Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's not who you know. It's who you quote...

What does it take to get quoted on the front page of the New York Times?  Apparently, testosterone.

No surprise.  But still.

Slate recently reported on a content analysis of the NYT's front pages during January and February that found that men were quoted 3.4 times as frequently as women:
In January and February of this year, Alexi Layton and Alicia Shepard scoured the 325 front-page stories published in the New York Times, and found that the paper quoted male sources 3.4 times as frequently as female ones. (Shepard got similarly dismal results when she performed a count of NPR’s on-air sources in 2010.) The endless trend pieces about how women accessorize, parent, and hook up today have failed to materialize into equal representation across the newspaper. In the Times, men are individuals who are quoted to represent countries, corporations, academics, and citizens; women are quoted to represent other women.
As Layton and Shepard note, the Times’ sourcing problem is, in part, a reflection of a global lack of female representation in positions of power: World leaders, members of Congress, and Fortune 500 CEOs are still overwhelmingly male. The gender discrepancy in the paper’s sourcing for stories about world news, politics, and business—punctuated at Poynter by a series of depressing charts—is striking, if not totally surprising. But male sources also vastly outnumber female ones in sections of the newspaper that are perceived to be more female-dominated, like style, arts, education, and health.

The researchers also found that men were much more likely than women to have front page bylines. And: the stories written by men had four times as many male sources as women.  Women reporters did better, but still didn't even the score.  Women were quoted half as many times as men.

While the authors of the study use the stats to shed a light on the lack of gender diversity at America's paper of record, there are a couple of other issues here as well, both of them depressing.  First, the preponderance of male sources when it comes to politics or finances reinforces 1950s style gender stereotypes:  Men are out in the world, taking charge.  Women, well, stay in their place.

The other message is equally disturbing.  And that's this:  The dearth of quotes from powerful female sources tell us that, even in 2013, women lack equal representation in politics, business, world affairs....

Everywhere, in fact, but home.  bk