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Monitoring Project: 2008
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Men Garnered 63% of Mystery Reviews in 2008

By Nadia Gordon (Julianne Balmain)

Each year, Sisters in Crime volunteers monitor nearly 50 newspapers and magazines across the country for their coverage of the mystery genre by gender. As the number of book reviewers shrinks, the amount of book coverage diminishes, and competition for editorial space grows fiercer from coast to coast, it’s important that we continue to monitor who makes the cut. The numbers for 2008 have been finalized, and they’ve yielded some interesting statistics.

Overall, 63% of reviews were of mysteries written by men and 37% covered those written by women. Based on the submission list for best novel for the 2009 MWA Edgar Award, approximately 59% of new hardcover mysteries published in 2008 were written by men.

Of 47 publications tracked, only six reviewed more books by women than by men. Two of those six, Mystery News and the Omaha World-Herald, reviewed just slightly more women, with totals of 51%. The Seattle Times & Post Intelligencer (still under their joint operating agreement in 2008) covered 53% women. The most enthusiastic contributor of reviews of mysteries by women was Romantic Times, which devoted 82% of its review coverage to books written by women. Next came the Contra Costa Times (San Francisco Bay Area) with 73% coverage of women and the Baltimore Sun with 61% of mystery reviews covering women’s books.

The Missoulian and the Indianapolis Star each reviewed eleven mysteries in 2008. In both cases, 91% of the books were written by men.

Three important publications—the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle—all covered 74% or more books by men. In the case of the LA Times and the Chronicle, the data suggest part of the heavy skew toward books by men may be due to end-of-the-year roundup coverage. That is, the number of reviews overall jumps up at the end of the year, with the majority of those reviews covering men. (This was also the case for the Contra Costa Times, whose numbers skewed toward women in the fourth quarter.)

In coming weeks I will be following up with the reviews editors at these publications to let them know about our monitoring project, and the results for last year. Our goal is to raise awareness in order to encourage gender parity in the world of professional mystery writing.

If you would like to suggest a news outlet you would like to monitor as part of this program, please write to me at nadia@nadiagordon.com. We urgently need a new USA Today monitor, and also need volunteers to help with our pilot program monitoring featured titles at Barnes & Noble and Costco. Write to me if you’d like to help.

*I’ve included three publications for which one quarter of data was still missing at press time, marked with asterisks.

Percentage Report for 2008 (male=63%; female=37%) 

Publication Percentage Male Percentage Female
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette  86  14
Baltimore Sun  39  61
Contra Costa Times  27  73
Daily Press, Newport VA  69  31
Dallas Morning News  57  43
Detroit Free Press  69  31
Ellery Queen*  72  28
Entertainment Weekly  68  32
Hartford Courant  58  42
Houston Chronicle  67  33
Indianapolis Star  91  9
Kansas City Star  66  34
Kirkus Reviews  51  49
Knoxville Sentinel  66  34
Library Journal  56  44

Los Angeles Times

 75  25
Missoulian  91  9
Mystery News  49  51
Mystery Readers Journal  67  33
Mystery Scene  50  50
New Orleans Times-Picayune  55  45
New Yorker  100  0
New York Times Book Review  61  39
NPR Radio  65  35
Omaha World-Herald  49  51
Orlando Sentinel*  60  40
People Magazine  50  50
Powell's Daily Reviews  75  25
Publishers Weekly  54  46
Romantic Times  18  82
San Antonio Express-News*  87  13
 San Francisco Chronicle  74  26
 San Jose Mecury News  69  31
 Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer  47  53
 St. Louis Post-Dispatch  69  31
 Star Ledger, Essex NJ  69  31
 Star Tribune, Minn MN  65  35
 Strand  59  41
 Sunday Oregonian  62.5  37.5
 Toronto Globe & Mail  63  37
 USA Today  59  41
 Wall St. Journal  87  13
 Washington Post  68  32
 Winston-Salem Journal  59  41

 

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