When I began studying journalism at the graduate level in the late ‘90s, I realized I had been blind.
As journalists, we don’t think much about the sources we use in stories every day; we just try to cover the news and meet our deadlines. But actually studying the content of newspapers, online news and broadcast news can be eye-opening.
Overall, repeated studies show, women make up 33 percent of news sources in the United States, even though they make up 51 percent of the population. In front-page news, women constitute only one-fourth of the sources.
A well-circulated graphic during the 2012 election season showed that women were not even the majority of sources in coverage of so-called “women’s issues” such as abortion, birth control and women’s rights.
The only type of news in which women sources are equitable to men is in features and lifestyles sections.
Why is this a problem? When women are marginalized, it makes it more difficult for them to gain power in society. The lack of women sources also affects women journalists and their ability to be taken seriously in covering hard news.
Women continue to make up only about 37 percent of newspaper and online newsroom staffs, according to the American Society of News Editors, and about 40 percent of television newsroom workers, according to the Radio Television Digital News Association.
With cutbacks in newsrooms, change has been slow. These percentages have remained steady since the 1990s.
Awareness is the first step. After that, both male and female journalists can make an effort to include women sources in their stories.
How to find them? Here are some links that will help:
The Op-Ed project: An educational and practical project designed to increase women’s voices in opinion pieces and other commentary.
Women in Media and News: Works with journalists to increase women’s presence in the news media.
The Gender Report: Monitors coverage of gender in Internet news.
More efforts and organizations are out there. Please add them—and yourself—to the conversation.
Tracy Everbach, Ph.D., is associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas. She also is a former newspaper reporter for The Dallas Morning News and Boston Herald.