A Personal Look At Gender Sourcing In My Journalism

Posted by admin on Apr 29, 2016 in news, opinion


Women are underrepresented in media.


Sure, most J-schools are 90% women, but that has little bearing on how everything pans out. In 2015, 68% of bylines at the New York Times went to male reporters, 67% at USA Today and 59% at The Wall Street Journal.

That’s not all: women are also missing in the stories themselves. The Global Media Monitoring Project reported that in 2015, only 24% of all people heard, read about or seen in the media are women. When you drill down to subject matter, the stats get even more skewed; only 16% of political coverage features women and 35% in tech and science.

This isn’t ‘new’ news to anyone who works in media; we all know this is an ongoing problem. Men get quoted more frequently as experts for a number of reasons (accessibility, relationships, etc) and while I’m sure no one intentionally does this, it’s a real issue. As long as one gender gets disproportionate column space, the other, by default, becomes a second class citizen and gets excluded from topics that relate to everyone. Journalists need to be cognizant of their own reporting bias, and make an extra effort to include both sexes


This issue is personal for me; on a recent story for Drone360 Magazine I was halfway through my reporting when I realized that every badass director, drone operator and entrepreneur I’d spoken to was male. To counter this, I reached out to the kickass Amelia Dronehart community to get some female voices. This wasn’t a story about sexism in drones (which I have written before) but one about the entertainment industry, and it was weird to find that it was only boys who were obviously involved/ talking about it/suggested as the company spokesperson.

A tweet from reporter Polly Mosendz alerted me to John R Platt’s great story on Motherboard; a feature about his quest to feature more female sources in his reporting.

He discussed how he managed to get from around 25-30% women voices to 43.55% in a year, through consciously using a wider pool.

That’s pretty awesome – but it got me wondering if this is something I’m guilty of. I don’t get a pass just because I have two X chromosomes. I decided to take an in-depth analysis of my own work over the last year. As a freelance journalist, I cover a bunch of different topics – recent stories include revenge porn laws, the business of pet funerals and yoga boxing – and I broadly fit into the ‘tech and lifestyle niche.’ With this in mind, I’d expect a relatively balanced gender division of sources.

I write for a lot of different publications, but to narrow this project down I’ve focused on my work for OZY Media, a company I do a lot of reporting for. I wrote approximately 67 stories between January 1st 2015 and March 2016; I use ‘approximately’ because I’m counting from date invoiced; not all my stories have been published yet, and some from 2014 were published during this time.

I’m aware this is a relatively small sample size, and I’m using this just to try and get a better understanding of my own work and bias; to discover what I need to work on. Way bigger studies and analysis have been done by other organizations; look a Max Berggren’s gender equality tracker (hat tip: Victoria Turk) the Women’s Media Center and the Geena Davis Center for more detailed research.

I counted the gender of all experts quoted, and the gender of the main characters in my stories. This was counted per story; a number of people have been quoted in multiple pieces (men and women) and this wasn’t documented separately.


Here’s what I found (put into percentages for ease of analysis).

Overall gender total: This includes every person spoken to

54.4% Female
45.5% Male

This is encouraging. I was a little worried – as someone who does a lot of tech reporting – that this might not be the case. I’m not sure why this is so balanced, I’m going to put it down to having a good network of female tech experts I contact regularly.

Gender total: Sources/Experts only

60.5% Female
39.5% Male

Gender total: Story main focus

47.6% Female
52.4% Male

Still pretty even, but a shift from earlier. Perhaps this is related to the number of male tech CEO’s?

These results are nice and all – a great virtual back patting’s going on now – but I wanted more data. This is my dive into story genres, to see if this switched things up.

Technology Reporting

Gender count: Technology Story focus

23% Female
77% Male

These are the numbers I expected to see earlier, and they make me feel pretty bad. Sure, men make up between 70-95% of all tech CEOs (depending on which study you read) but that’s no reason to not include women who are kicking ass.

Gender count: Technology Story sources
Female 70%
Male 30%

This is also strangely skewed. I’d account for this by the fact that I have a number of great women tech reporters that I regularly use as expert sources. I’ll make more of an effort to be inclusive to the great male experts as well.

Travel Reporting

Gender count: Travel Story focus

Female 27%
Male 73%

Thoughts: This is unexpected, and I can’t really account for this, other than I was unaware in my reporting that men were so prevalent in travel; I’d kinda assumed this might be pegged as ‘female’ in the same way that fashion is. I have looked at my fashion stories, and they skew significantly towards women as CEOs, but I had so few that I didn’t feel that data should be included here.

Gender count: Travel Story sources
Female 56%
Male 44%

Overall thoughts:

I’m surprised and pleased by these results. It feels to good to know I’ve been fair in my reporting, and that I’m representing people well. I still need to work on making sure I speak to more women, especially those who are tech CEO’s/entrepreneurs, but overall I feel pretty good. This has taken up more time than expected, and that’s OK, there’s value in understanding what I’ve been doing, not just blindly moving forwards, but having knowledge and forethought for future work.

I’d suggest more reporters attempt this with their own work; the better we understand ourselves, the better we can reach our readers.

Note: I’m aware this is an incredibly complex topic, and that by looking purely at gender I haven’t touched upon ageism, race or ableism. I hope to expand on those issues in follow up blogs; I kept this tightly focused on gender due to the narrow scope of this story. I welcome any comments/follow up thoughts people might have.


How Revenge Porn Goes Viral

Posted by admin on Apr 18, 2016 in news, technology


When Annmarie Chiarini’s ex decided to post nude pictures of her online, there weren’t any laws prohibiting “revenge porn.” Since 2010, great strides have been made to punish those like Annmarie’s ex who post the pics—but for victims like her, that’s often beside the point: Once nude pics are on the internet, they’re often there to stay.

When nude photos are uploaded online to a forum or website they can be copied by third-party web scraping tools. Think of these as virtual robotic spiders with the ability to search the source code of a website and download its content, including images. Many of these tools are free to use. Once the images have been captured by another individual, they can be republished on multiple websites, Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, an online reputation management company, told Vocativ. Photos, including revenge porn images, can also be manually downloaded by individuals for republication elsewhere.

Ambron’s services help clients clean up their Google search results of everything from police mugshots to party photos. But, he acknowledges, revenge porn is especially complicated to remove because its spread can be viral. “It starts by someone posting [a revenge porn image] anonymously on a forum,” he explained. Then, either web bots or individuals can crawl the content and store it in multiple locations.

When a website gets taken down, the images that have been archived by web bots or simply downloaded by users will often resurface on different blogs. The re-uploads can be accomplished automatically or manually, he said. Eventually, a nude image can be broadcast across so many websites that its origin stops being relevant. Trying to individually request the removal of revenge porn images from each site is a game of whack-a-mole.

Around 5 percent of Ambron’s business is from revenge porn victims. According to him, that’s around 25,000 people since he started his company in 2012. And these are particularly difficult cases. “We can’t take it down as fast as it’s posted,” he says. Because digital copies of a revenge porn image can spread so quickly, it’s nearly impossible to remove them all, so Ambron focuses on the next best thing. His protection processes involve issuing photo takedown requests and creating other, non-revenge porn-related content associated with the victim’s name in order to push incriminating images to the third page of Google search results. This work is done manually. And, often, it’s not enough. Revenge porn victims can live for years under the threat of their photos surfacing yet again. Read more…


The Maker Movement Is Taking Over America By Doing The Opposite of What’s Smart

Posted by admin on Apr 18, 2016 in opinion, technology

maker media dale

I didn’t mean to drink the maker movement Kool-Aid. It happened by mistake. I was swept away by how impressive Maker Media is, and how it’s succeeded by taking the opposite route from other media enterprises.

Today Maker Media is a multipurpose machine. The company publishes a number of magazines and books each year, have a robust web presence, a large YouTube presence, and sell products online on Maker Shed. And they host Maker Faires, festivals that celebrate the “DIY mindset,” showcased through art, electronics, and craft projects. The first was held in 2006. There are now 151 worldwide.

For reference, the 2015 Maker Faires had over 1.1 million visitors — the same audience size as Taylor Swift’s 1989 world tour.

Maker Media holds a number of additional events a year; free to attend Maker Camps designed to inspire children, and MakerCon’s, which give professionals the tools they need to run full-time maker businesses.

I went to Make: Magazine’s pop-up Christmas store in San Francisco to meet Dale Dougherty, the founder of Maker Media. He founded Make: Magazine a decade ago, and unwittingly godfathered a movement that’s spread across America, culminating in a Maker Faire held on The White House lawn last year.

The definition of a maker is someone who creates or produces things, and this can be anything: tech startups, crafting, robots, woodworking. Basically, it’s participating in a hobby that’s proactive, instead of reactive. Building an LED dragon vs. watching The Real Housewives. Read more…

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Archery Tag is every bit as mental as it sounds

Posted by admin on Dec 31, 2015 in geekery, Strange events


People as a rule, are big fans of combining sports to create something new and wonderful — think trampoline dodgeball, chessboxing and artistic cycling. But the latest fitness mashup pushes ingenuity to new levels. Archery Tag is a cross between laser tag, dodgeball and paintball, and combines hand-eye coordination with the thrill of hunting — but in this scenario, you are both the prey and the hunter, which involves running and shooting people with bows and arrows.

Indiana-based John Jackson developed archery tag in 2011 after being inspired by foam pieces at a product meeting. He wondered, wouldn’t it be fun to “put these on an arrow and shoot [each other] with it?” then went home and 3D-printed prototypes. And afterward discovered that it was really, really fun. He posted a YouTube video demonstrating the game, and received so much interest that he trademarked the name, and started licensing out his equipment.

The rules of archery tag vary from location but the basic tenets involve two teams of five people facing off across a tennis-sized court, a 20-foot safety zone between them. When the whistle blows, the goal is to hit your opponents and knock out their targets. Each player is equipped with a custom recurve bow, arrows and a face mask (for safety). Read more…

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The Rise of The Sparkly Stoner

Posted by admin on Dec 5, 2015 in geekery, style


Bongs, babes and blunts are part of cannabis’ heritage, but with weed gaining in popularity with young millennials, what’s the sparkle-loving stoner to do? It’s easy to find pipes decorated with skulls, but what about girlie greenies?

The lack of appropriately pretty cannabis accessories was the inspiration for 26-year-old Madison Alvarez’s creation of Miss Mary Jane Co., a store that caters to the “blunt bae.” We’re talking pipes adorned with lipstick kisses, Hello Kitty rigs (for doing weed dabs) complete with glass red bows, martini-glass-shaped rigs garnished with glowing green olives, and a bright yellow Smokemon spoon with the tagline “Gotta smoke ’em all!” (That’s a Pokemon reference, if you weren’t clear.)

“Hello Kitty has been a part of my life since I was a little girl,” Alvarez says. “How can someone not smile when they see [this]?” The pop culture influences are everywhere, from the pastel colors to the rig designed to look like Adventure Time’s Finn. Plus, an adorable necklace dabber that resembles a pink Sharpie. Read more…

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Hijab Couture goes haute

Posted by admin on Jun 5, 2015 in style

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At first glance, the pastel colors, monochrome prints and street-style photographs might make you think you’re reading Vogue. This online shop is flirty, friendly and doesn’t take itself too seriously — its Living Doll collection shows a Bambi-eyed model wearing clownish shoes and eyeing cupcakes. The overall aesthetic is clean and modern, with boring solids like black at a minimum. But this isn’t Madewell or Anthropologie. It’s HijUp, and the wearables on offer here are hijabs.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 12.46.15 PM

We know the hijab as a religious or cultural clothing choice, but it’s also a serious fashion statement. And it’s increasingly big business: The 2014–15 State of the Global Islamic Economy report by research firm DinarStandard found that Muslims spent $266 billion in 2013 on fashion, compared with $242 billion in 2012, and projects global spending of $484 billion by 2019.

Numerous startups, keen to cash in on the demand, are now catering to the craving for stylish headwear. Like Indonesian startup HijUp. Its marketing manager, Nenden Alifa, tells OZY that the company launched its e-commerce site in 2011 to “bring a positive image for Muslim women.” She’s emphatic that wearing a hijab doesn’t leave you “trapped” — it’s a choice — and she wants their fashion to reflect that. Read more…

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Inside my first Cannabis Convention: Hempcon 2015

Posted by admin on May 23, 2015 in news, opinion, Strange events



The cannabis “medible” industry  is gaining more traction every day (for people who  eat their weed) and I was curious to see what creators in the space were up to. A convention is the perfect place to see  industry connoisseurs, and 420 tends to have gatherings forming across the states. I chose to go to Hempcon 2015, a large cannabis exhibition event held at Cow Palace in San Jose, six miles south of San Francisco. The three-day event took place from the 17th-19th April 2015, the dedicated 4/20 weekend (naturally) and I attended on the Sunday.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana – almost two decades ago, in 1996 –  and as a new resident, I was intrigued  as to what  Hempcon would offer me. It’s not the most famous expo ( I’d wager The High Times Cannabis Cup has that that honor) but it has been running  since 2010,  and holds events across the country. Read more…

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