Gender in Sports Coverage of American and Spanish Online Newspapers

By J. E., Frideres; J. M., Palao et al. | Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Gender in Sports Coverage of American and Spanish Online Newspapers


J. E., Frideres, J. M., Palao, S. G., Mottinger, Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal


Abstract

The differences in how the media treat information about women and men provoke a deficit in the information that girls and female adolescents receive about sports. The purpose of this study was to determine the difference in sports coverage in relation to gender in online newspapers in two western countries, Spain and the United States. All articles (N = 1,977) with athletic content from the online newspapers usatoday.com and elmundo.es were analyzed during 2-week spans in October 2003 and February 2004. The variables registered were gender, placement of article in the newspaper, number of words per article, and photographs. Results show that women's sport received less coverage than men's sport in total number of articles as well as in front-page stories, article length, and number of photographs. Additionally, there were 15 articles about men only for every 1 article about women only in the two newspapers.

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Even in the 21st century, there are still differences in the treatment of men and women in society. These differences are in the jobs they each holds, the tasks they are given, the money they earn, and so forth. Women in sport are not immune to this. There are differences m opportunities available to them, in the seriousness given to their sports, and the treatment they receive. Even the Olympics, the most famous athletic competition, have traditionally treated men and women differently. In the Paris Olympics of 1900, there were 86 total events, but just 3 were for women. In Sydney 100 years later, there were 300 total events, and 132 were for women (International Olympic Committee [IOC], 2001). Further, just 10 of the 125 current IOC members, or decision makers, are women (IOC, 2003).

Likewise, there are differences in how the media treat and portray women and men (Hardin, Lynn, Walsdorf, & Hardin, 2002). Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 has helped greatly increase the number of female athletes inthe United States, as it gender discrimination in school academics and athletics. For instance, before Title IX, there were 300,000 female high school athletes, while there are now about 2.4 million (Fink, 1998). However, media attention has not reflected these improvements. When women's athletics are not represented in the media, the message conveyed is that they do not exist or they are not important enough to be newsworthy (Kinnick, 1998).

These differences in media attention provoke an imbalance in the athletic information and images available. Children are just as susceptible to this problem, as almost 9 out of 10 watch sports on television, and 45% check out sports online (Amateur Athletic Foundation, 2001). This means that boys can receive a lot of information about the sports that interest them, while girls have less opportunity to receive such information.

This imbalance creates a closed circle from which it is hard to escape. If there is less information available and less female sports promotion, it may be harder to catch the interest of new young athletes; therefore, there may be no increase in participation. However, if there is no increase in participation, information and promotion may not improve unless the current system of news reporting changes.

As seen in Table 1, women receive between 3.5% and 11.7% of sports news coverage, while men receive between 81.5% and 96%. Looking specifically at print media, one study about women's sport coverage in four daily newspapers found there were 23 times more men's stories than women's (Duncan, Messner, & Williams, 1991). This imbalance also filters down to specific sports media for children.

Table 1
Percentage of sports news/articles to gender in bibliography

Author          Counter  Medium     Women  Men    Both   Neutral

Duncan          USA      TV         5.0%   92.0%  -      3.0%
et.al.(1989)

Duncan          USA      Newspaper  3.5%   81. … 

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