Study: NYT front page lacks female sources

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.

Sex, rockets and Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is suddenly the epicenter of a debate over gender, science and journalism. Photo/WikiMedia Commons.
Beef Stroganoff is suddenly the epicenter of a debate over gender, science and journalism. Photo/WikiMedia Commons.

At first, I was outraged by the way the New York Times started its obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill by describing her cooking skills. I calmed down, though, when I remembered that I once built an entire obituary around a much-loved (male) minister’s talent for pie crust. Then I got mad again when I thought of how hard it is for female scientists to be recognized for anything besides their gender or how rare it is for women to rate staff-written obituaries.

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.

Some of my favorite #edgyheadlines

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?”

Other Twitter users have suggested dozens of #edgyheadlines over the last few days.Here are a few of my favorites:

Women are still in the minority at the NYT

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:

(The Times has, however, increased the number of op-ad pieces written by women in recent years.)

Here’s more on the difference between the number of women in the classroom and in the newsroom.