Most people reading last Friday’s NYT front-page were understandably focused on the sad cover story about the Malaysian airline tragedy but one reporter noticed something very subtle: the stories “above the fold” were written in war-zones and were penned by women. Why was this notable? The background here is that for the past few years, the Women’s Media Center has been writing reports about the state of gender equality in the media. According to the 2014 report, the numbers were appx 2/3 male and 1/3 female in terms of overall content-creation in the media, roughly mirroring the gender ratio in newsrooms overall.
Re-reading the report, one interesting nugget of data is that the internet led other forms of media (e.g. print, broadcast) in terms of gender parity (60% male authors to 40% female authors). In fact, the one publication where female contributors outnumbered male contributors of content was the digital-only, Huffington Post. One explanation is that Huff Po content may have been written by contributors (and not staff members) which means that the talent pool wasn’t constrained by the staff gender balance. Another possible explanation mentioned by Arianna Huffington herself, is that the publication actively seeks to cover things that might be missed by mainstream media and its possible that women journalists or bloggers have a unique/different point of view than their male counterparts.
Since the future of journalism is certainly digital, perhaps the numbers will improve every year. I’ll keep watching this space.