Celebrating women in journalism

Today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate and recognize the contributions women have made to the world. As journalism evolves, ideas and contributions by women have allowed to make the industry stronger for the future.

International Women’s Day occurs amid interesting roles for gender equity in the industry. Recent studies, notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in Britain, showed that more women are studying journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States. However, there is still difficulty when it comes to representation of women when you enter the industry.

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Data from the non-profit Women’s Media Center, showcased in their State of Women in the US Media in 2015, showcased that within newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times had 55 percent of women having bylines, and both The Wall Street Journal and the LA Times had 40 percent of women with bylines. The New York Times had only 32 percent of women with bylines, USA Today had 33 percent and The Washington Post had 39 percent. More men were on the paper’s editorial boards compared to women.

On the major television networks, consisting of PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC, PBS had the most female reporters of the four with 44 percent. In addition, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill co-anchor the PBS Newshour program, weeknights. At ABC, 30 percent of the reporters were women, with 29 percent at CBS and 43 percent at NBC. Men anchor the main evening newscasts on those networks (David Muir, Scott Pelley and Lester Holt, respectively). Specific data for cable networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) were not available, however the Center’s data indicates there is a larger amount of men working in TV news (58.8 percent) compared to women (41.2 percent).

In online journalism, four news sites were surveyed — The Huffington Post, CNN, The Daily Beast, and Fox News. The Huffington Post had the most female reporters with 53 percent, compared to CNN’s 42 percent, Fox’s 39 percent and The Daily Beast’s 31 percent. Of the two wire services (AP and Reuters), Reuters had more women reporters than the AP (41 percent and 35 percent respectively).

When it came to beats however, there were significant differences. More men covered US and global politics, as well as business, technology, sports, culture and weather. There was an equal paring with lifestyle, and more women covered education and religion compared to men.

At the SPJ, research for this blog post indicated more women holding leadership positions compared to men. Of the 23 members of the Board of Directors, 14 of them are women. Within the 12 regions, the gender balance among directors is equally split.

In the 9 active committees, six of them have women either serving as chair or vice chair. In the network of five active communities, four of them have women serving as chair or co-chair of that community.

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Women make significant contributions to the future of journalism every day, especially in digital journalism, including Laura Davis at the University of Southern California, Kim Bui at Reported.ly, Tory Starr at WGBH in Boston, Katie Hawkins-Gaar of the Poynter Institute, Millie Tran at BuzzFeed and Kat Chow at NPR.

While the issue of gender equity won’t be solved overnight, it is important that everyone recognizes the role they have in this ever changing industry. what matters is not the differences in gender, race or sexual orientation in someone, but the ideas they bring — ideas that are worth listening to now, and in the months and years ahead.

After all, that great idea will be the idea that keeps journalism continuing to be at its best, and its something that I celebrate not just on this day, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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