Who reports the news in Australian daily publications? Stories are more likely to carry a male byline rather than a female one across all daily publications investigated by New Matilda. The dominance of men is focused on the big reporting fields of sport, economics (including business and finance) and politics and the most prominent parts of the publication. The gender gap is slightly greater in News Ltd publications and is most marked in the national newspaper, The Australian.
The gap exists despite recent research showing women working in the media now outnumber men. There are also many more women graduating from journalism courses across Australia.
This report is based on a snapshot of nine metropolitan and regional print media publications on 4 March, 2013. Stories with bylines were coded for gender and were allocated to a theme or “round”. Content categories included: arts, climate/weather, crime/law, economy (including business and finance), education, entertainment, environment, fashion, food, health, industrial relations/workplace, international, media, politics, relationships and sport.
Why investigate bylines?
Bylines reflect reporting roles. While editors, who are nearly all men, shape the news agenda and the selection of stories, reporters play a crucial role in print and online production. They take responsibility for the initial framing of stories and information collection, including selection of sources. Sub-editors alter stories in the production process and write headlines. Bylines form part of the public face of the media and public perception of journalists.
The mastheads we investigated are: the national newspaper The Australian, five metropolitan newspapers, The Age, Courier Mail, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald and three regional newspapers, Cairns Post, Geelong Advertiser and the Illawarra Mercury.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald launched their compact editions on 4 March, which was also four days before International Women’s Day. This was reflected in a small number of stories. Some stories were syndicated widely, often appearing in a number of mastheads. We counted each appearance as a separate story to give a full picture of what readers of these nine mastheads saw on the day.
We coded 760 stories of which 591 (78 per cent) had a byline. This analysis is based on stories with a byline. Obviously, some stories are co-written or have additional reporting provided, resulting in a joint byline. That means that for 591 stories there was a total of 665 bylines.
Of 591 stories with a byline:
- There were 461 male bylines
- There were 204 female bylines
- Only 31 per cent of 665 bylines, or less than one in three, were female.
The biggest round by far was the sports round, which accounted for 33 per cent of all stories. These stories were overwhelmingly produced by men. Across the 196 sports stories with bylines 188 (94 per cent) had male bylines and 13 (6 per cent) were female. This confirms earlier studies of sports reporting showing male dominance of sports reporting, both in Australia and elsewhere.
When the 196 sports stories were removed, men still dominate, but the picture improves from a gender balance point of view. The 395 non-sport stories carried 464 bylines of which 59 per cent were male and 41 per cent were female.
Given a margin for error and the selection of a single day, this result is fairly evenly balanced. But more distinct patterns emerge when stories in different rounds, article prominence and mastheads are compared.
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After sport, the biggest rounds were economy (which includes business and finance stories) with 88 bylined stories; politics, with 54 bylined stories; and international news, with 37 bylined stories. These categories were strongly male dominated.
Entertainment, with 56 stories, was evenly balanced.
In other rounds where numbers were smaller, the pattern was reversed and there were more stories by women than men. Education, health and arts rounds had 54 bylined stories of which 63 per cent were female, however three quarters of the environment stories (17) had a male byline.
Food, transport, climate and weather, social affairs, industry, technology, fashion, relationships, gender and property topics had under 10 stories each. These topics were more evenly mixed.
Who gets the front page?
Male journalists were more likely to get front page stories. On this day, there was only one front page story that was written by a female journalist who didn’t share the byline with a male.
There were 14 front page stories with bylines. Of these, 13 were male and only 4 were female.
Stories on page two to eight
There were 89 stories counted on pages two to eight that had bylines. Of these, there were: 58 male bylines and 40 female bylines. This means 59 per cent of the 93 bylines were male and 41 per cent were female.
Stories from page nine onwards
There were 488 stories with bylines from page nine onwards, including sports. Of these, there were: 390 male bylines and 160 female ones. This means 71 per cent of the 550 bylines were male and 29 per cent female.
But when we took away sport stories (which made up just under half of the 488 stories), the picture is more balanced. Of 295 stories that were not about sport, there were 203 male bylines and 149 female ones. Of the total 352 in the back pages of publications ( excluding sport), 58 per cent were male and 42 per cent female.
Owned by News Ltd, it is the only general national Australian newspaper.
We identified 109 stories with bylines in The Australian. Across these stories, we identified 118 by lines of which 94 (80 per cent) were male and 24 (20 per cent) were female.
While there are some strong female reporters at The Australian including Patricia Karvelas, Amanda Hodge, Natasha Robinson, Glenda Korporal (responsible for three stories on that day) and others, The Australian was the most male dominated publication on this day.
Owned by Fairfax, it is one of two dailies in Melbourne.
Of 101 bylines identified in The Age, 70 per cent were male.
On 4 March, The Age included the Pulse health supplement that is included in its partner publication, SMH on another week day. According to Fairfax, Pulse is dedicated to “health, wellbeing, beauty and fitness”.
Across the 11 Pulse stories with bylines, there were 10 (77 per cent) female bylines and three (23 per cent) male ones.
When Pulse was removed, there were 83 stories with 88 bylines in The Age. Of 88 bylines, 77 per cent were male and 23 per cent were female.
The Courier Mail
Owned by News Ltd, it is Brisbane’s only metropolitan.
There were 53 bylined stories in The Courier Mail, with 61 bylines. Of these, 74 percent were male and 26 per cent female.
Owned by News Ltd, it is one of two Sydney dailies in Sydney and has the second biggest publication of any newspaper in Australia.
We coded 79 stories with bylines in The Daily Telegraph. Across these stories, there were 89 bylines, of which 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent female.
The Herald Sun
Owned by News Ltd, it is one of two Melbourne dailies and in circulation terms, it is the biggest newspaper in Australia.
We identified 69 stories with bylines in the Herald Sun. Across these, there was a total of 100 bylines of which 65 per cent were male and 35 per cent female.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Owned by Fairfax Media, it is the second metropolitan newspaper in Sydney.
There were 81 stories with bylines in the Sydney Morning Herald. Across these, we identified 82 bylines of which 60 per cent were male and 40 per cent were male.
These results show that the SMH was the most gender balanced publication on this day from the point of view of bylines. While the Sydney Morning Herald has recently lost a number of senior female reporters, including Michelle Grattan, Lenore Taylor and Adele Horin, a newer generation of women reporters including Josephine Tovey, Rachel Olding, Amy Corderoy and Bianca Hall are moving into more senior reporting roles.
The Cairns Post
Owned by News Ltd, it is Far North Queensland’s only daily paper.
There were 22 stories with bylines in The Cairns Post. carrying 23 by lines, of which 65 per cent were male and 35 per cent female.
The Geelong Advertiser
News Ltd owned daily in the large regional Victorian city of Geelong.
There were 43 stories with bylines in The Geelong Advertiser. These carried 45 bylines of which 73 per cent were male and 27 per cent female.
The Illawarra Mercury
Fairfax owned regional daily in the NSW South Coast city of Wollongong.
There were 41 stories with bylines in the Illawarra Mercury. These carried 46 bylines, 65 per cent were male and 35 per cent female.
Regionals v Metro
The three regional mastheads we surveyed (Cairns Post, Illawarra Mercury and Geelong Advertiser) rated slightly better for female bylines than the six metro mastheads (The Age, The Australian, Courier Mail, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Sydney Morning Herald).
Of a total 114 bylines in regional papers, 68 per cent were male and 32 per cent female. This compared to 70 per cent of the 551 metro bylines being male. Given the selection of a single day for this study, this difference is probably not significant.
Fairfax vs News Limited
In the three Fairfax mastheads we surveyed (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Illawarra Mercury), there were 216 stories with bylines. Across these, there were:
229 bylines of which 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent female.
But in the News Limited mastheads (Cairns Post, Courier Mail, Daily Telegraph, Geelong Advertiser, Herald Sun and The Australian), there were 375 stories with 436 bylines of which 71 per cent were male, compared to 29 per cent female.
Readers may wonder why we chose to analyse print, which is quickly being overtaken by digital media. The answer is that print is still easier to study, and plays a strong role in setting the agenda for the daily broadcast media, radio and television. Online versions of these publications mainly consist of the same print stories from the print edition, plus some wire stories and other sections, although the priority given to stories may differ.
Our snapshot suggests that there a long way to go before women achieve equality with men in mainstream reporting in Australia. There are bound to be differences from day to day, but the overall findings contribute to a picture of gender inequality that also emerged from parts one and two of our investigation.
Part one of our study showed that women are barely represented in the governance and management ranks of corporate media and are a small minority in senior editorial roles. Part two showed that in the week beginning 4 March, women were only responsible around a third of all opinion pieces published in 27 Australian publications.
Our findings also confirm earlier studies of women and the media including the Australian section of the 2010 Global Media Monitoring project.
Since we published our earlier reports, The Conversation reported on the work of Folker Hanusch, program leader in journalism at the University of the Sunshine Coast, who has recently carried out a survey of Australian journalists. He found that although there are more women in the media, they tend to be less senior and to be less well paid.
We invited him comment on our findings, and Hanusch replied that they tend to confirm earlier studies, although the choice of a single day means that more research is needed to examine patterns over a broader sample.
Nevertheless, he said that the concentration of women in “soft news beats” reflects what “appears to be a belief among senior editors that women are better at covering such news. This in itself is of course a stereotype”.
He also said the finding that stories in the back sections of publications tend to be more likely to be reported by women was “interesting", because it “suggests that men are still preferred to write the ‘important’ stories”, something “well supported in other academic literature".
There are a variety of ways of looking at how journalism resources are applied within mainstream publications from a gender point of view. In this study we investigated the percentage of male and female bylines. It would also possible to examine what percentage of stories carry a male or female byline; how many bylines male reporters get on average as opposed to female reporters, and whether there are any differences in whether women are more likely to share a by line than men.
We do not have the labour force breakdown for News Ltd or Fairfax. However Hanusch's recent survey included 136 News Ltd journalists and 139 Fairfax journalists across media and found 55.9 per cent and 50.4 per cent respectively. The margin of error is around 8 to 9 per cent.
Further research is needed to establish why the byline gender gap exists and what causes it to vary across rounds and publications. It could be that hiring of reporters or round allocation practices are biased to men in some rounds; or it could be that there is a tendency of women and men to focus on those areas in which they consider they have a better chance of success.
There are senior women reporters in all fields who provide role models for more junior reporters. Bias may exist at some publications more than others or reflect the attitude of particular editors. Another factor may be the tendency of women to carry a heavier responsibility for child rearing. Some female journalists may prefer middle and junior editorial roles, with less pressure, because they need more regular hours.
We would welcome comments, anecdotes or feedback, anonymously or otherwise.
Although as with all the other publications, the Cairns Post was coded from a hard copy version with the exception of its sports section. For this, we had to rely on its archive. From research of this paper on other days, It is unlikely any missed stories would make the count more positive for women.
We have aimed for a high standard of accuracy. However even allowing for a few missed stories, the patterns across the publications show a clear pattern of under representation, particularly in bigger rounds and some publications. Some very small wire stories with no bylines were excluded.
Results for this report were compiled by Wendy Bacon, Elise Dalley, Lauren Frost, Joanne Griffiths and Rochelle Widdowsen.
Data analysis and visualisation by Elise Dalley.