Promulgating Polarization: Study Finds Media Coverage of Women, Minorities Tends to Be Oversimplistic, Which Exacerbates Social Strains

By Gersh, Debra | Editor & Publisher, October 10, 1992 | Go to article overview

Promulgating Polarization: Study Finds Media Coverage of Women, Minorities Tends to Be Oversimplistic, Which Exacerbates Social Strains


Gersh, Debra, Editor & Publisher


WHILE THE MEDIA act as a mirror, reflecting the society they cover, they also can influence that image for the better or the worse.

A new study has found that media coverage of women and people of color has not only reflected the polarization among these communities, but also may be helping to promulgate it.

"The 1992 presidential election campaign has exacerbated an unprecedented politics of polarization of the American people..." commented Betty Friedan, author and co-chair/co-founder of Women, Men and Media, a national research and outreach project that examines gender issues in the media.

"Have the media helped show the growing frustrations of men and women, young and old, over lack of job security, real problems, and the costs of health care, and plumbed to their root causes?" Friedan asked during a recent conference on the politics of polarization.

"Or have the media somehow exacerbated the resulting fear of crime, violence and other social strains into a polarizing search for scapegoats, intensifying Americans' fear and hatred of people of other races or other lifestyles?"

Friedan also noted the importance of asking "how the media are fulfilling their own role in conveying stereotypes, myths and deliberate propaganda, or penetrating to the true concerns that are crucial to the future of this democracy and the real interests of the American people."

The study, "The News As If All People Mattered," found that media "reductionism,'' trying to explain complex conflicts as simply one side versus another, "often results, advertently or inadvertently, in news coverage that polarizes.

"The media further stimulate polarization by such action as treating subgroups within communities of interest differently, repeating inflammatory comments without challenge or balancing statements, omission of relevant news, disregard for certain communities, quoting and referencing sources predominantly from one subgroup," the report noted.

Some 4,000 articles in 10 publications from July and August 1992 were examined to determine the extent to which their coverage of women and ethnic and racial groups led to or furthered existing polarization.

The publications examined were Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today and the Washington Post.

The study was conducted by M. Junior Bridge, president of Arlington, Va.-based Unabridged Communications. Women, Men and Media is funded primarily by the Freedom Forum, Arlington, Va.

Women

The first section of the report, which analyzed media coverage of women, found that the "white male, as reported by the media, is the subtle norm by which all else is gauged."

For example, when the subject is a white male, reference to his race and gender is rarely noted, whereas descriptive phrases, such as "black leader" or "female candidate," are often employed in addition to that person's name and title.

News articles about women also tend to describe them in ways that rarely are used when writing about men; hairstyles, clothing, marital and parental status, and similar remarks.

Further, articles about women candidates often focused on the competition between two women rather than on the issues or the historical implications.

The wives of the presidential and vice presidential candidates also garnered considerable coverage, particularly Hillary Clinton.

"There were almost twice as many articles on Hillary Clinton as on the major female candidates combined during the study period," according to the report. "There were about three times as many articles on the male presidential/vice presidential candidates' spouses as there were on the major female candidates combined."

Aside from numerous articles about Hillary Clinton's hairstyle and image, coverage focused on the issue of her career as a lawyer -- as opposed to Tipper Gore, Marilyn Quayle or Barbara Bush, who are portrayed as stay-at-home mothers, despite the fact that their activities leave them little time to bake cookies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Promulgating Polarization: Study Finds Media Coverage of Women, Minorities Tends to Be Oversimplistic, Which Exacerbates Social Strains
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.