`Who Makes the News?' the Global Media Monitoring Project 2000 Finds Great Disparities in News Coverage of Men and Women. (Women: International)

Article excerpt

When we look at news coverage through the prism of gender, what we discover ought to startle those who think women's perspectives and issues are being well represented. Even though the number of women journalists is increasing, when it comes to coverage by news organizations women's visibility is much more limited.

In two separate investigations--separated by five years--the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) provided just this kind of information. "Women's Participation in the News," an examination of the day's news on January 18, 1995 in 71 countries, revealed that women were the subject of news reports on radio, television and newspapers just 17 percent of the time. [That left men's visibility at 83 percent.] Five years later, after a period spanning a myriad of women's campaigns, including the massive World Conference on Women in Beijing and the post-Beijing activities, a more in-depth Global Media Monitoring Project took place on February 1, 2000 in 70 countries. The main findings, published in "Who Makes the News?" had hardly changed. Women in the world's media that day were found to be just 18 percent of the news subjects. These findings emerged at a time when women made up 41 percent of announcers and reporters of the news.

GMMP 2000 was the work of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) Women and Media Programme. For more than a decade, the WACC Women's Programme has been organizing and supporting workshops and conferences, including the international conference on "Women Empowering Communication," held in Bangkok and attended by 430 media and gender activists in 1994. One of the main recommendations of the Bangkok Declaration was the undertaking of a global media monitoring study. The 1995 effort, coordinated by MediaWatch Canada, and the 2000 effort, organized by WACC, are considered the most extensive analysis of women's presence and participation in the world's media.

WACC was determined that the broad aims of the GMMP 2000 would be to strengthen solidarity among women in the media, media literacy, and advocacy on media and gender issues. The work in 1995 had already helped to demystify this kind of research by providing a worldwide network of monitors with the opportunity and tools to assess gender representation in the media. By 2000, we were able to see not only what changes had taken place after five years and research new questions but to extend the use of our findings. We could offer various monitoring groups contextual analysis, including results from their own country and region, which they could use in their education and advocacy work.

Employment Practices and the Presence of Women Journalists in the News Media

During the last 40 years there have been immense changes in women's participation in the news media. In the 1960's and 1970's, it was a rare event to see women anchoring television newscasts, yet today women make up a slight majority of television news announcers (56 percent), according to data from GMMP 2000. There have been less dramatic increases in women's participation as reporters--a large majority (69 percent) of reporters are still male.

The increasing presence of women in television news media is undoubtedly an important advance, yet even a cursory look at employment practices in the news media reveals a less rosy picture. At WACC's regional conferences on Gender and Communication Policy--held in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific between 1997-2000, many women journalists revealed that their appearance rather than their intellectual abilities or experience is frequently used as part of the criteria for their selection. This evidence is supported by GMMP 2000, which showed that although there are more women news presenters on television, they tend to disappear from the screen at an earlier age than their male colleagues do. From Asia to Africa and the Middle East, participants at the WACC conferences also confirmed that while women are more present in the newsroom, they continue to be victims of harassment and discrimination. …