How We’re Doing: Women Experts on the Radio

It seems NPR isn’t quite as balanced as we think–or so NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard discovered after conducting a gender analysis of the network’s programming. With the help of NPR librarian Hannah Somers, Shepard examined how often women appeared as commentators and experts on the network’s regular programs over 15 months. The pair found that, while NPR boasts a substantial proportion of women hosts and executives, men still dominate guest spots on the most popular shows.

Of 12 commentators who appeared at least 20 times over 15 months, only one was a woman–former NPR staffer Cokie Roberts. Moreover, women only represented 26 percent of all people who were interviewed for a program.

Considered alongside data from this year’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), which analyzes women’s representation in global media, Shepard’s findings appear even more discouraging. While the GMMP has not yet concluded its 2010 study, preliminary data from a sample of 42 countries not including North America suggests that women make up only 19 percent of experts interviewed for news stories–just a few percentage points lower than that of our beloved NPR. Naturally, we’d expect more from NPR, which is known for its diversity and progressive analysis. But to its credit, the radio network is making strides to rectify the disparity by “launching a pilot project scouting for new voices for on-air interviews and potential sources.” And give NPR credit for publicizing the issue in the first place.

Comments

  1. Ok, I’m a male feminist and all, but this blog post is ridiculous. Besides you, BITCH magazine and Bust, how many news organization do you really think do its best to keep its sources’ gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation balanced? What about the breakdown of the race of the sources?

    And consider the fact that NPR covers a lot of issues that feminists care about, especially last month’s series on sexual assault on college campuses.

    I agree, as a journalist that balance is important. But what if certain sources weren’t as responsive as others? I think this issue is more complex than the post made it out to be, Ms. should consider doing a longer piece on it, than just leave it to a tiny blog post with little analysis.

  2. I think saying that news sources don’t try to be gender balanced in order to defend the inequality is a weak argument, J. If Ms. and Bitch and Bust are the only ones trying to be gender balanced then THAT is the bullshit – not Catherine’s post.

    It’s great that NPR covers a lot of feminist issues and Ms. is clearly applauding that – but I don’t think the lack of women commentators is primarily because female sources are less responsive than others. As you said, it’s more complicated than that. We are still dealing with a history of sexism where men are seen as “the norm,” probably even when looking for commentators on a radio show.

  3. J,

    The 2005 survey conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism examined more than 16,000 articles, revealing that more than three-fourths of all articles sited male sources. One-fourth cited a woman as a source, and most of those were articles in the Life/Style sector.

    The full study is still available online and all interested folks check it out.

  4. H Covitz says:

    Very interesting

  5. H Covitz says:

    Since the ECONOMY was the big news story these past 15+ months, I wonder how much the dearth of women economists affected this

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