The Most Popular ‘New York Times’ Stories of 2014 Were Written by Women, About Women

The newspaper’s most widely read article of the year may surprise you.

Mia Farrow, Woody Allen, and their children Dylan and Satchel on Jan. 13, 1988. (Photo: The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Jan 14, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Despite its nickname as the Gray Lady, America's largest metropolitan newspaper has fewer lady journalists than any other top newspaper in the country—an embarrassing statistic in light of new evidence that stories written by women and about women are among the most visited content on its website.

The content ranking, released earlier this week by The New York Times, reveals that the most visited piece of content on NYTimes.com and its mobile site and app combined in 2014 was "Forty Portraits in Forty Years," a story about four sisters who posed together for a photo with every year for four decades. While the story's striking photographs were taken by Nicholas Nixon, the husband of one of the subjects, the words were written by a woman: Susan Minot, a poet and a novelist.

It's a significant discovery considering the Times' remarkably low employment of female writers. In a study that analyzed the number of male and female writers hired by the nation's 10 most widely circulated newspapers between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, The New York Times came in dead last, with 31 percent of its bylines being female. That percentage is even lower than the national average of 36.1 percent, as determined by the Women's Media Center's analysis of 27,000 pieces of content from America's 20 most prominent TV networks, newspapers, and online news sites.

Yet female writers and women's stories are clearly in demand by readers. For further evidence, just look to the Times' second-most-visited piece of content last year. It wasn't reported journalism but rather an open letter from a woman who was sexually harassed at the age of seven. Her name was Dylan Farrow, and her assailant was Woody Allen, she wrote.

The letter received increased attention this week after news broke that Allen is developing a new show for Amazon, reigniting a debate about whether Hollywood should hold him accountable for the accusations. It was published the same week that Newsweek ran its interview with Tamara Green and Barbara Bowman, two of 24 women who have come forward over the years to publicly accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault.

"Sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily," Farrow wrote Feb. 1, 2014, in response to the Golden Globes' decision the month prior to grant Allen its Lifetime Achievement Award. "There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child."

That Farrow's letter was so widely read indicates that women's voices and experiences matter. Case in point: Paris-based journalist Pamela Druckerman's popular column What You Learn in Your 40s rocketed to the Times' No. 6 spot, after a quiz about regional dialects, Philip Seymour Hoffman's obituary, and an international travel guide.

In a new year riddled with new Web traffic goals, The New York Times would be wise to listen to its online readers, who have voted with the power of their clicks: Hire more female writers, and publish more stories about women.