Women and minorities still just a whisper among op-ed voices

Psy.org | Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

In a study of the op-ed pages of 10 newspapers around the U.S., from The New York Times to the Dallas Morning News, researchers looked at 22 columnists, Bridget Lewis wrote Tuesday for Phys.org. The study, by Dustin Harp at University of Texas at Arlington, Ingrid Bachmann at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Jaime Loke at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, ran in the June issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.

The study examined the work of 22 columnists at the newspapers studied – six were female, while only one represented an ethnic or racial minority. The average editorial board included 11 members, four of whom were women. Whites comprised eight of the 11 members, on average.
"The lack of diversity, whether racial or gender, shows the inability of media to reflect different life experiences and perspectives, and thus presents an inaccurate picture of the world," Harp said.

Poynter has reported about the issue, as well as lack of gender diversity and women and minorities in leadership positions, in many ways in the past.

-- In February, Sara Morrison wrote "Media is ‘failing women’ — sports journalism particularly so."

The Women’s Media Center released its third annual Status of Women in the U.S. Media report today, and if you’ve been paying any attention to gender imbalances across print, broadcast and online platforms, it’s more of the same. Men – especially white men – vastly outnumber women. Still.

-- In May, I reported on some guidelines the APME shared in the late 60s, which felt like they could have come from a "Mad Men" script in "APME once gave women journalists tips on how to ‘make a man feel like a boss.'"

Lost in the mainstream debate about women in the newsroom is realities facing women of color in the newsroom. Indiana University’s report, “The American Journalist in the Digital Age,” finds that the number of minorities has decreased slightly in newsrooms in the past 10 years. But, the report says, women of color make up a greater percent of journalists of color, 50 percent, compared with white women at 36.3 percent.

-- In 2012, Mallary Tenore reported on a study by the OpEd Project, which found that, among legacy publications, women wrote 20 percent of op-eds. At new media publications, they wrote 33 percent.

In both legacy and new media, women tended to write a lot of stories on “pink topics” — food, fashion, family and furniture. Among the new media organizations surveyed, 34 percent of the stories women wrote were on pink topics. In legacy media, pink stories accounted for 12.4 percent of female writers’ overall output, compared to 3 percent of male writer’s overall output. “Put another way,” the survey says, “out of 1,410 general interest articles (politics, economy, health, education, etc.) women wrote only 261.”

On June 30, Poynter and National Press Club Journalism Institute will host a conversation about women and newsroom culture at the National Press Club in Washington DC. Speakers include Carolyn Ryan, Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs, Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic and former president of the American Society of News Editors, and Jill Geisler, senior faculty for Poynter’s leadership and management division. Geisler will moderate. Poynter's Ben Mullen wrote about the event on June 19.

The gains that women made in journalism leadership have stagnated, said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs.

“We have to figure out a way to reignite that progress,” McBride said. “We have an obligation to represent our audience. And content audits suggest that journalism as a profession does not fairly represent women as leaders and experts. If we can’t get it right in our newsrooms, it’s going to be hard to serve the public interest on this issue.”


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