One of the first things I do when I walk into a room full of people is start counting. How many women? How many people of color? I calculate percentages in my head. I adjust my behavior accordingly.
It’s a habit I share with a lot of women of color that I know. It’s a piece of the armor. Not that this knowledge protects any of us from the silencing or microagressions or straight-up disrespect that might be heading our way, but there’s comfort in quantification.
In the past few months, as I’ve transitioned out of working in the labor movement and into freelance journalism, I’ve spent less time in meetings counting faces, and more time in front of the computer, counting bylines. I count people on mastheads. I count the subjects of feature articles.
And so, in honor of the launch today of Nate Silver’s data journalism venture, FiveThirtyEight.com, I’ve decided to inaugurate my guest blog here at The Nation with a data point of my own: based on the 2010 US Census count of the non-Hispanic white population, divided by two, white men account for about 31.85 percent of the US population.
You wouldn’t guess the minority status of white men from their representation in the media. White men are everywhere! Studies abound showing the overwhelming prevalence of white men in the media:
• People of color make up only 12.37 percent of newsrooms in the US.
• In a study of evening cable news appearances in April 2013, Media Matters found that out of 1,677 total guests, 62 percent on CNN, 60 percent on Fox News, and 54 percent on MSNBC were white men.
• The annual report on the Status of Women in the US Media from the Women’s Media Center shows that men are quoted 3.4 times more often than women in front-page stories in The New York Times, and there are four times as many men as women opinion writers at the major papers.
• According to the annual VIDA Count, more than 75 percent of 2013 bylines in The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker were men.