Hello everyone. Ever wonder how op-eds fit into the broader news-media world? I do. So, to prepare for the Byline Survey final results, I felt the need to get a better sense of the broader news media environment and the ways in which op-eds are situated within it. Today we’ll take a look at statistics on the production and consumption of news in legacy and new media.
On the production end of the news I tried to answer these questions:
- Who is writing?
- What are they writing about?
- Who is playing what role (experts, spokespersons, or sources)?
Each year the American Society of Newspaper Editors conducts a survey of newspaper staff demographics. In 2011, 847 of 1,405 daily newspapers (58% of the national total) responded to this survey. The report revealed significant disparities in race and gender. According to this report, “441 newspapers responding to the ASNE census had no minorities on their full-time staff”.
Below is the demographic composition of the 41,600 full-time staff journalists working at the surveyed newspapers.
Women: 15,400 (approximately) = 37% (minorities: 19.3% of women)
Caucasian women: 30% of all staff journalists
Minority women: 7% of all staff journalists
Men: 26,300 (approximately) = 63% (minorities: 10.8% of men)
Caucasian Men: 56%
Minority men: 7%
* Keep in mind that according to the US Census 36% of the population are minorites.
In 2010, the Global Media Monitoring Project conducted a survey on the contributions of women to news media in 108 countries. Among other things, they examined the topics that women contribute to in newspapers, television, and radio and the ways in which they contribute to them. Although GMMP has charted significant gains since its first study in 1995, they have held to their original observation:
“In no medium, region, or news topic did the female-male ratio approach parity. Women’s visibility in the news was extremely and uniformly low.”
Interestingly enough, the 2010 GMMP findings on the distributions in topic matter contributions mirrored that of the OpEd Project research. The chart below illustrates this tendency for women to contribute least to politics and economics, more to health, art, and education, and most to Pink Topics.
The chart below shows that as age increased both sexes were more likely to be utilized as experts. Beginning at the age of 19 men were at least 11% more likely to act as experts and the gender gap increased with age. The gap culminates in the age group of 65 or older, when men appear as experts 68% points more often than women do. In this age group a woman is almost as likely to be used in the role of expert than a young man in the 13 to 18 age group.
In the digital realm there are fewer statistics on new media production due to its decentralized and sprawling nature.
Enter The Gender Report! The Gender Report has tracked gender representation in online news outlets* for the last 10 months by looking at one lead article in each of eight websites once a week. They found that in the first 9 months of their survey women made up 38% of authors and 25% of sources.
I’ve also taken a look at blogging activity to get a sense of the gender balance of new media output. A 2010 Technorati survey found that bloggers are predominantly male and more affluent and educated than the general population:
- 2/3 of bloggers are male.
- 79% have college degrees / 43% have graduate degrees
- 1/3 have a household income of $75K+
- 1/4 have a household income of $100K+
Researchers at Northwestern University found that in general, men are far more likely than women to share their work (be it writing, photos, videos) online, but when they controlled for “self-reported digital literacy” the gender gap disappeared. The researchers concluded that the disparity was a result of “self perceived skill levels”.
On the consumption end of the news I tried to find the demographics of traditional and new media readership. I would expect the contributors to an outlet to be reflections of the audience.
A 2003 study that examined newspaper readership correlations with age, residence, education, gender, and income concluded that, “The fraction of variation in readership accounted for by demographics is small, indicating that newspapers have a broad reach across demographic groups.” In most of the newspaper markets that they studied, length of residence and age were found to be the strongest predictors. These two variables were followed by income, which had a small, though positive association with readership. There was almost no variation accounted for by education and gender.
According to the Women’s Media Center, in 2009 men made up 48.2% of the overall Internet population. Projections show that by 2013, men will only make up 47.9% of Internet users.
As for the new media outlets that we have been tracking, 52% of The Huffington Post audience is female. Caucasians are disproportionately represented, making up 79% of all readers. It has recently added blog categories especially for blacks, Latinos, and LGBT voices, so I suspect those numbers will rise in the near future. 65% of their audience is college educated. Salon’s audience is 56% male, overwhelmingly Caucasian (84%), and highly educated (72% are college educated).
In these two examples we do find a relationship. According to our research, men have written about 64% of the articles at the Huffington Post and 78% at Salon. When the final analysis of the Byline Survey is completed, we will be able to see whether or not women contribute more to the Huffington Post in all subjects, or whether they simply write more Pink Topics.