More of the Same Old Story? Women, War, and News in Time Magazine

By Harp, Dustin; Loke, Jaime et al. | Women's Studies in Communication, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
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More of the Same Old Story? Women, War, and News in Time Magazine


Harp, Dustin, Loke, Jaime, Bachmann, Ingrid, Women's Studies in Communication


From a feminist standpoint, this study provides an updated analysis to the age-old subject of women and war reporting. A content analysis of 406 stories from Time magazine explores the intersection of U.S. war reporting and gender in the coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq. Relying on feminist theories, this research dissected the normative method of war coverage to emphasize the reality of women's silence. The results demonstrated that women's perspectives--from official sources to private civilians' voices--are still scarce in war reporting. Women also accounted for only a fifth q[ the bylines and were mostly quoted as private individuals--representing less than a tenth of the subjects cited. The data showed that women, when it comes to war, are still symbolically annihilated through omission. Feminist ethics must be integrated into journalists' work to rectify the masculine perspectives and viewpoints found in war coverage.

Keywords feminist theory, gender, Iraq war, news, news routines, war coverage

Men's perspectives have long dominated war coverage, which has perpetuated and sanctioned war violence and injustice (Ferris, 2004). This silencing of women's perceptions of war has serious consequences. One of the most detrimental outcomes of women's invisibility in war is that females are left out of international aid provided for rebuilding post-war livelihoods (Ferris, 2004). Without the aid usually guaranteed to men, more women are pushed into situations of further oppression resulting in an escalated number of female fatalities (Ferris, 2004). Another consequence of this silencing is the reinforcement of women as less than equal to men in public affairs. Currently one out of every seven U.S. soldiers in Iraq is female (Wertheimer, 2005), marking this as the highest number of females in the U.S. military during any war. Similarly, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of female war correspondents in recent years (Tumber & Webster, 2006). Our research questions whether the increase of women participating in and covering war is altering the dominant masculine perspective of war coverage.

Drawing from previous research on women, journalism, and war coverage, this research investigates the convergence of women and war in one of the most widely read news magazines in the United States during one of the most recent U.S. wars--Operation Iraqi Freedom. News media have historically discussed and framed war as male territory (Barker-Plummet & Boaz, 2005; Del Zotto, 2002; Lahav, 2010; "Women and War Reporting," n.d.), and U.S. journalists' reliance on official sources feeds this framing, typically offering news from a White and male perspective (Ross, 2007). In 2002, media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) conducted a study of the three major network news organizations and found that "92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed were white and 85 percent were male" (Howard, 2002). Newsroom values, including definitions of news, and norms, like the fact that men are more likely to cover hard news, contribute to this viewpoint (Lehman-Wilzig & Seletzky, 2010). Further, women are most likely to be seen in news as private individuals, as supportive wives and mothers, or as victims--or not seen at all (Byerly & Ross, 2006; Carter, Branston, & Allan, 1998; Meyers, 1999; World Association for Christian Communication [WACC], 2000).

Through a quantitative examination, this study examines gender in terms of the production and reporting of news. By applying a quantitative analysis our research provides a picture of the current landscape of women in a stereotypically male arena. Indeed, a string of feminist scholars have relied on quantitative approaches to gain a deeper understanding of feminist concerns. Examples of such research, providing a valuable and clear snapshot of important topics, are Scott's (2010) research on gendered resource allocation in productive and reproductive activities; Hester and colleagues' (2010) data on domestic violence in same sex relationships; Crocker's (2010) research on women abuse, and Williams's (2010) analysis that examined the lack of engagement with feminist theory and demographic research.

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More of the Same Old Story? Women, War, and News in Time Magazine
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