Are Women Being Annihilated By The Media? p. 56

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez

That’s the claim made by author Betty Friedan in commenting
on the results of the latest Women, Men and Media study sp.

WOMEN ARE BEING symbolically annihilated by the media, according to author/professor Betty Friedan.
Friedan’s observation came in the wake of the latest Women, Men and Media (WMM) study, which showed a significant decline in front-page news and photo coverage of women, while the appearance of women in the news ? both as subject and creator ? registered no significant gains.
“I am troubled by this early warning signal,” said Friedan a WMM co-chair, noting that the report “reflects a backlash against women generally in this country.”
The report, unveiled during a roundtable discussion at the Freedom Forum, registered a decline in the average number of front-page references to women from 25% in 1994 to 19% for the 1995 study.
The figures for the seventh annual study were compiled by M. Junior Bridge, who reviewed the percentage of female references, bylines and photos in 20 newspapers and on five television news programs during January.
In 18 of the 20 newspapers reviewed, the average percentage of female references declined from 1994 to 1995, while it remained the same in one and increased only slightly in the other.
On the front pages of the local news sections, the study found no drop in references to women, but there was no gain either.
The average remained 26% in 1995, as it was a year earlier.
The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo., had the highest average number of female references on both the front-page and the first local page, at 24% and 50%, respectively.
At 12%, the Los Angeles Times had the lowest average for front-page references, and the Joplin (Mo.) Globe, at 17%, had the lowest percentage of local front page references.
Women’s bylines on the front page increased slightly, up from 33% in 1994 to 34% in 1995, but the figure has shown little change in the past four years, coming in at 34% in both 1992 and 1993.
On the front local pages, there was a slight decline in the average number of women’s bylines, dropping from 42% last year to 41% in the 1995 report.
An average of 92% of the front-page bylines in the Enid (Okla.) News and Eagle were women’s, the highest in the survey.
The News and Eagle also had the highest percentage of women’s bylines on the local front page (96%).
The newspaper with lowest average for female bylines on the front page was 20%, found in the Beacon-News, Aurora, Ill., and for the local front page it was the Courier, Findlay, Ohio, also at 20%.
Women also wrote fewer opinion pieces this year than last, down from 28% to 27%.
On the op-ed page, the News-Times of Danbury, Conn., had the highest percentage of female bylines (44%), while the Washington Post and the Enid News and Eagle tied for the lowest percentage (14%).
In addition, women appeared in fewer front-page photographs in 1995, falling from 39% to 33%, although on the front page of the local section, there was a small gain of 1% for an average of 39%.
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution had the most front page photos featuring women (an average of 40%), and the Los Angeles Times had the least (22%).
On the local section front page, the Enid News and Eagle had the most photos featuring one or more women (an average of 56%) and the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal the least (25%).
Bridge found four front pages during January that had no female references, bylines or photos. Two were in the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News and the others were in the Seattle Times and the Beacon-News of Aurora, Ill.
“To date,” she said, “I’ve never found a [TV news] show or a front-page that is all female.”
Further, women referenced on the front pages often were related to a principal male in the story, were victims of crime or national disaster or they had died, the survey reported.
Without such negative stories as the death of Rose Kennedy, the Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman murder trial, the killing of workers at a clinic providing abortions, the case against Susan Smith for killing her two children, the arrest of Qubilah Shabazz, and the admission by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey that she once used drugs, the percentages of female references would have been much lower, Bridge noted.
Women rarely were quoted as experts on issues of international and national importance.
For example, California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, combined, were mentioned only four times in the Los Angeles Times during January, and only Sen. Boxer was quoted.
The Times, however, with an average of 12% (down 10% from 1994), had the worst record among papers studied for female references on its front page.
But women were no better than men when it came to quoting other women.
The study found that their stories included no more female sources than those by their male colleagues.
“It’s clear there is still work to be done, not just by the men, but also by the women,” Bridge pointed out.
Ann F. Lewis of Planned Parenthood pointed out that, “It’s easy to believe there is automatic progress, but that is not so.”
Nancy Woodhull, WMM co-chair, said she does not believe this reflects a deliberate attempt to leave women out of the news, but rather is the result of sloppy journalism.
Friedan agreed that it was not deliberate, and noted that this symbolic annihilation of women can be seen in many of the initiatives put forth in the Republicans’ Contract With America, such as the elimination of affirmative action.
“In other years, this would have been news. The women’s response. The women’s outrage,” Friedan said, noting an absence of women’s views on these issues. “Something is happening here.”
The report, unveiled during a roundtable discussion at the Freedom Forum, registered a decline in the average number of front-page references to women from 25% in 1994 to 19% for the 1995 study.
?(Betty Friedman) [Photo]

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