Monitor grapples with gender balance in sourcing

Women have a lot to say – across business, politics, economics, education – you name it. But are their voices always heard?

Norman Matheny/Staff/File
Former Monitor correspondent Julia Malone (l.) interviews Sen. Alan Simpson (R) of Wyoming and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D) of New York in 1983.

Journalism is built on sources. Reporters count on experts and ordinary citizens to bring nuance and humanity to news events. The sources that reporters select shape the tone and direction of a story.

At the Monitor, we take care to select sources who help move discussions forward rather than further polarize issues. We put careful thought into the political and ideological spectrum represented in each story. Lately, we have been thinking about another kind of balance in sourcing: gender balance.

Women have a lot to say – across business, politics, economics, education – you name it. But are their voices always heard?

We decided to check ourselves on how well we were listening when it came to our own reporting. It turns out that for every 2 women quoted in January 2018, 3 men were featured. These findings suggest we may be reflecting societal disparities in our pages. So we’re trying to pay more attention to making sure both men's and women's voices are being heard.

We’re not interested in setting quotas, but we think we can be more intentional about giving voice to the many thoughtful and qualified women who may not be immediately visible.

Our role as journalists is not to correct societal biases, but we can make an effort to avoid perpetuating them. We see that as a worthwhile part of our mission to “bless all mankind.”

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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