the kicker

Women still underrepresented in US media

This year's Status of Women in US Media report was released on Wednesday
February 19, 2014

American media is nowhere near achieving gender parity when it comes to who gets hired. According to the Women’s Media Center’s 2014 Status of Women in US Media Report, released on Wednesday, sports journalism remains one of the biggest offenders, as a white, male-dominated field, though the bigger picture isn’t much brighter, with the percentage of women of color dropping in newspaper and magazine newsrooms overall.

This year’s Status of Women report is the third annual one released by the WMC. “It is a roadmap that tells us where we are and where we need to go for women to achieve an equal voice and equal participation,” wrote WMC president Julie Burton in the report’s foreword. “The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.”

Despite the increasing prominence of women’s sports and female sports fans, sports editors are 90-percent mate, and 90-percent white. More than 150 sports newspapers and websites received an F grade for their hiring practices among women, failing to hire enough women as editors, columnists, copy editors, and designers. Indeed, women made up only 14.6 percent of total staff at these outlets.

Only two women (1.09 percent) were among the 183 sports talk radio hosts featured on Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred,” which lists the most important talk show hosts in America. No women made it into the top 10. (The WMC compiles findings from multiple organizations and industry lists, like Talkers’, into its own report.)

Men still account for two-thirds of American daily newspaper newsroom staff, with women comprising 36 percent, a number that has remained largely unchanged since 1999. Black women made up 47 percent of all black newsroom employees, down from a peak of 50 percent in 2010. Hispanic women represented 40 percent of all Hispanic newsroom employees, down from a high of 42 percent in 2007. Native American women showed the most precipitous drop, down to 38 percent from a peak of 51 percent in 2000. Minorities consistently comprise 12 to 13 percent of American newsrooms overall. Although newspapers remain the largest employer of journalists, at least according to a 2009 study, the industry is slowly shifting toward digital publications, whose staffing makeups weren’t included in the report.

White men were also overwhelmingly represented in the ranks of Sunday morning news talk show guests, but MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry (anchored by a black female host) had the most racially and gender diverse guests, with 73 percent people of color.

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During January and February 2013, men were quoted 3.4 times more often than women in frontpage stories in The New York Times. And as Gawker pointed out last December, male opinion columnists outnumber women 4 to 1 at three of the country’s most prestigious papers and four newspaper syndicates.

There was one bright spot, however: The number of women in radio news jumped 8 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Edirin Oputu is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @EdirinOputu