Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The ASME Individual Byline Finalists And Gender

Ann Friedman has counted gender among the 2012 individual-byline finalists for National Magazine Awards:
ASME announced the National Magazine Award finalists today. Women hold their own or dominate in servicey categories (public interest, personal service) and fiction. They are not represented at all in the categories of reporting, feature writing, profile writing, essays and criticism, columns and commentary. (I only counted individual-byline categories, not editorial packages or section awards.)
Assuming the gender attributions are correct, the total gives us 12 women and 37 men as finalists in the various categories. Do those numbers reflect the general frequencies of men and women working in the fields that the various subcategories reflect? I haven't tried to research that question.

The answer matters because if a category has few women working in it then the list of finalists would also have few or no women, whatever their individual talents might be. In reverse, is the Public Interest category one in which few men write?

What is the impact of the topic on being selected as a finalist? I noticed that war reporting dominates in the Reporting category. The current wars are harder for women to cover (as are wars in general), for pretty obvious reasons. If the topic affects one's chances of being picked as a finalist then a focus on war would handicap women.

Speaking about the topics of the articles, have a look at the titles in the Feature Writing Section:
FEATURE WRITING -- 0 women, 5 men
Esquire for “Heavenly Father!” October -- Luke Dittrich
GQ for “The Man Who Sailed His House,” October -- Michael Paterniti
The New York Times Magazine for “You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” June 12 -- John Jeremiah Sullivan
The New Yorker for “A Murder Foretold,” April 4 -- David Grann
Rolling Stone for “Arms and the Dudes,” March 31 -- Guy Lawson
That list of titles reads funny in the present context.

Competitions of this type are always worth scrutinizing. The results might not tell us much (or anything) about gender and writing, say, but the questions such scrutiny elicit are usually interesting ones.