Hello Byline readers! This is Taryn, and I’m going to take you for a quick trip down memory lane… A few days ago, as I pored over the LA Times op-eds, I felt the need to revisit the Estrich vs. LA Times 2005 controversy. (In case you missed it, Susan Estrich, a well known law professor / political pundit, expressed some concerns about the gender imbalance of the LA Times op-ed page to the paper’s opinion editor Michael Kinsley. He was not particularly receptive. Harsh words were exchanged, etc.) I was struck by how long the debate lasted and by the amount of discussion that it provoked. So, here we are six years later, and the dust has finally settled.
I feel no need to stir up those old emotions. Rather, I’d like to take a look at the dispassionate aspect of that dispute – the numbers.
As you may know, Estrich launched a precursor of the Byline Survey. Beginning in 2002 or 2003 (there are conflicting accounts), she tasked some of her USC law students with the cataloguing of op-eds from the NY Times, the Washington Post , and the LA Times according to gender. Throughout her (very public) correspondence with Kinsley and related writings elsewhere, she cited the survey findings to make her case. In one of the innumerable blogs attacking Estrich, the students conducting the survey were referred to derogatorily as bean counters. How dare they?
So, as a proud bean counter, I thought that it would be interesting to compare the data from the Estrich survey with present day Byline numbers.
The following data were taken from Estrich’s various writings in 2005 (I’ve yet to find the actual survey). The corresponding present day stats (from 9/22 to 10/26) are in bold.
- LA Times: 10% to 14% women.
- “The best the LA times has done is 20% to 25%”.
- Presently: 21% women; on their best day: 45%.
- The New York Times: 16% women.
- In February of 2005, NYT published no women’s op-eds on 12 of 28 days.
- Presently: 22% women; no women published in 8 of the last 28 days.
- Washington Post: 12% women.
- Presently: 21% women.
As you can see, there have been significant gains all around, and they’ve been made in the short span of six years. The averages are much higher – from 6 to 10 percentage points – working their ways up to the tipping point of 30%. The LA Times’ best day of 45% is a tremendous leap from the earlier best of 25%. In my opinion, Estrich deserves a lot of credit for collecting this data. Without it, we would be unable to chart this excellent progress.
Join me next week when I’ll be examining coverage of the GOP presidential candidates.