May 12, 2014

The New York Times | Mother Jones | Slate

After Lynn Melnick pointed out on Twitter that women made up 7 of the 66 people recently memorialized in The New York Times’ obituaries section, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan counted, too: “My count yielded similar numbers,” she writes.


“Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective,” Sullivan writes. “It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”

A Mother Jones story late last year found that about 21 percent of the Times’ obituaries were for women. Overall, 77 percent of obituaries at top newspapers were for men, Dana Liebelson reported.

Just “waiting for prominent women to die is a depressing solution,” Amanda Hess writes in Slate, noting that “because women outlive men, even women who were prominent in the 70s and 80s won’t be written up as soon as men from the same era.”

Melnick tells Hess: “I would guess there are dozens of writers, scientists, and academics whose lives and deaths go unnoticed because the men’s lives are perceived as more of note.”

Related: In a story about diversity at liberal magazines, New Republic Editor Franklin Foer tells Gabriel Arana VIDA’s annual count of women’s bylines is “a form of shaming I think is actually fairly effective” and that his staff “began keeping tabs on the number of male and female bylines in each issue and established a goal they want to reach before next year’s numbers come out.”

Also related: Many publications are still ‘Dudeville,’ VIDA says in annual count

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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