The Op-Ed Project Mentor-Editor Janus Adams (center) was recently awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Shaw University and was the featured keynote speaker during the Founder’s Day Convocation. President Irma McClaurin (left) is an Op-Ed Project Alum and the first woman president in Shaw’s 145-year history. She awarded her first honorary degree to Janus. Congratulations to both these fine women!
This past Saturday, October 23, 2010, Zeba Khan spoke on CNN about the recent firing of NPR news analyst Juan Williams, over his controversial statements about Muslims. This is neither the first of Ms. Khan’s televised appearances as an expert on the Muslim American experience nor her only journalistic accomplishment since coming through an Op-Ed Project seminar in April 2009. Zeba first attended The Op-Ed Project seminar at the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow Conference, led by Mentor-Editor Stacy Sullivan. Taking the skills she acquired and her own unique voice, Zeba, with Stacy’s feedback, contributed her first op-ed on the lack of Muslims in the political sphere to the Huffington Post in September 2009.
Barely two months later, Zeba was matched with Mentor-Editor Marci Alboher to work on her second op-ed,“The women of the web,” about how the internet and social networking could be used to tap into the wealth of female voters on issues of healthcare. She submitted this piece to The Washington Post’s ‘America’s Next Great Pundit’ Competition and was selected as one of ten—out of 4,800 entries—to compete. She ultimately placed first runner-up in the entire competition.
Just this past month, The Op-Ed Project and Mentor-Editor Katherine Lanpher promoted Zeba for the Intelligence Squared Debates, a live event that was broadcast on Bloomberg TV and on over 200 NPR stations. Zeba debated with Maajid Nawaz on whether Islam is a religion of peace with excellent oppositional opinions from Ayann Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. The producers of CNN were watching and called Zeba to comment this past Saturday upon the controversy surrounding the firing of Juan Williams. During her appearance, she proposed that sound bites are not sufficient in understanding the complexity of an opinion and that the opportunity to explain thought processes is necessary: an important lesson to be learned in the bite-driven world of media. Zeba is a writer and a social media consultant for nonprofits and has written on many topics including women and minority issues in the Muslim World and Islam in America. Zeba represents The Op-Ed Project’s belief that op-ed’s are a democratic forum in which multiple voices can first be heard and eventually pervade the public discourse.
Take a Look at our previous ‘Ask an Insider’ profile of Zeba Khan on The Byline Blog. http://bit.ly/OEPKhan
Three weeks into the byline survey, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall St. Journal are consistently showing the worst ratios of female to male authors across the surveyed publications. This week all three publications dropped to the 15-17% range. On the other hand, the Daily Beast published the highest percentage of female authors this week, at 40%.
NYT WP WSJ SA HP DB CU DP YD
%W 15% 17% 17% 25% 21% 40% 38% 22% 35%
%M 85% 83% 83% 75% 79% 60% 62% 78% 65%
Due to the impending elections, politics once again dominated the conversation on opinion pages across the board. Much attention was paid to the heated battles between GOP and Democratic candidates, but many pieces also focused on reviewing the past two years of the Obama administration. It will be interesting to see if the percentages of male and female authors will change at all following the elections, as women have been writing less than men on political issues.
This week, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote an excellent op-ed about female role models as intellectual thinkers, drawing an interesting comparison between Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Palin. Dowd argues that as much as Monroe was a sex symbol, she understood that it was “cool to be smart.” In contrast Sarah Palin runs her campaign on an anti-elitist platform, arguing that politicians should be more like the people they represent, actively going against the intellectual image. In doing so, Dowd writes that Palin is working to make “ignorance chic.”
The rise of Sarah Palin has been heralded as indication that the social conservatives are as comfortable as the liberals with a woman in office. But it is important to take note of what kind of message and image is represented by the women they support. What Dowd correctly argues is that many of the women in today’s political spotlight are less proud and willing to demonstrate brain power than the “most famous Dumb Blonde” in history.
As we edge ever closer to the November 2nd elections, it is critical that voters, especially among the female population, think about what kind leaders we seek in our politicians. It seems that to be seen as an intellectual is now a campaign disadvantage, which is why many recent female and male candidates have played down their academic accomplishments. But Sarah Palin takes anti-elitism to a destructive level. While backlash against traditional Ivy League elitism is understandable, it is possible to be an intelligent candidate who is still in touch with the real world. The scope and variety of problems currently facing the United States government requires leaders who understand the country they represent, who are capable of thinking carefully and creatively. In such circumstances, women should be proud to demonstrate their intellect.
As you can see from the numbers below, this week women authored about 20% of the op-eds across all three of the major print publications. Among the online publications and college newspapers, women authors appeared slightly more often , ranging from 30-45%.
NYT WP WSJ HP DB SA CU DP YD
%W 19% 19% 20% 30% 44% 40% 27% 45% 32%
%M 81% 81% 80% 70% 56% 60% 64% 55% 53%
The female authored op-ed’s most often focused on topics related to women in politics, including controversy surrounding Christine O’Donnell’s campaign, and women-bashing by the Democratic party. Topics relating to the entertainment world (Stephanie Coontz of the Washington Post duped Mad Men “TV’s most feminist show) were also quite popular. Once again there were no women writing about military or security issues, or topics related to the hard sciences. However, one piece that stood out as an unusual, yet important issue was written by Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall St. Journal on the economics of drug violence in Mexico City.
With election day just a few weeks away, it seems as though issues relating to national politics will continue to dominate the opinion pages. Make sure to stay tuned for updates and analysis throughout the week!
One week into the byline survey, I wanted to give a quick update with some early statistics. But let me warn you, the results are not so pretty:
NYT WSJ WP HP DB SA
% W 36% 24% 16% 24% 33% 17%
% M 64% 76% 84% 76% 67% 83%
Though these statistics reflect just one week of surveying, female voices clearly lag behind males across all of the publications. Women were particularly absent on the opinion pages of the Washington Post and Salon, and it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that will continue throughout the next few months.
However, many more female op-ed contributors appeared on the opinion pages of the college
CU DP YD
% by Women 80% 27% 50%
% by Men 20% 73% 50%
Whether or not this indicates a future rise in the number of women writers appearing on the op-ed pages, only time will tell.
In terms of content, women writers most often focused on issues relating to the female gender- be it in politics, in the workplace, or in health news as seen with Robin Marantz Henig’s article on I.V.F. There was no female commentary on economic or security issues. Of course, women’s issues are incredibly important and it follows that female writers most often address such topics. But, it would be great to see some more women writing about a broader range of issues- if you have an opinion or knowledge to share, let this be your inspiration to voice it!
This week I have been busy gathering the initial data for the byline survey, and will be updating with some concrete numbers soon. In the mean time, I wanted to highlight an op-ed from today’s edition of the New York Times by freelance science writer Robin Marantz Henig. The column discusses the winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, British Biologist Robert Edwards, for his development of the in vitro fertilization procedure. Henig discusses the shift in the public’s reaction to Edwards’ research, highlighting I.V.F within the broader context of resistance to new medical technology . The author of several books, including Pandora’s Baby, which covers the early days of in-vitro fertilization research and the controversy surrounding the world’s first test-tube baby, Henig is a clearly an expert in the field. It’s great to see a female author at the top of science news reporting and commentary!