It’s no secret that men are quoted much more than women in news stories, given the widely-noted male willingness to blather about topics both in and out of their expertise.
One obvious approach to rectifying this sorry situation would be to develop more robust lists of expert sources to talk to who are women, and then to monitor the results every few months or so (as some journalists are already doing).
[Who are some of your favorite female sources to talk to about education issues? Maybe we can pull a list together and send it out to everyone.]
Meantime, another method, proposed by Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum (Sexism, Journalism, and the Cult of Quotes) is for journalists to try and get over their quote addiction and quote much less:
“Sometimes quotes really do make complex subjects easier to understand, but most often they really don’t. They’re just colorful. And human. And they break up all the boring prose about some boring study or other that came to some boring conclusion about some boring problem…. The fact that men are willing to spill forth volubly on whatever crosses their minds doesn’t mean you have to put it in print.”
The problem is that quotes aren’t just an addiction. They’re also the safe way for journalists to say something that they’re worried would be controversial if they wrote it themselves — in part “because it would constitute an opinion.”
That’s not a problem for me — as long as the opinion’s backed up by evidence that’s presented to the reader along with the viewpoint. Reported opinion writing can be great, though it’s usually done from an opinion page (think LA Times or Chicago Sun Times).
Sometimes, however, reporters don’t back up what they’re saying (think that recent Slate piece about Deray McKesson), and then it’s confusing and distracting to readers and, well, more quotes or at least more bits of evideence.