Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Meet the Press or Meet the Men? Examining Women's Presence in American News Media

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Meet the Press or Meet the Men? Examining Women's Presence in American News Media

Article excerpt

A 2014 report by the Women's Media Center confirmed, once again, what journalists and women's organizations have documented for years: women are less likely than men to appear in the news media (Gray 2014). The study found that women comprised only 35 percent of the reporters and correspondents on the network evening news. Moreover, just 37 percent of the bylines at the nation's ten most widely circulated newspapers were women. Men were also quoted as sources three times more often than women were on the front page of the New York Times.

The Women's Media Center is not alone in recognizing women's relative absence in the news. A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found, for example, that men are quoted as sources in the news more than twice as often as women, and that only a third of news stories contain even a single female source (Pew Research Center 2005). Reporters at Newsweek- prompted by increased attention to the dearth of women in the media-conducted a broad investigation into women's presence in their own publication (Bennett and Ellison 2010). They found that women comprised a small minority of individuals on the news magazine's editorial staff and that female journalists wrote merely six of the forty-nine cover stories published in 2009. And in January 2014, twenty-four women's organizations- including the Institute for Women's Policy Research, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Republicans for Choice-wrote a letter to cable and network news presidents expressing their concern about men's dominance on the Sunday morning talk shows. The letter states, "With male guests vastly outnumbering female guests on Sunday morning broadcasts, women lose out in shaping the national discourse, and your viewers miss important points of view" (Groch-Begley 2014).

Academic research confirms the findings of media organizations and women's groups. Far fewer women than men serve as reporters and correspondents in the news media (Armstrong and Gao 2011; Chambers, Steiner, and Fleming 2004). Women are less likely than men to appear as sources in the news (Armstrong 2004; Freedman, Fico, and Love 2007; Grabe, Zhou, and Barnett 1999; Liebler and Smith 1997; Zoch and VanSlyke Turk 1998). Women comprise a minority of newsroom editors and producers (Craft and Wanta 2004; Thiel-Stern 2006). And female candidates for office tend to receive less media coverage than male candidates do (Heldman, Carroll, and Olson 2005; Kahn 1992, 1994; Kahn and Goldenberg 1991; Smith 1997; but see Hayes 2011; Hayes and Lawless 2015).1

Women's minority presence in the news is widely established, but its roots are not yet known. On one hand, because women have traditionally been political outsiders, it may be the case that bias against women leads media professionals-the majority of whom are male- to prefer male sources and reporters to female ones (e.g., Carlin and Winfrey 2009; Falk 2010; Heldman, Carroll, and Olson 2005).2 On the other hand, if journalistic norms-such as the desire to create balance and conflict in a story, or rely on the most credible and knowledgeable sources (e.g., Bennett 2011; Cook 2005; Graber 2009)-influence the selection of sources and reporters, then sex should not be relevant. To date, scholars have not engaged in the systematic analyses required to determine whether sexism, journalistic norms, or a combination of the two contribute to women's absence from political media.

This paper does just that. I rely on an original data set of approximately 4,200 Sunday morning show appearances of more than 1,000 individual guests as a vehicle by which to assess the roots of women's minority presence in the media. Despite an audience that consists largely of Washington elites, the discussions on ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, NBC's Meet the Press, and CNN's State of the Union permeate news coverage in other media outlets, so the influence of their content is widespread in politics (Groeling and Baum 2009; Jamieson and Waldman 2002). …

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