Parenthood, women are only 12 to 26 percent of quoted sources. Women are seen more often in women’s rights stories but still represent slightly less than one-third of quoted sources.

The study received attention following an article in The Daily Beast (Disclosure: I’m quoted along with fellow Gender Report co-founder Joy Bacon). Subsequently other media outlets and blogs picked up on the study and graphic, including The Atlantic (which also named it “infographic of the day“), Huffington Post, Slate’s XX Factor, and others.

To get to know a bit more about the organization behind this study, we spoke Michael Howe of the 4th Estate project via email about the work the organization is doing to analyze news coverage of the 2012 election, including the representation of women among quoted sources. Here’s what he had to say:

1. For those unfamiliar with your work, give us your elevator pitch — What is the 4th Estate?

The 4th Estate is mapping the public social influence of the media and newsmakers around the presidential election; so from a journalism point of view we see this as a means to raise the quality of the questions that we ask, hopefully in a manner that improves the understanding people have about the media information they are consuming.

2. What made you interested in looking at the gender gap in election coverage specifically?

Although it appears that we have come out of the blue, the technology behind the 4th Estate has been deployed for almost a decade. The 4th Estate team has been using the platform and the core methodology to perform behavioral and media intelligence work for a wide range of corporate and political clients. Over the course of these years, the technology behind the methodology has continuously improved. At this point, the technology is able to measure and visualize thousands of patterns in traditional and social news – gender being just one.

The 4th Estate team has been aware of the gender gap in sourcing for some time. When we started doing our work on the election, we figured this pattern would be present, and it was. The data matched our data from numerous previous projects covering a variety of domains and subject matters. We have seen these patterns repeatedly.

3. What do you consider to be the biggest issue when it comes to the representation of women in journalism?

We feel very unqualified to answer this question. As we mentioned above, we look for patterns and relationships within data in general – we were definitely not looking for gender data specifically. It popped out as a very noticeable pattern. As mentioned earlier, we have seen the gender gap in other data sets, not just within Election 2012 coverage.

It felt like it was important data to put into the public forum. But beyond publishing the findings, I don’t think we are comfortable interpreting these results. It really is for the public at large to debate what the results mean.

4. How is your organization a part of the solution?

The 4th Estate is not an advocacy organization. I have great respect for people doing advocacy work, but that is not what we are doing. We are examining trends, measuring changes, and bringing these observations to the public’s attention with visual representations. Our goal is to build a widely accessible tool that is performing real time parsing of news coverage across many domains, so people will be able to monitor and analyze on a continuous basis those topics that are of interest to them. We realize our data might be important for a variety of advocacy groups, but we believe our greatest value is in providing quantitative data and letting more qualified content experts make sense of that data.

5. What project are you currently working on that you’re most excited about? Share a little bit about it.

The building and designing of the 4th Estate project into a viable sustainable ongoing venture! In the short term, we are focused on election coverage, but there is so much untapped potential in the technology to explore and parse how large-scale societal issue after issue is being covered.

6. What else do you think is important for our readers to know about you?

We believe our data should be viewed as the beginning of a discussion, not the end of one. It should be a door, an opening, to a continuing discussion, not used as a hammer to ‘win’ an argument. We love information and putting it into a context that is relevant for decision makers.

Find out more about the 4th Estate by visiting its website at www.4thestate.net. Follow the organization on twitter @4thEstateVoices and “like” it on Facebook here.

Are you a member of an organization that looks to address issues of gender representation in the news? Contact us about being our next “In the Spotlight” organization by e-mailing genderreport[@[gmail.com.

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.