Monday, September 30, 2013

An Honest Look at Source Gender Balance in One's Own Reporting

Bryna Dabby of Women in Games in a 2011 interview in Vancouver.
Hats off to Adrienne LaFrance, who had a math whiz at the MIT Media Lab analyze a year's worth of her own reporting for gender bias in sourcing.  A feminist alert to the widespread pattern of male voices dominating news sourcing in every medium, she put her own work to the test -- and came up dissatisfied with her performance. In 136 articles, LaFrance mentioned or quoted 2,075 persons, of whom 25 percent were female, she says.  That put her right at the average for reporters worldwide, according to the Global Media Monitoring Study, which has been tracking these numbers for two decades, as have other groups before it.

LaFrance writes a thoughtful piece on the problem. "Underrepresentation of women in media is one of those topics that’s so big and so multifaceted that a lot of people don’t really know how to begin to talk about it, let alone do anything to make a difference," she says, adding that saying "Journalists are simply reflecting the imbalance that exists all around them" is a poor excuse that makes it possible for nothing to change."

She has written one of the most thoughtful pieces on the subject I've ever read.  She concludes that both sides of the equation have to work harder -- journalists to track down appropriate sources who are female and women being willing to be quoted.  LaFrance notes a reticence among women that is less of a problem with men she contacts for interviews -- she's not the first person to notice this or wonder why it is the case.  Her account is a good example of why we're still talking about this and why we need to get on with fixing the problem.

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