Power Structure of the News World

In all forms of media, from news to advertising to entertainment, gender has played a key role in the way that media is presented. In adverting, movies, and television, there is always a target audience, and this has a major effect on the way gender is used in these forms of media. Even though news is supposed to be an unbiased, factual presentation of current affairs, it is interesting to see that gender plays a major role in what news is reported and how the news is presented. Forty years ago there was almost no gender diversity in the news world; men dominated the news-world from top to bottom. Today, there appears to be much more gender equality in the news, as there is a healthy mix of male and female writers, reporters, and anchors. However, appearances can be deceiving, and this case is no different. It is important to point out that while writers, reporters, and anchors present the news, it is the editors and producers who ultimately decide what news is being presented. Gender inequality still exists in these positions of power, and it is more than enough to affect the way we are given the news. Gender affects the way news is given too us and it can also influence people to look at gender in a certain way. Although it appears that progress has been made towards gender equality in the news, the power structure of the news world creates an illusion of equality and gender still affects the way news is reported to and received by the general public.

This relationship between gender and the way news stories are presented was explored in an article titled, “Women are on, but not in, the news: Gender roles in local television news.” This study attempted to examine how gender could possibly affect what types of news stories are given to reporters and anchors. The study revealed that female reporters were often assigned “softer” stories, such as human interest and health-related stories. Male reporters were more often assigned political stories and stories that dealt with more serious issues. It was also discovered that whenever experts were brought in for in-depth analysis, female experts were used far less than male experts. For news anchors however, no pattern was found that associated gender and the stories that they are assigned. Either there truly were not any patterns or the study did not explore the issue enough.

This study was conducted over a two-week period and examined around 580 news stories from three of the highest rated local news stations. This study would have been able to make more concrete conclusions if it examined more stories over a longer period of time. It also would have been more effective had it examined a more diverse collection of news stations: local, national, and from different regions of the country. Although the study could have used a broader range of information, it was able to conclude that there still is a gender imbalance in the news world. Women are certainly present in the news world but have little influence to show for it. The article says one reason this could be the case is that, “Typically, stories are assigned by news editors, and in this market, all three were male” (Danilewicz and Desmond 9). Had there been female editors, different choices may have been made, but this study was only able to make speculations about this. While this study was for only a small number of news stations, the trend of male dominance is evident throughout the news industry.

Further investigation on this issue was done in an article titled “‘A Slightly New Shade of Lipstick’: Gendered Meditation in Internet News Stories”. This study examined how Internet news stories from CNN.com, FoxNews.com, and NYT.com used gendered language and other stereotypes and how it relates to the power structure of these stations. The study points out that 24% of people use the Internet as their primary source of news which is an 8% increase from 2000, and that the Internet should give the opportunity to “publish more diverse content with equal coverage” (Burke and Mazzarella 396). However, the study goes on to show that this diversity of coverage is non-existent and language is mediated based on gender. Furthermore, it points out that the reason for this is “the fact that news media are fields that are dominated by males in positions of power”(Burke and Mazzarella 398). So far both studies have concluded that gender effects the way stories are written and presented, and this is attributed to the male dominance of news production. However for a more concrete conclusion, the evidence of statistics can show how much gender diversity really does exist in the news world.

Statistics from 2005 show that women are underrepresented in almost every job position in the news. Even though the majority of college Journalism majors are women, this does not translate into the real world, “women make up the journalism workforce as follows: they represent 43.5% at newsmagazines; 37.4% in television; 36.9% in weekly newspapers; 33% at daily newspapers; 21.8% in radio; and 20.3% at major wire service” (Statistics on Women 2). Women are a minority in the normal workforce, but even more so in positions of power, “Women hold 26.5 percent of television news director jobs; women hold 39.3 percent of all television news jobs” (Statistics on Women 2). When we look at the world of sports news, with the majority of viewers being male, the disparity is even greater, “women are just 6% of sports editors, 10% of assistant sports editors, 6% of columnists, 9% of reporters, and 16% of copy editors/designers” (Gibbons). Not surprisingly, the majority of sports coverage is about men’s sports, and is presented in a way that is appealing to men. Sports news, and the coverage of women’s sports in particular, provide a very clear picture of what happens when a significant gender inequality exists in the workforce. Very little coverage is given to women’s sports, “even when the media does cover women’s sport, the coverage often trivializes women’s athleticism and hetero-sexualizes female athletes” (Cooky et al. 141). This deeply rooted issue of gender inequality in the news workforce is the reason that our news is so biased, unreliable and inconsistent.

The problem with the news is that the information presented to us is very rarely in-sync with the reality of what’s happening. In the article, Reporting Violence in the British Print Media: Gendered Stories, studies found significant discrepancies in the violence that was reported, and differences in how this violence was reported based on gender. Right from the beginning the article reminds us that violence and death are among the most popular news stories, “British papers devote, on average, around 65% of their crime reporting to stories of personal violence, although police statistics suggest that only 6% of recorded crime actually involves personal violence” (Naylor 1). Already there is a clear discrepancy between the crime that happens, and the crime that is reported. This discrepancy stems from the male agenda of news producers, for example: men commit the most acts of violence, but female violence is reported far more often. The article goes on to say that, “violence by women is arguably seen by news producers as more deviant, more anxiety-producing, and more transgressive than men’s violence”(Naylor 9). The ultimate goal of news producers is to make money, and without a significant female presence, men can inaccurately present the news they want in the way they want, many times at the expense of women.

There are far too many problems created simply by that fact that people are misinformed. In fact a recent poll shows that 20% of the nation wrongly believes that Obama is a Muslim, and that “60 percent say they learned about his religion from the media, suggesting that their opinions are fueled by misinformation” (Cohen). This is a perfect example of how most news, even that which is about our president, is manipulated into hogwash propaganda and lies in order to make it more marketable. Gender inequality is probably not the chief source of misinformation and bias in the news, but gender equality in the media is necessary for more reliable sources of news. In order to offset the male driven news and media, people should look towards alternative sources of news that are primarily female. While this certainly won’t create perfect equality, at the very least it gives people new perspectives that are sorely needed. News sources like this do exist, but unfortunately are not well known. One example of this kind of network is the Women News Network (WNN).


The WNN website is actually a WordPress blog like the one used by this class. The opening statement on the WNN website says, “Women News Network is dedicated to bringing you in-depth international women’s news not found in our current public media stream”(Anzia). This could be a great alternative news source that challenges the norms for gender portrayal in the media. The staff for this network is almost all female; in fact, there are only 3 male journalists. The founder, director, editor, program coordinators, and the majority of journalists are female. Technically, this source of news is another example of gender inequality, yet it provides a perspective that is nearly invisible in normal news. More news stations like this can only lead to a broader spectrum of news that is available to the public.

The only issue here is that a news network that only exists on the Internet will not get the exposure and attention needed to make a significant difference. It would be very difficult for an average citizen to find these news stories without having prior knowledge of this website. WNN is not the only alternative source of news, and there are other sources that are committed “to look beyond the standard sources and political views to find the unexpected, the critical, the controversial”(Alternate News Sources). In order to find these sources however, people must go out of their way to research on the Internet and question the normal news that is given to them. The majority of US citizens get their news from the television. There needs to be a news station on TV that challenges gender norms and stereotypes. We need this because it’s never bad to look at things from a different perspective. With men running the news, more than half (53.8%) of all news broadcast time is dedicated to crime, disaster, and war. While it can’t be denied that these are important issues, it’s important to point out that there are far more important things people need to worry about, and that violence is not the only message we should be sending across the news. A change in perspective could create a broader spectrum of news stories and information that is available to the public.

Gender inequality in the news is reflected by news reporters, anchors and the stories they present, but they are not the cause. Gender inequality stems from the inequality of those who are in charge. While we can see gender diversity on every news broadcast, with a healthy mix of men and women, people never see the editors, the producers, the CEO’s, the one’s who make all the decisions. The reporters and the anchors are merely pawns following orders. People can look at the news today and say that women have made progress towards equality, but the fact of the matter is that men still primarily control the news world. While alternative news sources exist, ones that challenge the norms, and also one’s that are run by women (WNN), they still have the problem of getting enough exposure. Kofi Annan once said, “More countries have understood that women’s equality is a prerequisite for development” (Women’s Rights Quotations). Until alternative news sources like WNN become more prominent, and until the power structure of the media becomes more equal, gender equality in the news world is simply an illusion created by the men who still control the news.

Frederick Newton