Women Go Viral at The New York Times

BY Cristen Conger / POSTED June 23, 2011
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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Well whaddya know! After much gnashing of teeth in recent months over the dearth of female-authored works featured in prominent magazines and reviews, here’s a bright finding for pen-wielding women out there. New York Times articles written by female reporters are shared among online readers more than those written by male reporters.

This comes from a study out of the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania that examined what types of articles hit the “Most-Emailed” list on The New York Times site. Analyzing more than 7,000 stories from the list revealed that readers gravitate toward “awe-inspiring” pieces. Researcher Katherine Milkman told NPR’s “On the Media”:

“What we find interesting is the connectivity issue. People tend to proselytize about awe-inspiring experiences. This is one of the main ways that religion has been thought to spread. When I have an amazing experience, I tell others about it.”

Turns out that a majority of the folks digging up these awe-inspiring stories are women. This doesn’t just relate to arts and human interest stories, either. Milkman explained that no matter the topic, female authors receive more peer-to-peer circulation. Although Milkman doesn’t have any data to explain why the women at NYT go viral more often, she suspects they might be better, more engaging writers than their male colleagues.

I’ve done some research on discrimination – there’s certainly a possibility that in order to get a job at The New York Times, a woman has to be more qualified and better at what she does, and so that could also drive this effect. It could be that women are simply better at their jobs in an equivalent position and, therefore, their stories are more popular.

If that’s the case, I’d like to see a followup study on whether those popular lady reporters are being paid and promoted equally to their gentlemen counterparts.

Thanks to all-star Stuff Mom Never Told You listener Diana Fleischman for passing this story along!

Follow Cristen & Molly from Stuff Mom Never Told You on Twitter and Facebook.

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