Aug
09
2001

Diversity Gap in Online Journalism

Yahoo! News Op/Ed skews male, white and right

Note: Please read the latest update to this alert.

While the Internet has revolutionized how some people get their news-- for example, through alternative sites such as IndyMedia.org, AlterNet.org and CommonDreams.org--corporate media still wield great influence over the range of journalistic debate online. Many Web surfers rely on for-profit search engines and web directories to guide them to news items of interest.

Yahoo!'s daily journalism site Yahoo! News (http://dailynews.yahoo.com), for example, directs visitors to headline reports and columns largely drawn from wire and syndication services, streamlining the search process and providing what is presented as a customizable one-stop shop for a quick and easy overview of news content online.

But while Web directories' news sites can eliminate tedious searches, they also sometimes replicate the lack of diversity present in traditional mainstream media. The Yahoo! News Op/Ed section suffers from this problem.

Of Yahoo! News' 21 featured Op/Ed columnists, 62 percent are conservatives like William F. Buckley, Robert Novak and Bill O'Reilly, 14 percent are centrists like David Broder and Mark Shields, and 24 percent are progressives or liberals like Molly Ivins, Robert Scheer and Ellen Goodman. (See http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/cm/cm/?u for complete list.)

The gender and racial breakdown of Yahoo! News' Op/Ed roster also leaves much to be desired: 67 percent are male, 90 percent are white, and not one progressive person of color is a contributor. Additionally, five of the seven female columnists are conservatives, including Linda Chavez, Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly.

The following are just some of the many writers regularly publishing left-leaning columns for national newspapers, magazines and syndicates. If Yahoo! News is interested in broadening the range of debate among their featured columnists--as well as opening their Op/Ed page up to more women and people of color--they might consider featuring such columnists as Farai Chideya ("Pop and Politics"), Alexander Cockburn ("Beat the Devil"), Laura Flanders ("Spin Dr. Laura"), Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez ("Column of the Americas"), Bob Herbert (New York Times), Derrick Jackson (Boston Globe), Naomi Klein (Toronto Globe and Mail), Sheryl McCarthy (Newsday), Salim Muwakkil (Chicago Tribune), Judy Mann (Washington Post), Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman ("Focus on the Corporation"), Katha Pollitt (The Nation), Deb Price (Detroit News) or Norman Solomon ("Media Beat").

This is, of course, just a sampling of the wide variety of progressive and liberal voices available.

Yahoo! News Op/Ed's op-artists list also cries out for more diversity: Of the 25 comics and editorial cartoonists featured in this section, not one is a woman. While it's true that cartooning is largely a male-dominated field, a pool of talented and witty female artists is certainly available to editors, from Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists Ann Telnaes and Signe Wilkinson to alternative cartoonists like Alison Bechdel ("Dykes to Watch Out For"), Barbara Brandon ("Where I Am Coming From") and Nicole Hollander ("Sylvia").

When it comes to directing readers to resources available elsewhere on the Internet, some Yahoo! sections offer more balance than Yahoo! News' Op/Ed site: For example, the "Political Opinion" page (http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/Politics/Political_Opinion/) includes links to civil disobedience, socialist and anarchist websites. This diversity of viewpoints suggests that the lack of balance on Yahoo! News' Op/Ed page may be an oversight. Either way, the imbalance should be corrected.

ACTION: Encourage Yahoo! News to bring political balance, and gender and race equity, to their list of contributing Op/Ed columnists and cartoonists. Feel free to mention names of columnists from the list above, or suggest your own.

CONTACT:
Yahoo! News editor: news-admin@yahoo-inc.com
Fax (408) 349-3301