Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Female News Professionals in Local and National Broadcast News during the Buildup to the Iraq War

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Female News Professionals in Local and National Broadcast News during the Buildup to the Iraq War

Article excerpt

The years of 2004 and 2005 brought major changes to the network television news landscape. Longtime NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw gave way to Brian Williams, ABC's Peter Jennings succumbed to lung cancer, and CBS newsman Dan Rather resigned amid controversy. Although the presence of women is increasing, it still has not ascended into the national anchor's chair (Gibbons, 2002; Sanders, 1992), although Katie Couric is expected to assume CBS's anchor post this fall. She would be the first-ever solo female anchor on network news.

Despite the fact that roughly 65% of bachelor's degrees conferred in journalism were awarded to women in 2003, which has more than doubled from the 30% awarded in 1970 (Becker, Vlad, Huh, & Mace, 2003), little progress has been made in the newsroom. For example, in the early 1990s, only 33% of the journalism workforce was made up of women, and upper management of corporate media was predominantly male (Duckforth, Lodder, Moore, Overton, & Rubin, 1990). In 2003, only 26.5% of local news stations employed a female news director, and women accounted for just 12.5% of television newsroom staff (Papper, 2003). In 2002, 60% of assignment editors and 70% of managing editors in broadcast news were male (Papper, 2002).

Numerous studies have found that diversity has not been reflected in who is producing and reporting news content (see Liebler & Smith, 1997; Rodgers & Thorson, 2003; Zoch & VanSlyke Turk, 1998). It remains a male-dominated newsroom. In a culture in which source sound bites are decreasing and television news reporters are taking up more airtime per story (Grabe, Zhou, & Barnett, 1999), limiting the types of coverage for male and female news professionals (i.e., sports for men, education for women) may impede progress of women in the broadcasting world. Such organizational issues may also influence how male and female news professionals perform their job duties, as suggested in recent work (e.g., Armstrong, 2004; Rodgers & Thorson, 2003).

In studying newspaper production, Armstrong (2004) found a large intraorganizational influence on gender representations within news stories. Specifically, representations of women were found to be dependent on the section in which the story appeared (most often in lifestyle sections) and the placement on the page (women were more often mentioned below the fold). S. Craft and Wanta (2004) found that newspapers with male editors often had more negative content than those with female editors. Similarly, Rodgers and Thorson (2003) found that, although men and women often carry out reporting tasks differently, organizational factors, including the circulation size and the ratio of male-to-female editors, mediated those differences. Given these findings in the print medium, it seems likely that organizational differences may also play a role in gender representations of news professionals in broadcast news. Further, given the mediation role that organizational factors seem to play for newspapers, it seems likely that similar situations may exist in broadcast news. For example, national news audiences are broader demographically than most local news audiences, so the types of stories and news professionals needed to attract those audiences may be different.

In an attempt to extend current research on the role of organizational factors in news production, this study uses the gender model put forth by Rodgers and Thorson (2003) to examine the influence that different types of stories and newscasts have on male and female news professionals' representations. Briefly, the gender model suggests that men and women have different workplace roles and behaviors because they are socialized differently. This work examines how often-suggested factors, like age and type of program, may mediate these gender effects.

Because of the dominance of Iraq in news coverage during 2002 to 2005, the buildup to the war serves as a strong vehicle in which to examine the progress of women in television journalism. …

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