Exposed: Outrageous Gender Bias Rife in News Industry

According to the Women’s Media Centre (WMC), male journalists dominate the U.S. news industry, receiving 63 percent of byline credits across almost all media sectors compared to just 37 percent for women.

In conducting the research, the WMC examined 20 of the most widely circulated U.S. based media networks analyzing some 27,000 pieces of content including TV, newspapers, wires and online news on full time staffers as well as freelancers and non-paid content only to find that gender inequality exists across every platform in the news

The key findings of the study include:

  • Among the top 10 most widely circulated newspapers in the United States, men acquired 63 percent of bylines, compared to 37 percent for women.
  • Male journalists at ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided 66 percent of news reports from the field.

  • The New York Times had the widest gender gap in male-female bylines, while the Chicago Sun-Times came closest to gender parity with 46 percent female bylines.
  • More women had bylines at Reuters than at The Associated Press, but at both news wires, male bylines still outnumbered female bylines with women representing 43 percent of the bylines at Reuters and 32 percent at AP.
  • Huffington Post had more women contributors (48 percent) than the three other large online news sites: CNN (41 percent) The Daily Beat (30 percent) and Fox News (38 percent.)
  • Female journalists were more likely to report on lifestyle, culture and health while men were assigned to cover politics, criminal justice or technology.
  • NBC “Nightly News” and CBS “Evening News” feature men as primary anchors with female anchors comprising of 7 percent of news stories at NBC and 5 percent of news stories at CBS.

Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Centre explained to AlterNet why there is such pervasive gender bias in the media, and how it is vital to address it. “The numbers are stark: men dominate the industry in every sector in the 24/7news cycle," she said. "However, we can change that and create a better, more fair and interesting 24/7 cycle.  This fight is ultimately about power.  The media is the most powerful force in our society and culture and defines who we are.  In statistics we see white men, coming out on top.  It is very easy for all people, regardless of their gender, to hire people like them.  When we only have the stories coming from one group of people, it doesn’t reflect the whole.  So this is a wake up call to men and women in the news industry to give consumers stories in which they see themselves.  It comes down to hiring with intent."

Geneva Overholser, Women’s Media Center board member and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor agreed. “These findings confirm an ongoing truth that is not just disappointing, but unfortunate for all of us in so many ways,” she said in a press release. “News media are at their best when they call upon the wisdom of all the people whom they serve, when they reflect everyone’s experience and bring in the hopes and dreams and fears of every sort of person. When media are overwhelmingly male (and still, alas, overwhelmingly white), they just aren't anywhere near as good as they could be.”

Fortunately, not all the findings are doom and gloom, particularly the stats on anchors of broadcast news. On a positive note, the research shows that PBS  “NewsHour” and ABC “World News” have women as primary anchors with female anchors reporting 93 percent and 58 percent respectively.  WMC says such statistics show that a woman in an anchor seat is more than a symbol, sending a message that women can lead major news networks successfully.

In this regard, Burton says shining a light on such statistics is an important, positive tool to work toward change. 

“Decision makers of news content should take this opportunity to look closer at what they are doing in terms of hiring, assigning and editing stories, who gets to talk, who gets to tell the story.  For ourselves as consumers, we should pay attention to what stories are about to ensure they represent woman and men equally.  It is on us to let those media companies know that we prefer equality, justice and fuller, richer stories with female input.  I do believe that men and women in the media industry care about equality and fairness. I’m not sure they have paid attention in their own industry, which is why we will continue to push this dialogue to work toward change," she said.

Check out the gender disparity yourself in WMC’s Divided Media Gender Gap Infograph which captures the full story. 

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