Alas, friends – a study published today by the Women's Media Center confirms an upsetting (if not so surprising) truth: male journalists and news anchors still make up a hefty majority the big old American media engine. According to the report, “at ten of the nation's most widely circulated newspapers, men garnered 63 percent of bylines, compared to 37 percent for women.” Ouch.
The study did take note of a few exceptions to the testoste-curve: PBS' “NewsHour” and ABC's “World News” have enlisted women as primary anchors. Over all, female anchors report 93 percent of news stories at PBS and 58 percent of news stories at ABC. The Huffington Post also demonstrated a satisfying balance; some 48 percent of their staffers are women. And of course (while we were neglected from the report...) wonderful publications like our own BUST Magazine are lady fiestas.
However – CNN, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, Fox News (well...), and The Associated Press are each guilty of an alarming gender disparity. For most of the above publications, female bylines and anchors constitute less than 40% of all news coverage.
The study also took note of story categories; apparently, “female journalists were more likely to report on lifestyle, culture and health while men were more likely to cover politics, criminal justice, or technology.” On this point, the research also determined that female anchors report a mere 7 percent of news stories at NBC, and a mere 5 percent of news stories at CBS. Guess all the female news reporters at the big honchos are desperately needed for, what? Travel tips? Fashion trends?
Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center made an astute summary of the study's findings:
“There are, most certainly, a handful of notable exceptions to the trend of men dominating media and it is important to note that a woman in the anchor seat is more than a symbol; she sends a message to viewers that women can lead a network broadcast — and that matters. Overall, this research is about much more than just one woman in an anchor seat, it is about making sure that who defines the story, who tells the story, and what the story is about, represents women and men equally. Women are more than half of the population, but we don’t see or hear them in equal numbers to men. It is our hope – and our work – to see those numbers reach parity.”
Well said, Ms. Burton. And ladies! Let's think about all the opinions influencing an internet-gunned 24-hour-news cycle! A subtle and super-powerful bias exists when a small swathe of the population attempts to comment on THE WHOLE POPULATION. And there are still so many factors that can hinder a woman's progression in a field so demanding as journalism. Three years ago, I attended a talk led by a female war correspondent – a woman who reported primarily from war-torn areas (think Rwanda and Sarajevo in the mid-nineties). She spoke for an hour about her incredibly important work and the high emotional toll it took on her – and during the Q&A, the entire conversation became about whether or not this woman felt guilty having a son, as she was away so often and in frequent danger. I have no statistics handy, but I'd bet my internet that male journalists don't typically get asked this question. Or grilled about their life choices, for that matter. Just something to think about.
So let's take this moment to applaud all the fantastic, glass-ceiling-crushing lady anchors and reporters out there, while we keep an eye on making change. Mic drop.
Image courtesy of USAToday.