From Amanda Hess:
In the New York Times last weekend, female voices dominated the conversation about how elite college students drink alcohol and have sex with one another. Men dominate the Timescoverage of all other topics.
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.
Part of the issue is that the Times reporting staff is dominated by men, too. Layton and Shepard found that of the 325 stories published on the front page, 214 were written by men; their stories mentioned four times as many male sources as female sources. Of the 96 stories written by women, men were quoted twice as frequently as women. Hiring more female reporters could help lift the Times’ sourcing ratio from terrible to just bad.
But regardless of who’s writing the story, the Times’ sourcing gap highlights the paper’s sometimes arbitrary standards for determining who deserves to be heard.