Representations of Gender in the News Media

Observations from across the world reveal the fact that there exists a problem of segregation regarding the media. Female and male journalists have some distinct roles seemingly befitting either gender more than the other. As Susan Crean found, the position of the women in journalism is limited to homemakers, performers, or “newshens”. The above reflects the failure of consideration of seriousness in women to carry efficiently out journalism roles. In various occupational sectors, the above phenomenon refers to horizontal segregation. Ideally, horizontal segregation refers to situations characterized by gendered task division. In news media, the women still fail to feature significantly with respect to the formulation of key decision-making roles, especially in editorial levels. Additionally, the above horizontal segregation in journalism also features dominantly in reporting, that is, as observed in radio and television media.

In concurrence to Susan Crean’s point of view, it is possible to view journalism from two perspectives – the hard and the soft news coverage. It is upon the view of journalism from the above two perspectives that define the various roles of journalists. The soft news feature coverage areas such as education, art, and health. On the other hand, the hard news coverage features highly valued areas such as business, sports, and politics (North 2). The presence of the above differentiation of journalism areas calls for critical scrutiny due to some implications it creates. The most prevalent of the resulting implications is gender inequality. Various observations and surveys indicate that the biggest number of female reporters specialize in the coverage of soft news sector. It is relatively true that the number of female reporters on television and radio covering business or politics news have risen in the recent past. However, the majority of the female reporters in television and radio still cover the soft news (North 2). To the journalists as well as to the consumers of the news media products, there is a general understanding of the relevance as well as the importance attached to each category of news. Ideally, majority consumers view the soft news with less importance in comparison to hard news. As highlighted above, most of the soft news coverage is designated to women reporters. In light of the above, the inference by Susan Crean thus holds relevant and true even as of today. By openly agreeing to the presence of soft and hard news areas and by designating the less important to women journalist, it means that the position of women journalists in television and radio media portrays them as mere homemakers or, as colloquially used, “newshens”.

In the absence of critical consideration, one would argue that reporting for either soft or hard news makes no difference at all to journalists. In light of the above, it would seem that having the majority of women journalist in the television and radio media limited to soft news coverage not such a matter of concern. However, it is the above limitation with respect to women journalists featuring in the above areas of media reporting that builds the above rather disregarded roles for women reporters. Ideally, the nature of soft news is very different from that of hard news. Ideally, soft news fails to encompass high degrees of informative value thus do not require immediate publication. The rationale for the above finds its basis in the fact that most soft news covers areas featuring human interest stories, lifestyle, personalities, and various unusual events (Lehman-Wilzig and Seletzky 38). Ideally, the intent of soft news is to entertain. In light of the above, it features a perspective that makes evokes emotions that make the consumers of the news pity or envy, hate or love, cry or laugh (Bender et al. 134). It is upon the above rationale that reporters of soft news, which as highlighted above are majorly women, are referred to as performers according to Susan Crean. In part, the attribution of soft news to women journalists finds its rationale upon the fact that the above category of news is closely connected to emotions; emotions are a typical feminine attribute. It is upon the same attribution that makes the soft news feature as less important than the hard news with respect to the news hierarchy.

The classification of soft and hard news features significant fuzziness and overlapping especially with respect to the extent of softness or hardness in the news, as well as the level of hardness or softness suitable for reporting by female or male reporters across television and radio media. The concern for the above has specifically increased in the recent times especially due to the presence of feminization of news content. By the feminization of news, it means the situation where the soft news occupies most of the media space as larger parts of the news consumers find such news important. As a result, the feminization of news content makes low-status soft news acquire a higher priority among the consumers. More so, the women journalists reporting them cease to feature as performers, homemakers, or “newshens” as reflected by Susan Crean since the public finds interest in such news (Franks 7).

However, even such a scenario merely changes the role of women in journalism reporting. The general conformity to news media reporting seems to find a way to such an occurrence. Featured in the mentality of the majority is the fact that male journalists should report the most important news to the consumers while the rest is left for women journalists to report. In light of the above, it stands out that the categorization of soft and hard news goes deep to as far as focusing on the gendered nature of dichotomy. As a matter of fact, the nature of the news is at times immaterial. The nature of the news does not matter, naturally soft or hard. The hierarchy of news features the most important news, according to the consumers on top. More so, whatever is at the top of the hierarchy of news is the ideal hard news – male journalists should report that on televisions and radio media (Poindexter and Harp 85). In light of the above, the measures of hardness or softness of the news may fail to be materially distinct. However, as far as the news content is materially important to the consumers, it becomes hard news that should be left for male journalists to report. Regarding the above, any other news not prioritized as per a certain time is soft and fit for women journalists to report, in their role of performers or “homemakers”.

Although there may be reason whatsoever to use gender differences to discern the roles of women in various occupations, the case of above case of gender-based roles in journalism have been the case since the beginning. There have been a couple of successful women journalists who have made it through television and radio limelight as top reporters in various parts of the world. However, those are the few expected exceptions. For the majority, there have been reputable differences for women journalists both in the television and radio media. The above perception developed through generations as various faces of journalists evolved. Throughout the entire 20th Century, there were hardly any female news editors across various media houses across the globe. With respect to a census taken in the early years of the 20th Century, the number of women journalists practicing at that time was just 9% of the entire population of journalists at that time. Years later in the 1960’s the figure was still barely at 20% (Franks 2). At the time, the cultural expectations were the greatest limitation to the success of women in hardcore journalism. In that era, the expectation of the society on women was for them to prioritize the institution of marriage above everything else – the Marriage Bar. Apparently, the Marriage Bar made way for the mentality that a woman journalist had to leave work after getting married since journalism demands involvement during very antisocial hours that would interfere with her duties as a wife or as a mother.

The presence of distinct roles for women in news media thus developed from the above culture. To make the situation worse for the ladies, the unions of journalists at such early ages also conform to such provisions put aside to bar women journalists from practicing serious journalism after marriage. Additionally, the development of journalism featured a lot of various discriminatory policies discouraging women from taking various roles reporting in different media. Such included poor wages, the imposition of limits on the number of women journalists various media corporations accepted or agreed to train. As a result of the above, enthusiastic women would do anything to feature as reporter. Upon consideration, the media corporations gave minor roles to them to ease the pressure. Therefore, the culture of delegating just the soft coverage to women came to life. The above culture continued through time and blended in radio and television media as well.

The designation of roles in television and radio media for women journalists have continued to time to the present time. Despite various huge campaigns for equality in workplaces and occupations, Journalism still has its indirect boundaries. To ascertain the above truth, there are a couple of various instances. As of the year 2013, the BBC had stayed over 90 years without female editor in general. BBC is a huge media corporation that sets way for various media corporations across the world. It is no wonder that the same situation was the same or other major television broadcast institutions across the globe (Franks 5).

Having pioneered journalism for a long time before the art featured on television and radio, the newspaper journalism influences the later two news media a lot. Newspaper journalism has been successful for ages. Even with the birth of the radio, the television, and later the internet as alternate news media, Newspapers are still relevant news media across the globe. The television and radio news media borrow a lot from it in the pursuit of gaining such long-term success. As a result, what features in major newspapers reflect in the radio and television journalism as well. The inferior role of women in journalism was born at the time when there was only Newspaper. The Newspaper thus still paves a way for the development of journalism trends. As of today, there still is the challenge of the relatively inferior role of women in Newspaper journalism.

According to a report in 2014 by the American Society of News Editors, women make up more than half of the annual graduates in communication schools (Griffin 1). However, women just represent fewer than 35% of the journalism population with respect to newspaper supervisory roles. To further agree with the inference by Susan Crean on their role as “newshens” and performers, the report indicated that of the nation’s 25 largest titles, they just run three. Moreover, just eight of the 25 best newspapers according to circulation are run by women with only one of the 25 top international titles being run by a woman. Such advances by the Newspaper media greatly influence the development of the same on television and radio media making them feature similar roles for women – small roles. True to the above a report at the same time by Radio Television Digital News Association in the United States revealed the results of their survey (Griffin 1). According to the findings of the survey, it was revealed that women made up only 31% of the directors in the television news sector. Additionally, despite making up over 40% of the entire television journalism workforce, the general management in the television journalism sector featured just 20% women. The same report found out that women only made 23% of the directors in radio news with only 18% of the women taking up the general manager roles (Griffin 1).

With respect to the above, it seems that gender disparity still characterizes journalism in a huge way. News media including television, radio and newspaper should integrate wide ranges of perspectives and voices as public watchdogs. In the pursuit of thriving financially, it is also important for them to appeal many potential listeners, readers, and listeners. However, despite all the campaign on gender equality in the workplace, women in journalism still lag behind. The majority of the women journalists still find themselves reporting just the news viewed as soft news, not competitive or important enough. The above is a practice that seems hard to shun since even the new generation of digital news media features a significant degree of gender imbalances that characterized the old media in their current operations. Unfortunately, the remark by Susan Crean on the rather inferior roles of women in journalism holds true – not only in radio and television media but other news media as well.

 

 

Works Cited

Bender, John R., Michael W. Drager, Lucinda D. Davenport, and Fred Fedler. Reporting for the Media. 9th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print

Franks, Suzanne. Women And Journalism. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. Print.

Griffin, Anna. ‘Where Are The Women?’ Niemanreports.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 May 2015.

Lehman-Wilzig, Sam N., and Michal Seletzky. “Hard News, Soft News, ‘General’ News: The Necessity and Utility of an Intermediate Classification.” Journalism 11 (1): 37 –56. 2010. Print

North, Louise. The Gender Of “Soft” And “Hard” News. London: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Poindexter, Paula, and Dustin Harp. “The Softer Side of News.” In Women, Men and News: Divided and Disconnected in the News Media Landscape, 85 –96. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print

 

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