There has been a bit of interest in a thing which I started doing, which is just counting how many opinion pieces in the Monday to Friday editions of The Age and Herald Sun are written by men, and how many by women. And then writing it down. I know, I know. I am pretty amazing.
Thank you to the newspaper-reading train and tram commuters of Melbourne for your contributions to this study.
As I explain on the page about this with graphs (3D GRAPHS!), I started doing this because I had noticed that The Age's opinion page had a very lopsided gender balance.
There is a small lie of omission there. I actually noticed that balance issue after Catherine Deveny's twice (??) weekly opinion columns were moved off the Opinion page and on to the back page. And I thought, someone should keep track of that stuff. And then, three years later I thought about it again and I was like, "Oh, maybe I should do it?" So I did.
I'm sure it was actually just as bad before they boned Dev, but that is just when I noticed! Hey guess what, The Dev herself wrote about this.
Anyway, a few people have mentioned things, but my responses are too long for Twitter, so I thought I would weblog them. This is for what weblogs were invented, correct?
1. Why does the Herald Sun not get treated the same as The Age?
I started doing this with The Age, and after a few weeks people were like, why not the Herald Sun?
So, I started writing down the Monday to Friday numbers for the proper Opinion page of the Herald Sun, but I'm not sure it's really comparable.
The Monday-Friday editions of The Age are fairly distinct from the Saturday and Sunday editions. The Sunday edition of the Herald Sun is DEFINITELY a different paper to the rest of the week, but I'm not sure how the Saturday ed works.
The Herald Sun also has regular opinion columnists who appear on a separate page to the Opinion page. Andrew Bolt and Susie O'Brien and Bev O'Connor and O'soforth. I don't count these in the numbers, but should I? I don't know. How? I don't know that also! Just drop it, okay, I am emotionally fragile.
ALSO! The Herald Sun is weird and sometimes they almost have gender parity and sometimes they don't, and I think the reason is that as a very reactionary paper, almost all of their opinion pieces are just people from their stable reacting to the news of the day. So the balance is more guided by what is happening in the real world (or what the Herald Sun thinks is happening) than anything else.
2. Why not do an analysis of the content?
A few people on Twitter and elsewhere have suggested this. In fact, I just remembered that maybe I did this for Ben Pobjie and I's short-lived New Matilda podcast, The Media Ate My Brain, although I can't seem to find the episode in question. This looks like it should be it, but it's not. It's possible that we talked about it, but it got cut out for some reason. A lot of things got cut out of that thing. But I did do it! A bit!
Back in 2009, I did a small and not very-scientific content analysis of The Age opinion page, whereby I would judge each article as to whether it was FLUFF or NON-FLUFF. That is to say, were the stories about things of consequence or were they about feelings and stuff? As you might expect, there were more fluffy articles by women than there were by men.
This time around, I elected not to do that. Firstly, who am I to judge what is important and what is not? And secondly, I did a bit of sneaky judging of what is important and what is not, and there really wasn't enough fluffy things being published to justify counting it. But mainly it is because I recognise that it was a very subjective metric.
METRIC! THAT'S OUR WORD OF THE DAY! DING DING DING DING DING!
3. What was the third thing I was going to address? Oh yeah, what sort of feedback have I gotten?
I think mainly lots of people are on board. Probably a response I get every week is along the lines of "Yeah, but men probably submit more articles, maybe women are OVER-represented."
That doesn't fly over here, really. The articles on the Opinion page come from various sources. I think the fact that the imbalance is so consistent every week speaks to an editorial decision. Whether that decision is conscious or unconscious is the question.
Also some people are like, "WHY DO YOU DO THIS?" Because it pisses me off! And it is very easy. I think I might have just spent more time writing this blog post than I have collecting ten weeks worth of stats.
Something nobody has asked me is how long I am going to do it for. C'mon, guys, pull your socks up. But the answer is that I have set up my spreadsheet to go for 52 weeks.
Anyway, that's all. Let's chat about this on Twitter if you want. #OpEdGenBal