Getting Started

Many months ago, the Knight Foundation announced their 3rd News Challenge, themed around Data. Like many others, I was excited to submit my proposal about tracking gender balance in news content. This wonderful idea was not of my making though.

I started thinking about authorship in general several years ago. During my time at IBM Research’s Visual Communication Lab, I built NYTWrites, a visualization tool to explore the topics written about by journalists at the New York Times. It was an interesting look at whether journalists need to be focused to write for such a publication. This left me even more curious about the people behind the news.

Years later, I got the opportunity to meet Nathan Matias from the MIT Center for Civic Media who began working on ways to measure the gender balance of news content computationally. From looking at byline author gender to pronouns, Nathan produced some results comparing three major publications: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Guardian in this data blog post.

Open Gender Tracker will make content gender analysis available to a wider range of publications, in realtime. Nathan and I are combining powers to explore what a system like this might look like. Nathan has been building code to track gender, I have experience making, documenting, and spreading open source libraries. We both love data and visualization.

With the generous help of the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund and in partnership with the Boston Globe, we’re now building the basic infrastructure of a more general, open source gender tracking system. Stay tuned for our next post on the many ways in which gender blance is being tracked at present in journalism.

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04 January 2013


Irene Ros