An equal industry

This past Saturday marked Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States. Women have made significant contributions to civic and cultural life, and as journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, they have allowed our industry to become stronger.

Yet, recent statistics from the non-profit Women’s Media Center have raised concerns about representations of women in journalism. Their report, Divided 2017, released this past March, examines the state of women in media in the US. Findings showed that men receive 62 percent of byline and other credits in TV news, newspapers, online and in wire reports, compared to 38 percent received by women.

The findings, based on content from last September through last November, were broken down into 4 areas:

  • The evening news broadcasts (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS): 74.8 percent of the output measured was reported by men, while 25.2 percent by women. PBS showed the most output with female correspondents and anchors (45 percent by women versus 55 percent by men), while ABC showed the least (12 percent by women versus 88 percent by men). CBS and NBC were tied (32 percent by women versus 68 percent by men).
  • Newspapers: 61.9 percent of news content was reported by men, while 38.1 percent of it was reported by women. When it comes to major newspaper titles, the widest gender gap for writing was at The New York Daily News (76 percent by men and 24 percent by women), followed by USA Today (70 percent by men and 30 percent by women), and a two-way tie between The Denver Post and The Wall Street Journal (66 percent by men and 34 percent by women). Other papers surveyed include The New York Times (61 percent by men and 39 percent by women) and The Washington Post (57 percent by men and 43 percent by women).
  • Online news: 53.9 percent of the bylines went to men, compared to 46.1 percent going to women. CNN, Fox, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast were surveyed, and of those four, Fox had 50.1 percent of content by men compared to 49.9 percent women, CNN had 55 percent of content by men compared to 45 percent by women, The Huffington Post had 50.8 percent of men getting the bylines compared to 49.2 percent of women, and The Daily Beast had 62 percent of bylines going to men compared to 38 percent going to women.
  • Wire services (AP and Reuters): While Reuters had more of a representation of women compared to the AP, there was still more content written by men at both agencies (65 percent by men and 35 percent by women at the AP versus 61 percent by men and 39 percent by women at Reuters). Men reported 62.4 percent of the output at both agencies compared to 37.6 percent of it being reported by women.

Judy Woodruff, seen here in 2012, is one of the most prominent women in American journalism. (Photo: NewsHour/Flickr)

Outside of the Women’s Media Center statistics, there were also some statistics about women in journalism released in the past few months, notably at NPR. At the end of October 2016, 55.1 percent of its newsroom was female compared to 44.9 percent being male. While most of NPR’s top executives are men, according to the data from the Ombudsman’s office, all of NPR’s produced newsmagazines are led by women, including The Two Way news blog and Here and Now, which it co-produces with member station WBUR in Boston.

Women have played a significant role in an industry that is evolving in the digital age, and continue to do so. This is especially the case at SPJ, where the top 3 leadership positions are currently held by women – President Lynn Walsh, President-Elect Rebecca Baker and Secretary-Treasurer Alex Tarquinio. Indeed, Baker will become the 9th woman in SPJ history to hold the post of president when she is sworn in at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, Calif., on September 9th.

With a study from the Reuters Institute at Oxford University in Britain showing that more women are studying journalism globally, including in the US, it is particularly important, especially for the next generation of journalists, that we support the work of women. We must advocate for them in newsrooms and in the profession itself, especially with a rise in attacks on social media against them, just for merely doing their jobs.

But most of all, no matter what platform they work on, we must champion their ideas. Because of them, we are a stronger industry, and we must ensure that we don’t take them, or their contributions, for granted.

Their work allows journalism to be at its best, and when journalism is at its best, so are the people who are its beneficiaries – our audience.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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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