October 2012:

Report let by Jane Martinson

Research team: Jane Martinson, Kira Cochrane, Sue Ryan, Tracy Corrigan, Fiona Bawdon

Report written by Fiona Bawdon


The spark for Women in Journalism’s research came from an article written by WiJ committee member Kira Cochrane. Kira wanted to examine the role of women in the British media and hit upon a way of doing this which was as simple as it was brilliant: she (and a team of researchers) counted all the male and female bylines in seven national newspapers over a four-week period. The findings showed that over three-quarters of bylines were male.

WiJ decided to take Kira’s idea and adapt it to encompass not just the gender of those writing the news, but of those being written about, and also photographed, in national newspapers. We settled on restricting our analysis to the front pages only, as this would keep the scale of the project manageable while provide a telling insight into the role played by women – both as writers and the written about – in the main news stories of the day.

An obvious question in an increasingly digital age, is do newspaper front pages any longer have any relevance? Our answer to this is a resounding yes. The front page is the face that a newspaper chooses to present to the world; it is its shop window, if you like, and what its editors choose to display there gives a powerful insight into the paper’s priorities and preoccupations. Just as importantly, within newspapers themselves, however many hits the digital version of a story may generate, there remains a particular kudos, still some glory, in writing that day’s ‘splash’, the front page lead story. Therefore examining the gender split of those writing the leads gives an insight into where male and female journalists fit into the pecking order of individual newspapers and within the industry as a whole.

Full study here