New research from the University of Nevada has found that women are sorely underrepresented as sources on the front page of the New York Times. You can — and should — read a breakdown of the data here, but the basic numbers are grim. In the 352 stories analyzed, just 19 percent of sources were female.
Ugh. There are, however, two glimmers of hope:
1.) This study was conducted by journalism students. It’s fantastic that young journalists and the faculty supervising their studies are curious about issues of gender in the media. That bodes well for their ability to push for change within the newsrooms of their future employers — or, perhaps, to start news organizations of their own that examine current events through a more diverse lens.
2.) Hiring women matters. The research found that female reporters are slightly more likely to interview female sources. This is similar to the findings from this study about sourcing during the last presidential election.
On Monday, New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in with a column that distills why Brill’s gender should not have been the central theme of the obituary:
The way (Brill) handled her role as a wife and mother certainly had a place, given the era in which she did her work. Cultural context is important. But if Yvonne Brill’s life was worth writing about because of her achievements, and all agree that it was, then the glories of her beef stroganoff should have been little more than a footnote. The emphasis on her domesticity — and, more important, the obituary’s overall framing as a story about gender — had the effect of undervaluing what really landed Mrs. Brill on the Times obituaries page: her groundbreaking scientific work.
I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Brill’s obit, although I’m fairly certain I would not have included the words “beef Stroganoff” anywhere in the first three grafs of that particular story. It is, however, heartening that a major news organization like the Times heeded criticisms and rewrote the lede.
I’m utterly obsessed with a new Twitter hashtag designed to show the stupid things headlines say about women. The tag — #edgyheadlines — got started last week after feminist author Kate Harding poked fun at a New York Times story that asked, “Do women have what it takes to lead?”
Journalist John Surico attended a talk yesterday by New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. While she spoke, he tapped out a few tweets. One, about the gender breakdown in the newsroom, caught my eye:
Abramson talking about the gender gap at the Times–37% women in newsroom. Yet I'm usually the only dude in my journalism classes.