Who's making news?

Catherine Orenstein, founder of the Op-Ed Project, shows why it is so important to diversify featured voices.

I am obsessed with the Sunday New York Times. Every week I look forward to the day I get to walk down to the corner store and pick up the Sunday stack of papers, doing bicep curls with it the whole way home (between the front page, magazines, sports, arts and leisure – it has got to weigh at least two pounds).That way I don’t feel guilty when I have spent all afternoon seated, drinking in each national and international headline and op-ed in the Sunday Review (best part).

My obsession with the NYTimes Sunday review lead to my excitement about participating in the Op-Ed Project‘s “Write to Change the World” workshop in Boston this Saturday. This is why: according to the Op-Ed Project’s recent Byline Survey, women have 30% of the NYTimes bylines to men’s 70%. And as the VIDA Count showed earlier this year, this trend is a consistent one in journalism.

Women’s presence in the field is slowly increasing, yet the op-ed arena in particular is still mostly male. The Op-Ed Project recently published their Byline Survey Report highlighting the dimensions of this trend, which hasn’t changed much over the years. In new, traditional, and college media, op-eds written by women were less than 40%. And statistics regarding racial, ethnic and class diversity on the opinion pages are even more staggering. The Op-Ed Project highlighted another byline survey released in April which shows that one-half of one percent of op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were written by Latinos; in The Washington Post, it was 0 percent. Asian Americans authored an average of 2 percent; blacks roughly 5 percent (though that rate was lifted by the Post’s 10 percent).

There are different opinions for why the gap exists. No matter what, it has to change. So how can we continue to diversify voices in the op-ed sections? Address institutionalized sexism and hone the expertise of a variety of voices. That’s what makes participating in Saturday’s workshop so special.

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