NPR’s Sex Problem

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

NPR’s ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, has done a little sleuthing about the number of the network’s female commentators and sources, and the results aren’t pretty. Well, this is a good-looking chart, but you get what I mean:

 

“NPR listeners heard 2,502 male sources and 877 female sources on the shows we sampled,” Shepard writes. “In other words, only 26 percent of the 3,379 voices were female, while 74 percent were male.”

The problem is hardly limited to NPR; Mother Jones has posted the scary statistics about the gender disparity in magazines, in the blogosphere, and everywhere else, from golf clubs to Hollywood. I recently did my own scientific study, in which I saw the December Harper’s sitting on a friend’s bathroom floor and counted on my fingers that every one of the six contributors mentioned on the cover was a man. I’ve also conducted a follow-up that involved looking at The Daily Show‘s 2009 guest list on Wikipedia and tallying that it featured only 36 women; only one guest was a woman in each of February and March; in September, none was.

“Many times we hear there are no women, or there are more men to tap into as experts,” said Women’s Media Center president Jehmu Greene in Shepard’s blog post. “I think that’s a mindset that is common in the media. Clearly, it is worth it to do the extra work for the story to get the female perspective which many times can be different, unique and necessary.” That’s why the WMC is devoted to populating the media landscape with more ladies—a cause I’m honored to participate in as a member of its 2010 Progressive Women’s Voices class.

While Shepard laments her organization’s shortfalls on the gender front, she points out that it is still “an industry leader with female correspondents and hosts.” To wit, it has launched an initiative to diversify its on-air voices, and hopefully, this chart will soon be less skewed. Points out Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute, for the analysis win, “I doubt there is a conscious, systemic aversion to selecting women as sources at NPR. But benign neglect is still neglect and its impact just as harmful to society.”

 

 

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate