Balancing Act: Women’s Voices Are Largely Missing From Newspaper Letters To The Editor

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Heidi Stevens points out, a majority of letters to the editor at major newspapers are written by men. Which means a sizable chunk of the nation isn’t taking part in many national conversations.

Chicago Tribune

If you’ve ever walked through the lobby of Tribune Tower, you’ve seen the soul-stirring quotes etched into the marble of our majestic lobby: Joseph Medill, Abraham Lincoln, Thurgood Marshall, Flannery O’Connor, Voltaire.

One of my favorites is from Arthur Miller. “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”

Nowhere is that truer than our op-ed pages, where readers share their viewpoints on everything from the upcoming mayoral race to whether President Donald Trump should win a Nobel Peace Prize in letters to the editor.

A majority of letters, though, are written by men. Which means a sizable chunk of the nation isn’t taking part in Miller’s grand vision, a national conversation.

For a newly published article for The Atlantic, associate editor Caroline Kitchener contacted editors at major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, and found that the vast majority of letters come from men.
“At The Atlantic,” Kitchener writes, “we’ve seen the same thing.”

Last June, writer and activist Linda Stein wrote a Huffington Post essay taking The New York Times to task for the gender imbalance in its letters pages, which she’d studied and charted for three months.

New York Times staff editor Sue Mermelstein emailed Stein.

“We are aware of the fact that sometimes our Letters page is dominated by male voices,” Mermelstein wrote. “This reflects the fact that a large majority of our letter writers are men, why, we’re not sure. We don’t keep statistics, but a simple scan of our inbox makes this quite evident. This is apparently true of opinion pages and comments throughout the industry, from what I’ve read.”

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