Thursday, November 13, 2008

Study: Huffington Post Favors Male Bloggers

Or, to put it another way, female bloggers are out of favor when it comes to appearing on the front pages of the massively-popular Huffington Post.

Arianna Huffington.

In a fascinating study by Extra!, only 255 of 1,125 bylines, or 23 percent, of stories that appeared in the 13 "featured blog" slots on HuffPo's regularly-updated home page at a time belonged to women.

Extra! achieved these figures by recording featured bylines twice every weekday for nine weeks and coded them by gender. The study period lasted about two months, from 7/7/08 to 9/5/08.

More insight: Parity is scarce. Arianna Huffington, appearing 57 times, accounted for more than a fifth of all women's bylines; 45 of those occupied the most visible top post. Only once, in fact, did a woman other than Arianna Huffington get her byline in the most visible top slot—Post editor-at-large Nora Ephron.

Former HuffPoster Jessica Wakeman reports at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:

Women's voices have long been lacking in corporate media. As Internet outlets compete more and more with traditional media as a source for news and opinion, will women's voices be heard there more frequently than in print publications? If the Huffington Post, one of the most prominent and successful blogs today, is an accurate barometer, the answer is no. [...]

While the Huffington Post provides an outlet for certain voices that seldom make it into the corporate media, it falls perfectly in line with elite print media's abysmal gender numbers. In Extra!'s 2005 op-ed study (5–6/05) of major newspapers and magazines, U.S. News & World Report led magazines with a still-dismal 28 percent of op-eds penned by women, followed by Newsweek at 23 percent and Time at 13 percent. Newspapers fared even worse: Women's bylines appeared on 20 percent of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, 17 percent in the New York Times and 10 percent in the Washington Post. For syndicated columnists, the numbers were likewise low, with women writing 24 percent of columns at the eight major syndicates (Editor & Publisher, 3/15/05)—which still beats the Huffington Post.

Which left me with some simple questions: I acknowledge the scarcity of women overall, but just how many of the Huffington Post's revolving stable of active bloggers are women? I'd be interested to know if there's parity when it comes to the flow of content coming in -- is the lack of women on the front page the result of editorial bias, or are there simply less women writing for HuffPo than men? (I don't have those answers, but I'd like to know more.) And if so, why?

Of course, if Huffington herself is wooing more female bloggers than male, than perhaps these numbers are indicative of something greater. But, as complicated as the Huffington Post site is, so is the ability to root this theory in data: is there gender parity within the politics section, clearly the favored section of HuffPo? Or does the imbalance of, say, "green" stories (and the writers who write them) perpetuate this problem on the site's penultimate front page?

(HuffPosters, if you're out there, I'd love to know.)

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