News, Gender, and Power

News, Gender, and Power

News, Gender, and Power

News, Gender, and Power


How do gender relations affect the practice of journalism? Despite the star status accorded to some women reporters, and the dramatic increase in the number of women working in journalism, why do men continue to occupy most senior management positions? And why do female readers, viewers and listeners remain as elusive as ever? News, Gender and Power addresses the pressing questions of how gender shapes the forms, practice, institutions and audiences of journalism. The contributors, who include John Hartley, Pat Holland, Jenny Kitzinger and Myra Macdonald, draw on feminist theory and gender-sensitive critiques to explore media issues such as:* ownership and control* employment and occupation status* the representation of women in the media* the sexualization of news and audience research.Within this framework the contributors explore media coverage of:* the trial of O. J. Simpson* British beef and the BSE scandal* the horrific crimes of Fred and Rosemary West* child sexual abuse and false memory syndrome* the portrayal of women in TV documentaries such as Modern Times and Cutting Edge .


‘Soft news’ and the sexualisation of the popular press

Patricia Holland

‘What makes a woman smile?’

The Sun newspaper aims to make women smile. Where it has total control, in the photographs which give its pages such graphic impact, its success is, literally, spectacular. Smiling women appear on the news pages and the celebrity pages. They appear in the glamour pictures; the pictures of royalty and of television personalities; in the pictures of ordinary people whose everyday lives have brought them good fortune, and, above all, they appear on Page Three. The woman who proudly displays her breasts is almost always smiling.

The Sun gave a decisive twist to the very meaning of a popular paper when, following its purchase and re-launch by Rupert Murdoch in 1969, editor Larry Lamb set about exploiting entertainment values with unprecedented panache. He based the paper’s appeal on irreverence, scandal, ‘saucy’ humour and sex. Above all he introduced the daily image of a half clad woman. The Page Three ‘girls’, ‘those luscious lovelies you drool over at breakfast time’ (Sun 20 September 1982) became a shorthand reference for all the paper stood for.

Popular newspapers seek to amuse as much as to inform, to appeal to the emotion as much as to the intellect. The smile has been established as part of a package which continues to reach out to real women and men in an invitation to buy the paper and engage with its informal address. Increasingly over the twentieth century the aim of the popular press has been to ‘tickle the public’ with entertainment values. Matthew Engel took the title of his book on the history of the British popular press from an anonymous verse that went round Fleet Street in the nineteenth century:

Tickle the public, make ’em grin,

The more you tickle the more you’ll win.

Teach the public, you’ll never get rich,

You’ll live like a beggar and die in a ditch.

(Engel 1996: 17)

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