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.
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.
Politico ruffled some feathers this week when it published a piece on Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, that had many questioning whether the story would have been written if she was a man.
The “Turbulence at The Times” story, written by Politico’s Dylan Byers and relying heavily on anonymous sources, argues that the Times’ first female executive editor is “on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom.” She is described throughout the piece as “brusque,” “condescending,” “uncaring,” and “blunt,” though “few doubt her wisdom or her experience.” According to the article, she has a “nasal car honk” voice and she travels a lot (often she’s required). And once she told an editor to change a home page photo in the middle of a meeting by stating, “I don’t know why you’re still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo.”
Many took Politico to task via Twitter and other platforms regarding the perceived sexism of the piece. Twitter comments included those from writer Lisa McIntire who said, “I struggle to find any specific behavior of Abramson’s that is critiqued here other than the tone of her voice” and feminist author Jessica Valentia who said, “This breathtakingly sexist Politico article does all but accuse Jill Abramson of attracting bears with her period” (See there other Twitter comments here and here). Hanna Rosin, writing for Slate, argued that the piece is “pretty thin” and “possibly sexist.” Emily Bell in the Guardian wrote, “The lame nature of the reporting suggests it might be better just to ignore the piece entirely, but it deserves attention, as it fuels an exasperating and wholly sexist narrative about women in power.”
Some have pointed out that numerous Times’ (male) editors have been criticized over the years. Byers responded to some of the criticism (specifically Bell’s) and stated that he “spoke with more than a dozen staffers from across the newsroom, male and female, old and young. They all voiced similar complaints, and said that those complaints were deeply felt and widespread.”
However, the difference with this piece, as Jessica Bennett argues on Jezebel, is that it’s not a story about her competence, but instead is about her “likability” in a leadership position. Several authors pointed to research in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, that talks about how for women success and likeability are negatively correlated. For women in leadership, this “double bind” plays out often, Sandberg writes on page 41 of her book, “When a woman excels at her job, both male and female coworkers will remark that she may be accomplishing a lot but is ‘not well-liked’ by her peers.”
Sandberg and others point to the Heidi/Howard case study which found that just changing the name (and, therefore, the sex) of the leader described altered people’s perceptions – he was more appealing and she was selfish and “not the type of person you would want to hire or work for” (Sandberg, p. 40). As a result, many questioned whether the same story would have been written or if Abramson would be perceived the same way if her name were “Joe” or “Jack” instead of “Jill.” (For an interesting piece comparing descriptions, see Ann Friedman’s “If Jill Abramson where a man…“).
Also in response to Politico’s piece, media critic Erik Wemple published an equally sourced piece arguing that Politico’s “men’s club” has its own gender issues to worry about.
As for Abramson herself, in an email sent to Rosin she responded by sharing her horoscope from the day of the article, “You will need to put on a brave face today, especially if you get news that seems to be the opposite of what you were hoping to hear. The important word there is “seems,” because most likely it IS good news after all.”
Here is a round-up of articles on Politico’s piece:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Women wrote less than one-third of articles at online-only news sites during the first three months of our Byline Report project.
The six-month project, which began July 1, examines the gender breakdown of bylines at six online news websites weekly based on the sites’ RSS feeds. Research has long demonstrated a gender gap in who writes and produces the news, but less is still known about how it has materialized online. The goal of this project is to contribute to our knowledge of how this plays out at online-only news websites.
The project is still ongoing, but here’s what we’ve found 13 weeks in:
Three Month Totals: July 1, 2012 – Sept. 29, 2012
During the first three months of this study, 7,145 articles were monitored in total. Men wrote 60.6 percent of these articles, while women wrote 29.3 percent. Additionally, 4.3 percent of articles had a shared byline between men and women and 5.9 percent of articles were by staff or wire services.
The percentage of bylines for males exceeded that of females at four out of the six sites. At both ProPublica and California Watch, female reporters bylined more articles than their male counterparts.
The Center for Public Integrity, or iWatch, published 348 articles in its RSS feed, an average of 27 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.
Politico does not offer a general RSS feed so the “2012” RSS feed was selected for monitoring. During the first 13 weeks of the study, Politico published an impressive 4,606 articles in this feed, averaging roughly 354 articles a week. This total does not include any dead links.
The Texas Tribune published 754 articles, or roughly 58 per week. Duplicate articles in the RSS feed were removed and not counted in the total so each article was only counted once.
Monitoring for these sites will continue for another three months to see if these numbers hold over time. Weekly reports 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). Read more about the study’s background in our introductory post here.
*The other category includes articles that have no byline as well as those by staff and wire services.