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May 14, 2018, 7:01 p.m.
Reporting & Production

News stories in Europe are predominantly by and about men. Even photograph sizes are unequal.

Across 11 countries studied, 41 percent of bylines were male, 23 percent female.

It’s the era of #metoo, when reporting by female journalists like Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Emily Steel, Irin Carmon, and Amy Brittain has helped bring down powerful men who ruled media for decades. But women remain underrepresented both in bylines and in news coverage itself, and, often, underpaid compared to male journalists.

In the United States, for instance, there are stark gender disparities in reporting across many different types of news outlets as well as in newsroom leadership roles. (Female journalists of color are even more poorly represented.) And a new study out from the European Journalism Observatory provides a look at just how bad the problem is in Europe.

Researchers analyzed the news, opinion, and business sections of two print and two digital-born news outlets in each of 11 countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the U.K. They tracked the news outlets two days per week over the course of four weeks in January and February of this year; in addition to tracking bylines, they also checked to see how many photos showed women. They were looking specifically at traditionally male-dominated sections of newspapers: “Only the first 15 pages of each print newspaper were studied, as these would feature the most high-profile or important stories of the day. With digital news outlets, the first 20 stories on the home page, in news, politics, and business, were chosen. Features about health, arts and lifestyle issues such as fashion were omitted, as were sports sections.”

In almost every country across both print and digital outlets, men wrote most of the stories. Across the 11 countries, 41 percent of bylines were male, and 23 percent female. (The remaining 36 percent of stories either had no byline or were bylined only with an institutional source, like the Associated Press or AFP.) Inequality extended to photographs (across the 11 countries, 43 percent of photos were just of men, 15 percent were just of women), article lengths, and even photo sizesin print papers.

Among the findings:

— “The nations that demonstrated the biggest gender imbalance in bylines were Italy and Germany. In Germany, 58 percent of bylines were male and just 16 percent female, while in Italy, 63 percent of bylines (the biggest percentage among the 11 countries) belonged to men, and just 21 percent to women.”

— Digital outlets tended to have slightly more even proportions of male to female bylines. The Czech Republic’s digital news site, for instance, which launched in 2016, “had more articles written by women during the study period (53 percent female versus 40 percent male).” But being digital-born is no guarantee of equality. In the case of the two Italian digital outlets, for instance, and, “Linkiesta’s bylines were 67 percent male to 15 percent female, while HuffPost’s were 35 percent male to 16 percent female.”

— Portugal is an outlier: “the number of bylines written by women in the news outlets analyzed was 30 percent, compared to 20 percent by men. The female supremacy was even greater in print newspapers, with women writing 37 percent of news stories there against only 18 percent written by men.” At the same time, though male journalists in Portugal are paid more than female journalists in Portugal, according to one report, despite the fact that “54 percent of women journalists in Portugal have a university degree against 34 percent for men.”

— Inequality is apparent in more than just bylines and photographs. It also shows up in story length and picture size. In the Czech Republic, for instance, “there were three times more photographs of men used across all outlets. Pictures usually showed women involved in normal daily life, whereas men were usually depicted in the role of politicians or experts (148 male politicians compared to 26 female politicians; 21 male experts compared to six female experts).”

In Poland, “There was not a single day during the research when the number of photos depicting women exceeded the number of photos depicting men…on a couple occasions, even the stories evidently about women (e.g. interviews with female members of the parliament) were illustrated with photos depicting men only mentioned in the articles.”

In the two Spanish newspapers studied, El Mundo and El País, not only were there more photographs of men, but “a clear difference in the size of the photo was noticeable; when female politicians (for example Vice President Saenz de Santamaría or Angela Merkel) were featured, their pictures tended to be smaller than when a male politician was used.”

The Romanian online news outlet had more female bylines (57 percent) than male (43 percent); a leading Romanian newspaper, Adevarul, had a relatively equal balance (44 percent of articles by men, 38 percent by women). But “front-page stories in the paper (and on the other newspaper analysed, Libertatea) tended to be written by men. It was also noted that articles written by the female journalists on both Hotnews and Adevarul were generally much shorter than those written by the male journalists.”

— The study didn’t look at gender imbalances in journalist pay in every country, but it came up in the U.K., where The Telegraph had more female bylines (33.5 percent) than male (28 percent) — yet, “on March 28, a few weeks after the EJO’s content analysis ended, The Telegraph revealed its own gender pay gap was the highest of any U.K. newspaper publisher or broadcaster at that point. Women working at Telegraph Media Group get paid 35 percent less than men on average, the biggest gender pay gap of any U.K. newspaper publisher or broadcaster to have reported official figures to date.” (Telegraph CEO Nick Hugh said the paper will close the pay gap by 2025.)

The full study is here.

If you liked (or were mad about) this story:

“Punchier and stronger” and with way more women: How Outside Magazine got to be badass online. A lot of publications are paying lip service to inclusiveness and diversity. Outside is actually doing it.

“If the Financial Times were a person, it would be a man.” Here’s how the paper is trying to change that.

“We stepped in and started doing it.” How one woman built an award-winning news outlet from her dining room table.

Photo by Angie Garrett used under a Creative Commons license.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email ( or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     May 14, 2018, 7:01 p.m.
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