Thanks to all of you for your great comments and suggestions on the last post. Here are some answers in a bit more depth:
My dad said: 'Why stop there, apart from small considerations like work? The same exercise applied to the The Times and Daily Telegraph, not to mention the Sun and The Sunday Post, would throw up grist to all sorts of mills.'
I have no doubt that it would - the only reason I chose the Guardian/Observer is that we get the paper every day and so it's no big hardship to do a bit of counting on the letters page. Plus, these are the papers where I would least expect to see a gender bias, but I'm pretty sure there is one, and that's what I'm aiming to find out. Heaven forbid that anyone should mistake this for a scientific survey, incidentally - as we established in the last thread, there are just too many unknowns for that to be possible. But if someone did a proper scientific study across all the papers, I'd be very interested to read it.
Dave said: 'Of course, now you've alerted them, they'll change their policy (or the genders of the names they chose to append to the letters [which as we all know, they make up for themselves anyway]). What you should do is go through last year's back copies'.
In my more megalomaniacal moments I do like to imagine that the entire editorial staff of all the quality national dailies read this blog, but in reality I think the chances of Nigel Willmott and his oppo on the Observer dropping by are fairly remote. And even if he/they did, they probably wouldn't take any notice, because I am a) a scummy blogger and b) a WOMAN hur hur hur oh get me and my biting invective, etc. I do agree re. the back copies, though, so this morning I rifled meticulously through the recycling bag and salvaged ten or so recent copies of the Guardian and the Observer...results coming soon (I can exclusively reveal that things are already looking significantly less dubious for the Observer than the Graun, though).
Semaphore, Tim Footman, OPC and James all said something about: 'But how do you know that equal numbers of men and women write the letters in the first place?'
For me this is the most important point - if 75% of letters to the Guardian are written by men, I shouldn't expect there to be a near-50:50 balance in the ones selected for publication. Tim suggests I send a polite email to N. Willmott to find out, which I intend to do very soon...stay tuned for updates. Having said that, it's already looking like the Observer has more of a balance than the Guardian, which might be significant.
Collected Voices said: 'If women's letters don't get published in newspapers (I've sent a few the Guardian's way with no success), then maybe the women stop bothering to try (I certainly have).'
And this is what I am hoping, eventually, to find out. Personally, I've had successes and failures in sending letters to editors, and it must be difficult to choose just 15 or so out of a daily mailbag of 300. I'm interested to know if women are being (thinkingly or unthinkingly) filtered out of that selection process - and if so, how the papers in question can still claim to be providing a service to their readership, which is fairly equally split in terms of gender (Guardian 57:43 male-to-female ratio, Observer 54:46).
And lastly, Boz provides some words of wisdom for all would-be letter-writers: 'Everyone is entitled to an opinion. If you are going to enforce that opinion on others please make it interesting'.
And to that point, thank you and hurrah to all of you lot, who all have interesting things to say, despite this being the uncontrolled no-mans-land of the blogosphere where only lunatics, obsessives and harrumphers are thought to roam.
Anyway, apparently I have to do some work now, in order to earn money and stuff, so I will leave you with today's tally: