Some Disturbing Media Numbers for 2014

Hannah Groch-BegleyHannah Groch-Begley put together some interesting statistics from Media Matters, The Media in 2014 by the Numbers. None of it is shocking, but it is all disturbing.

She started the article with what is perhaps the most surprising statistic: none of the top editors at the ten biggest newspapers are women. That statistic wouldn’t be surprising if we were talking about almost any other industry. But women are extremely well represented in writing. I have always taken this to indicate that women are naturally better writers. That’s certainly been my experience. I had to work very hard to write as well as most of my female friends who didn’t ever work on it. Regardless, if you look at technical writers, there are more women than men. On the other hand, in Hollywood, where I assume the money is better and the prestige is more, there are more men. Regardless, I would think the new business would do better. But of course not! Silly me to be the least bit optimistic.

There is a pair of statistics that I’ve seen before that I’m not sure is as meaningful as it seems:

Ebola Coverage 2014 - Media Matters

The truth of the matter is that the Ebola freak out seems to have just corresponded to the interests of the Republican Party. And I doubt it mattered anyway. I don’t think that Democratic voters stayed home because they felt that the administration was doing a bad job with it. What I think is a bigger issue is that if a Republican had been in the White House, Ebola would have received perhaps a quarter of the coverage. Fox News would have covered it in a completely reasonable way and the other news stations would have followed suit. In fact, there would have been a huge backlash against anyone who didn’t. They would have rightly been criticized for fomenting fear. But when a Democrat is in the White House, nothing is off the table. We should be very concerned that the mainstream media allow the Overton Window to be set by conservative media.

A couple of statistics that really struck me had to do with experts. First, only 3% of economic segments in the first half of 2014 featured an economist. Now, when you consider the state of the economics profession, maybe that isn’t so bad. I suspect that a good deal of that 3% was made up with Arthur Laffer. Just the same, it shows the media really aren’t interested in expertise — they figure economics is simple and everyone has valid opinions on it. They just want some politician on the two arbitrary “sides” of the issue and that’s that.

The other statistic is of much greater concern: on education segments during 2014, only 9% included educators. As with the economist, the media seem to think that teaching is simple. Why talk to teachers about education? After all, everybody knows that teachers just care about working as little as possible and taking home those big ol’ pay checks! Am I right?! But unlike economists who are to a large extent incompetent apologists for the power elite, teachers actually do know something about education. But the power elite would prefer to leave them out of the conversation. And the mainstream media are more than willing to oblige.

There are are lot more factoids in the article. The ones that I mentioned are just the ones that stood out to me. But there is much of interest. I suspect that next year, Media Matters will be able to write the same article with a minimum of editing.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Some Disturbing Media Numbers for 2014

  1. Just because it’s my turn to be a contrarian: why do you care about the numbers of women editing mainstream newspapers. With very few exceptions, mainstream papers are crap. Would they be better with women editors? I don’t think so – they still would be crap. It’s not their job to produce incisive and informative stories – that’s not how they get paid. Women editors would make no difference.

    And Thatcher was worse than the guys!

    • No, it isn’t that I think it would be better. But these are among the best paying of the remaining writing gigs. It just doesn’t speak well for the industry. I think my point is that even though women are at least as good at writing as men, they are pushed into the lower paying jobs.

      You seem to be implying that Thatcher was a woman. It is possible that she was a female of whatever extraterrestrial reptilian species she (It?!) was. But a woman?! I deny it!

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