Thursday, December 2, 2010
This One's For the Ladies: Gender Bias In the Media
The goal of journalism is to provide diverse and inclusive reporting. But analysts say modern media is failing to serve the majority of the human population: women. Women are underrepresented in many areas of the journalism profession, and women’s issues are often ignored or portrayed in problematic ways.
The 2010 Media Report to Women, compiled by Sheila Gibbons, lays out statistics showing that nearly across the board, women are underrepresented in journalism jobs. The problem is pervasive in traditional print media: About 36 percent of full-time daily newspaper staff are women. About 16 percent of those women are minorities.
Sports reporting maintains the most noticeable gender divide. The 2008 “Race and Gender Report Card of the Associated Press Sports Editors" found “sports journalist jobs are overwhelmingly white and male." Women are 9 percent of sports reporters and 6 percent of editors.
The divide is not so wide in television broadcast reporting. In “Beyond ‘Anchorman’,” two journalism students collected data on broadcast reporting from a sample week in 2007, then compared the results to a similar study from 1987. The study found that in 2007, men reported 48 percent of stories, women reported 40 percent, and the rest were team effort. This is a substantial improvement over 1987, when men reported 73 percent of stories. The study also found an increase in the number of women and minorities appearing in front of the camera.
Besides the apparent lack of women as newswriters, other case studies show how women’s voices are missing on the news itself nearly worldwide. Nov. 9, 2009 was Global Media Monitoring Day. Only 16 percent of stories broadcast or printed that day focused on women’s issues. The project found near equality in the quoting of popular opinion, but when expert opinions are used, 80 percent are men.
Some journalists have addressed the portrayal of women’s issues in mainstream media by simply exiting the mainstream media. Women’s eNews was founded in 2000 by Rita Henley Jensen to report on issues not being covered elsewhere.
Jensen wrote about the lack of women’s voices in the news for a 2005 commentary for Romanesko:
“Newsworthy should be as gender-neutral a term as the word reporter. Sadly, although women have flooded the field of journalism, the folks who decide who and what should be covered are still working out of a testosterone-soaked playbook."