Women still under-represented in media coverage

Dr Catherine Strong from Massey University's School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing

Women’s presence in the New Zealand media is “regressing” a global report that monitors the number of women reporting and being the subject of news stories has found.

The Global Media Monitoring Project is a five-yearly research report on gender in the news media. Its just-published 2015 report shows that across the traditional platforms of newspaper, television and radio, women represented just 18 per cent of news subjects in the New Zealand media in 2015- down from 23 per cent in 2010 and 26 per cent in 2005.

One of the New Zealand authors, Dr Catherine Strong from Massey University’s School of Journalism says the report’s publication ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), is a reminder that women’s voices in the media still need to be more loudly heard.

A total of 47 per cent of New Zealand reporters were women although they were less likely than their global counterparts to write stories with women as a central focus or use female sources.

Only seven per cent of New Zealand news stories had women as a central focus of a story, compared to 10 per cent globally.

“The problem is we are going backwards slightly while the rest of the world is improving,” Dr Strong says.

“We are treading water, which isn’t good enough.”

The global study selected one day in March last year to involve volunteers in more than 100 countries to monitor their news media.

It coincided with the Cricket World Cup semi-final in Auckland when New Zealand beat South Africa, contributing to a massive 35 per cent of general news stories that day being about sports, arts and celebrities.

The report conceded that the media’s focus on cricket was “atypical” in many respects though added, “it is also not unusual for sports stories to dominate the news agenda in New Zealand, particularly when national cricket and rugby teams are doing well on the international stage.”

Women’s presence online (internet news and Twitter combined) was slightly higher than in traditional media with 23 per cent coverage – but still a percentage point less than the global average.

“Twenty years since the first GMMP the challenges of news media sexism, gender stereotyping and gender bias are proving to be intractable across time, space and content delivery platforms,” the report concluded.

Dr Strong says on the 40th anniversary of an International Year of Women conference in Christchurch, where in 1976 a group of women journalists spoke out about the lack of their number in senior journalism roles, it was essential that the wider issue of female representation in the news continued to be addressed.

Gender analysis would continue to be assessed as part of the study of news media processes at Massey University she says, while the New Zealand results of the latest global monitoring report would be shared with the National Council of Women, which has previously expressed an interest in undertaking research work around gender and media.



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