The Gender Inequality In News Reporting
As many flocked to beaches and warm getaways to soak up the last long weekend of summer, 15,000 reporters traveled home this Labor Day weekend after covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fl. Articles, photos, blog posts, social media blasts, newscasts and more poured from almost every news outlet Aug. 27-30, keeping the world informed of every campaign promise, faux pas, celebrity appearance and guest speaker the Republican Party presented to voters.
Though Nielson ratings show more Americans were watching “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” than RNC coverage, the November election will affect even the most disinterested U.S. citizens, with issues such as health care, immigration, gay marriage, U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more on the table.
Where the presidential candidates side on issues of women’s rights has also been in the media spotlight. 2012 marks the 92nd year women have had the right to vote, and according to 2010 census data, women are taking full advantage of the 19th Amendment. In the November 2008 presidential election, of the 225,499 thousand citizens age 18 and older that voted, 116,525 were women, more than 8,000 more votes then men cast.
Despite the prominence of women’s rights issues on the table this election cycle, a study released by the Women’s Media Center shows that during the general election period, or April 16- Aug. 25, 72 percent of election bylines were men’s names.
Not only are men writing these stories about issues such as birth control and abortion, they are quoting and using other men as sources for their articles. According to The 4th Estate, a project that measures women’s participation in media, The New York Times quoted men in 65 percent of 2012 election stories, but only quoted women in 15 percent. Organizations were quoted 20 percent. In fact, organizations were quoted more than women in general election stories by many major newspapers, including USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune.
At least Forbes and the Atlantic Wire had women write the stories on this shocking data. “Ultimately, women are less likely to be the news, craft the news or comment on the news,” Forbes staff writer Jenna Goudreau writes. “And when it comes to the most important decision our country will make, the presidential coverage skews even further male. Is it a war on women or their voices?”
What are female reporters writing about? What stories are quoting their opinions? Women’s bylines are topping what the 4th Estate calls “pink” topics, or social issues like education. Male reporters are tackling the economy, health care and military stories.
To recap: More women vote than men and more women’s rights issues than in recent history are being discussed by candidates, but men are writing and quoting other men in the news about the election.
Sen. Patty Murray called a February House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on contraceptive coverage rule “like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years.” Women may need to go back even further for the inspiration to take back the media.
In 1887, or 125 years ago, Elizabeth Cochrane convinced New York doctors that she was insane and was committed to Blackwell’s Island asylum for 10 days. From inside the institution, Cochran was able to report the terrible conditions patients were subjected to, which were printed in a series of articles in the New York World. The stories resulted in the New York government providing more money to take proper medical care of asylum patients. Journalism students recognize this as one of the first successful investigative reporting undertakings: the story of Nellie Bly.
While female journalists in 2012 may not need to go undercover in order to improve the balance of reporting on women’s rights, they would be crazy not to take a stand against journalism that is not inclusive of their opinions and reporting.
The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics commands that journalists seek the truth and report it. We know the truth. Women: report it.
Written by Lauren Slavin