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Women’s Portrayal in News

Sunday morning public affairs talk shows: American University's Women and Politics Institute has released a study that confirms with percentages what most of us know in our guts: Newsmakers on Sunday morning are mostly of the testosterone variety. Only 13.5 percent of guests being chatted up by David Gregory, Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley and the like are members of what used to be called the fairer sex. (Politico, 2010)

Female-to-male guest ratios on prime-time cable news: Media Matters for America examined four programs on MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN, and recorded the gender and diversity of each guest who appeared during May 2008. White males continued to dominate – 67% of guests were male, 84% were white. While there may have been only small differences between networks, there were substantial differences between programs when it came to female guests. At one end of the scale, the highest number of male guests could be found on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (84%), Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume (80%), and CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight (75%). All but one program had proportions of male guests in the 60- or 70 percentiles. The lone exception was Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor, which actually hosted 70 female guests, and 69 men during the months studied. (Media Matters for America, 2008)

National Public Radio: NPR does well when it comes to female hosts—three of five of its major shows are hosted by women; NPR’s CEO and the head of the news department also are women. But its record with paid commentators who appear regularly is poor. There are 12 commentators who appeared at last 20 times in a 15-month period during 2009-2010d, and only one – Cokie Roberts – was female. Then-NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard and NPR Librarian Hannah Sommers also looked at the number of people from outside NPR who were interviewed by reporters or whose voices appeared in their stories, using a “constructed week” sampling technique from April 13, 2009 to Jan. 9, 2010. Just 26% were female. (NPR, 2010)

Worldwide sourcing: The fourth Global Media Monitoring Day occurred Nov. 9, 2009, in which observers in 130 countries monitored major media outlets. They found that 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news were female. This is a significant change from 1995, when only 17% of the people in the news were women. Near parity between women (47%) and men (53%) has been achieved in the category of people providing popular opinion. However, women are persistently underrepresented as experts and authorities: 81% of experts and 82% of spokespersons who appear in the news are male. Only 16% of all stories focus specifically on women. (Global Media Monitoring Project, 2010)

Women Pursuing Journalism Careers

Gender split in broadcast news reporting: Kathleen Ryan of Miami University of Ohio and Joy Chavez Mapaye of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, studied all news programming on ABC, CBS and NBC during one week in February 2007 and compared it to a similar survey done in 1987. They found that in 1987, men reported 73% of stories; in 2007, men reported 48% and women, 40% (the remaining 12% were team efforts featuring reporters of each gender). (Electronic News, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2010)

Women at newspapers: Women working full-time in daily newspapers total about 15,400 or 36.92 percent. Minority women accounted for 19.3 percent of female newsroom staffers. Since 2001, American newsrooms have lost more than 25 per cent of their full-time staffers bringing the total of full-time journalists working in daily newsrooms to 41,600, a level not seen since the mid-1970s.) (American Society of News Editors, 2011)

Women who cover sports: The second “Racial and Gender Report card of the Associated Press Sports Editors,” covering 378 AP newspapers, has given APSE newspapers and web sites a C for racial hiring practices and an F for gender hiring practices. Sports journalist jobs are overwhelmingly white and male. Women are just 6% of sports editors, 10% of assistant sports editors, 6% of columnists, 9% of reporters and 16% of copy editors/designers. (APSE, 2008)

Female TV news directors: 28.3 percent, down from 28.3 percent. (Radio Television Digital News Association, 2011)

Female radio news directors: The percentages for women in the radio news work force declined again, with news directors plummeting to just 10.7% from last year’s 20 percent, the lowest in the 17 years of RTNDA’s survey. (Radio Television Digital News Association, 2011)

Talk radio: Talkers Magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list of the top talk radio hosts includes 12 women with their own programs, plus three women who are co-hosts. (Talkers, 2011)

Prospects for graduates: The percentage of spring journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients who reported having at least one job offer when they completed their studies improved in 2011 compared to a year earlier: 49.8 percent of those pulled reporting having a fulltime job by Oct. 1, 2010. As in the past, female students had more success in the job market than male students. Women disproportionately specialize in advertising and public relations, which have higher levels of full-time employment for their graduates than do other parts of the field. (Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia)

Women Online

Who’s online: Females slightly outnumber males in 2010, 51.8% to 48.3%. Men visit more sites and stay longer than women do. (eMarketer, February 2009)

What are they doing: Men are more likely to use social networking for business while women use them to build personal relationships. Women prefer video streams of TV programs while men prefer user-generated content sites such as YouTube. (The Tech Desk, 2009)

Women in Entertainment Programming

Television: In the 2010-11 prime-time television season, women accounted for 25% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on situation comedies, dramas, and reality programs airing on the broadcast networks. By role, women comprised 18% of creators, 22% of executive producers, 37% of producers, 15% of writers, 11% of directors, 20% of editors, and 4% of directors of photography. (Martha Lauzen, Boxed In, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University)

Feature films: In 2010, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 1 percentage points from 1998 and is even with 2009 figures. By role, women accounted for 7% of directors, 10% of writers, 15% of executive producers, 24% of producers, 18% of editors, and 2% of cinematographers. (Martha Lauzen, Celluloid Ceiling, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University)


Girls, Sexuality and Media

Isn’t It Time Women Stood Up?

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Slim Hopes: Advertising and Obsession with Thinness

Compiled by Sheila Gibbons, Editor, Media Report To Women
Updated March 2012

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