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Report Is In On Women In the Media

By Glory E. Dharmaraj

United Methodist Women members participated in a day of monitoring messages of women in the media. Those results are now available through the Global Media Monitoring Project’s report, “Who Makes the News?”

On November 10, 2009, groups in over 100 countries gathered to monitor their news media. United Methodist Women members and communication and culture students from Augusta State University in Augusta, Ga., took part in the monitoring. After months of planning, preparation and training they brought the Fourth Global Media Monitoring Project to life. Since media plays a vital role in shaping thoughts and narratives, media entails both a privilege and responsibility. Therefore it is important for the receivers of media messages and stories to monitor them in order to ensure that the stories represent multiple perspectives. This report focuses on the part that gender plays in media.

Global Context

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) is the world’s longest running and most extensive research on gender in the news media. It began in 1995 when volunteers in 71 countries around the world monitored women’s presence in their national radio, television and print news. The research revealed that only 17 percent of news subjects—the people who are interviewed or whom the news is about—were women. It found that gender parity was “a distant prospect in any region of the world. News [was] more often being presented by women but it [was] still rarely about women.”

National Context

In the 173 news stories monitored in the United States, females comprised 27 percent of the news subjects, in contrast to 73 percent male news subjects. The findings show that women news subjects were present less than half as much as their male counterparts.

Women as Subject of News

  • The overall presence of women as subjects in the news was 27 percent and men 73 percent.
  • In news stories on politics and government, female subjects comprised 34 percent and men 66 percent.
  • In social and legal news stories, women as subjects comprised 37 percent and men 63 percent.
  • In economy, female subjects comprised 36 percent and men 64 percent.
  • In news on celebrity, arts, media and sports, women subjects comprised 42 percent and men 58 percent.
  • Women as sources of information about news or about news subjects constituted 29 percent and men 71 percent at the local news level.
  • Women were poorly represented as lawyers, judges, magistrates, legal advocates and experts (7 percent) compared to men who made news as legal experts (93 percent).
  • As businesspersons, executive managers and entrepreneurs, women made news far less (27 percent) than men (73 percent).
  • As government officials, politicians, government authorities, political leaders and political party staff, women made news disproportionably (25 percent) less than men (75 percent).
  • Women contributed to news as homemakers and parents far more often (81 percent) than men (19 percent).

Sex of Reporters of stories with Women as Central Focus

  • Very few stories had women as the central focus. Three stories that had women as a central focus on the day of monitoring were celebrity news, births and marriages, which amounted to 43 percent of the stories on the topic.
  • Two stories with women as the central focus were news coverage of beauty contests, models, fashion, beauty aids and cosmetic surgery (100 percent).
  • News stories with women as a central focus were 20 percent of stories on arts, entertainment, leisure, cinema, theater, books and dance.

News Subjects

In the GMMP 2005 findings, the presence of women as subjects in the news was 27 percent. In GMMP 2010, among the 384 stories, 27 percent of news subjects were female. The findings of 2010 show that the ratio remains exactly the same as five years ago. Gender inequality in the news continues to persist.

Dr. Gaye Ortiz directed the monitoring in her Communication and Culture class at Augusta State University. Ms. Ortiz sums up the need for intentional efforts to address imbalanced reporting before the next GMMP when she says, “Continued education … about gender bias and agenda-setting as well as about consumers holding media organizations responsible for unfair and inaccurate reporting of gender issues and stereotyping of gender roles [is necessary].”

Media advocacy is a key educational method to raise awareness and create a just society. To hold media accountable for gender balance in news coverage and delivery is a responsibility of all citizens. Making informed opinions about policies relating to communication, rules governing ownership, mergers and consolidation that impact the news should be an ongoing activity.

Ongoing vigilance in monitoring media and raising awareness in formal and informal learning settings are a key media literacy effort. Furthermore, these educational efforts need to accompany such action plans as holding media accountable for fair and accurate portrayal of women, assuring gender parity in the incorporation of women’s perspectives and addressing public policies governing media ownership.

Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D. is the coordinator for U.S. media monitoring and director of spiritual growth for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. 

Last Updated: 09/30/2010

© 2014 United Methodist Women