Good and the bad about women's news in newspapers p. 17

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez THE GOOD NEWS is that the number of women appearing on newspapers' front pages has more than doubled since 1989.
The bad news is that on those same pages, women mentioned in a positive light tended to be entertainers rather than leaders and authorities, according to the sixth annual Women, Men and Media survey of print and broadcast news.
For example, while "Skategate," the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan story, dominated the news ? 70% of the Olympic broadcast stories were about or made reference to this saga ? there was barely mention made of the women leaders in the federal government.
Even Hillary Rodham Clinton, the woman leader mentioned the most, received minimal coverage during the survey period.
The WMM survey looked at the front and local front pages of 10 major- and 10 small-market newspapers around the country, as well as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news programs.
In February, when the survey was conducted, men were referred to or solicited for comment on the newspapers' front pages 75% of the time, a decrease from last year's 85%.
Women, however, were referred to or quoted on front pages only 25% of the time, although that was the highest percentage recorded in the study's six-year history and was a substantial jump from 15% in 1993.
Most of the front-page stories were written by men (67%), as were the op-ed or equivalent pieces (72%). The average number of front-page bylines from women was 33%, and the percentage of women writing op-eds was 28%.
But just because a women wrote a story, or op-ed or column, does not mean she will quote another woman as an expert.
For example, the study found that the Enid (Okla.) News and Eagle, which had an overwhelming 91% average of women's bylines, referenced women in stories only 23% of the time.
There was an increase in the number of women appearing in front-page photographs, up to 39% from 34% in 1993, the most since the survey began. Men still dominated photo appearances, with 67% of the front-page photos, although that was a drop from the 73% recorded last year.
There were days in which there were no references to, bylines from or photos of women on the local front pages of certain papers, although for the first time, there were days in some papers when women appeared in equal or greater numbers to men in all categories.
USA Today was the only paper studied that included references, bylines or photos of women in all its front pages every day in February.
The Daily Camera of Boulder, Colo., had the most front-page (39%) and local-page (43%) references to women among the newspapers surveyed, and it featured the most women (56%) in front-page photos.
The News Times of Danbury, Conn., had the most women in photos on its front local page (47%).
The paper with the most female bylines on both its front and local front pages was the Enid (Okla.) News and Eagle, with 91% and 93%, respectively. The Aurora, Ill., Beacon-News featured the most women op-ed writers at 43%.
Scoring last in front-page references was the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial with only 17%.
There was a tie at 18% for least local page references between the Tusca-loosa (Ala.) News and the New York Times. The Times came in second-to-last in least front-page references with 18%.
The Times also came in last with 13% female bylines on the local-front page. The Courier, Findlay, Ohio, had the fewest female bylines on its front page at only 6%. The Washington Post scored lowest in percentage of women's bylines on the op-ed page at 13%.
In photos, the Seattle Times had the fewest shots of women, 28%, on its front page, while the Joplin (Mo.) Globe finished last for photos of women on the local front with 31%.
Women were portrayed negatively much more than were men in both the large markets, 30% versus 11% of men, and in the smaller markets, 31% versus 14%.
Further, nearly half (49%) of the positive portrayals of women in the major market papers featured women as entertainers, whereas 82% of the positive portrayals of men were as authorities, experts or opinion makers.
As with the news copy, in major markets, when women were portrayed in a positive light, it was more often (66%) as entertainers than authorities (34%), while men were shown to be authorities in 80% of the photos and as entertainers in 20%.
The survey was conducted by M. Junior Bridge of Unabridged Communications. WMM is co-chaired by Betty Friedan, author and professor at the University of Southern California, and Nancy Woodhull, president of Nancy Woodhull & Associates Inc., a media consulting firm. Primary funding for WMM is from the Freedom Forum, with additional support from Capital Cities/ABC.


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