Sunday, 21 October 2012

It’s a Men’s World - Men still dominate British newspapers

Plus ça change…

I was shocked by the recent research carried on by Women in Journalism, a networking and campaigning organization I am a member of, showing that men still dominate not only the stories on national newspaper’s front pages, but the bylines as well.  They studied all the major UK national daily newspaper's front pages from 16 April to 13 May this year.

When you look around newspaper offices and TV stations today, there seem to be as many women as men, but when it comes to writing the news or appearing in it, women still can't quite make it up to a third of all contributions.

What appears on front pages is important because, despite declining readership and revenues, they still help dictate the day's agenda for both online and broadcast news.

The study found that 78 per cent of all front page bylines were male, versus 22 per cent female, with wide variance between titles. The Daily Express was the title with the most female bylines with a 50/50 split. The Independent had the least – a pathetic 9 per cent!

The content of the lead stories was also dominated by men, according to the WIJ research.  Eighty-four per cent of those quoted or mentioned by name in front-page stories were men. However, 79 per cent of those who might qualify as "victims" in front-page stories were women.  I guess the same might be said about the coverage of Africa news. 

But that’s not all. Across newsrooms, three quarters of news journalists are men while women make up just a third of journalists covering business and politics, according the WIJ research.  When I started as a journalist more than 20 years ago, the figures were similar. It is so depressing to see that nothing at all has changed after all these years. And it is not just the coverage of politics, business and sports that men dominate, but they also make 70 per cent of arts reporters and up 49 per cent of lifestyle reporters.  

Women were also found to be less likely to be in senior newspaper positions, with eight out of the top ten newspapers having almost twice as many male editors as women editors.

Sue Matthias, who is a Women in Journalism's committee member and edits the Financial Times Weekend Magazine, said: "Women's rights in the workplace may have improved, but this research shows that there is still a long way to go in British newspapers.

"The gender imbalance we have uncovered is shocking and it seems old attitudes are still alive and well in many places."

What surprises me is that during the eight years I have been teaching journalism, the majority of my students have been women. Yet, the jobs still seem to go to men. Why is this so?

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