Examining gender representations in the New Media Index

Here at The Gender Report, we’ve been wondering: Of the most talked about articles on the web, how many feature women? How many are produced by females?

In addition to our monthly (and quarterly) roundups of our findings on gender representation in online news through our Gender Checks, we’ve been seeking other ways to examine these issues.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s weekly New Media Index gave us a way to try to answer those questions. The New Media Index chronicles the top five linked to and discussed news stories and opinion pieces around the web in a Monday through Friday week based on leading commentary on blogs and social media sites.

Starting with the first week of the year, The Gender Report has pulled a Gender Check on each of the top articles based on the links PEJ provides in addition to our geographical checks each week. We chose to focus on the main top five in the blogosphere and not that just for Twitter or YouTube. When more than one link was provided on the subject, we’ve selected the first mentioned or that which appears based on the writing as more dominant, unless it is specifically mentioned that two articles shared the glory for that subject, in which case we checked both. It’s noteworthy that the vast majority of the links PEJ provides come from either the Washington Post or the LA Times with occasional appearances by the BBC. Other news sources are rarely used as the link article.

From these articles and posts, we’ve been recording the subject matter, the gender of the authors or creators, and the source breakdown by gender. This first post on these checks provides a round-up of the first four months of the year. In the future, we’ll be sharing them on a monthly basis.

Overall, the four-month span had these findings:

  • Approximately 21.5 percent of sources in were women. Of those whose gender could be identified, the articles contained 55 female sources and 201 male sources.
  • One or more woman authored 21 of the articles, while a man or multiple bylined 46. Four had a shared byline between a man (or men) and a woman. Also interesting, of the op-ed pieces that made their way to the weekly top five, two were by women and five were by men. One was a staff editorial.

Here are the findings by month:

January 2011

For the month of January, with weeks starting Jan. 3 through that ending Jan. 28, these were our results.

In that time, there were 23 articles referenced at a rate of the top five per week. One week had two at No. 5. One article (a video interview with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer) repeated in the top five two weeks in a row, so these numbers only count it once. For one subject, the shooting in Tuscon, Ariz., no link to a specific individual article was provided. Another link, that for the subject of violence in Zimbabwe, was dead.

Here’s the gender breakdown:

  • Overall, there were 37 male sources and 10 female sources referenced in these articles during the month of January. That made women 21.3 percent of sources.
  • Of the authors or creators that could be identified by gender, 12 were male and six were female. One article had a shared byline with a man and a woman. Four had no byline.

In addition to those statistics, it was also noteworthy this month that while eight articles explicitly were about male subjects, only one was specifically about a female subject. The single article about a woman, which occurred in the first week of the month, was regarding the death of actress Anne Francis, whose obituary (the link provided) cites her most-remembered role as that of “Honey West” in a 1960s TV series about a “sexy female private detective.” She’s also described as a “shapely blond with a beauty mark next to her lower lip.”

This is a trend that carried throughout the months. More articles appeared in the top five about male subjects for any number of reasons (like this fun one on a 103-year-old male cyclist). Articles on female subjects usually made it around the blogosphere when an actress died, like Francis, and later Elizabeth Taylor.

February 2011

Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 25, these were the findings. There were 14 articles, with two No. 1’s one week. In subsequent weeks when Egypt and then Libya were the No. 2 story, the PEJ roundups did not include a link to an article.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • This month women made up 28 percent of sources. The articles included 41 males sources and 16 female sources.
  • In February seven articles were written or produced by one or more male, five were by females and one was by both a man and a woman. One article had no byline.

March 2011

For the weeks that began Feb. 28 and ended April 1, a total of 23 subject articles or links were provided at the top-five-per-week rate. This month saw much more tying among subjects in terms of their percentage of the links referenced in the blogosphere. Two links were either not provided and couldn’t be externally identified or were no longer functioning.

The breakdown was as follows for the month:

  • In the low of the first four months, women made up only 15.2 percent of sources. Of sources that could be gender identified, just 14 were female while 78 were male.
  • Six articles were written by a woman, 15 by a man, three by two or more men and one with a shared byline with a man and a woman. One had no byline.

April 2011

Starting with the week of April 4 and ending April 22, a total of 17 articles were referenced. It appears that no New Media Index was completed for the week of April 25 to 29, at least not that we could find. Both the second and third week had six articles, as two articles shared the No. 2 spot for economy during the second week and the fourth week saw two subjects sharing No. 1 and No. 4 (with no No. 5).

Here’s what the month brought:

  • Approximately 25 percent of sources were women in April. A total of 15 sources were female and 45 were male.
  • On the byline front, four articles were by one or more woman, 10 were by a man and two had shared bylines between a woman and one or more man. Again, one article had no byline.

Looking at the New Media Index is again one of several ways we’ll be examining the issues of gender representations in both the coverage and creation of online news. For some context or a basis of comparison for these statistics, read our earlier post on the statistics found in the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project’s report. For more information or research on women’s representation in the news media, check out our “Useful Resources” page.


In the Spotlight: Q&A with Global Girl Media

While most of our work here at The Gender Report is focused on identifying the problems and gaps in the representation of women in news coverage, we feel it necessary to take time to recognize those who are working toward solutions. That’s why, starting with this post during Women’s History Month and the week of International Women’s Day, we’re going to try to spend time highlighting an organization that is making strides in this area.

With each feature, we’ll be in correspondence with a member of that organization to have her, or him, answer five questions about its work.

First up, is…


The Gender Report spoke with Aime Williams, executive director and co-founder of Global Girl Media, via e-mail about the organization’s exciting work to empower teen girls through media training. Here’s what she had to share:

1. For those who are unfamiliar with your work, give us your elevator pitch — What is Global Girl Media?

Global Girl Media (GGM) develops the voice and self-expression of teenage girls in under-served and marginalized communities by training them to become citizen journalists, harnessing the power of new digital media to inspire self-esteem, community activism and social change. By linking young women internationally with seasoned reporters, educators and filmmakers, GGM empowers girls to make media that matters, improves media literacy, and encourages the promotion of healthier media messages about girls and women.

2. What do you consider to be the biggest issue when it comes to the representation of women in journalism and its creation?

Accuracy and complexity. We feel in particular the voices of young women from marginalized or otherwise under-served population are either absent or only heard from in times of war, disaster or crisis, oftentimes victimizing the subject.

Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of the international blog Global Voices, speaking at a recent TED talk stated, “Sure we are becoming more global, our problems are global in scale, economics, environment, but our media is getting less global by the day…” International news as a percentage of an American television broadcast was 35 percent in the 1970s and it is less than 12 percent today. Access to and authorship of media matters because it underpins how societies respond to the problems they face. In the words of the BBC World Trust, “This makes media not only relevant to the most urgent problems of poverty and marginalization — it makes it critical to solutions designed to address them.”

GGM believes that ensuring access to media information and building capacity for authorship of this information is particularly crucial where media resources are scarce, and therefore oftentimes skewed to a particular dominant ideology or bias.

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

Giobal Girl reporters get tips from an ESPN/Brazil reporter during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Courtesy photo)

Our model is unique in that it pairs U.S. communities with international cities, creating a peer-to-peer international network of girls that can break down stereotypes by directly connecting and impacting each other through the internet. Training young women in new media journalism has the unique capability of augmenting all the other aspects of GGM’s activities, cross-cutting between issues of gender equity and self-esteem, cross-cultural communication and media literacy, reproductive rights and economic gains, etc.

What we are attempting to build with our media training program and distribution network is essentially a new model for development: one that sees authentic self-representation as a vibrant partner to economic growth, providing a viable structure for young women to take part in new media for human growth and development.

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

Just as we strategically paired the cities of Los Angeles and Soweto, South Africa, for our pilot program, we have chosen Detroit as the sister city to our two initial international training sites — Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan (Iraq) and Beirut, Lebanon, for our program expansion in 2011-2012. Our reasoning derives from a perceived lack of media being produced from a female perspective in these regions, in particular, young Arab and Muslim women are either entirely absent from mainstream media or grossly misrepresented and stereotyped.

Given the mass freedom movements in this area the world, now is certainly the time for Global Girl Media to be there! In the United States, there is a global curiosity about Middle Eastern and Arab women. People want to know who they are, what they have to say. Michigan has a large Arab Muslim Population and is also undergoing a period of great change.

In Detroit, the national economic crisis could not be more acute, where an historic industry is being rebuilt and the very first Arab American Museum has recently opened. GGM hopes to work within all three communities to help draw parallels, encourage critical dialogue and provide a broader experience for each Global Girl it trains.

5. What needs does your organization have? How can people get involved?

We are always looking to build our capacity and expand our program. We have an ongoing need for office volunteers, as well as program partners for future development. If there are organizations that want to bring our program to their community, we welcome them to reach out to us. We are always looking for co-sponsors, corporate and foundation support.

Find out more about Global Girl Media by visiting its website at www.globalgirlmedia.org. Follow the organization on twitter @GlobalGirlMedia 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 next month’s “In the Spotlight” organization by e-mailing genderreport@gmail.com.