A media analysis found that 87 percent of guests on Fox News Sunday are white men.
If you ever feel like the majority of our news media is written by men, you’re correct.
The Women’s Media Center released a report this month that examined gender representation in numerous parts of American media, from print newspapers to Sunday talk shows. The result is no surprise: white men are overwhelmingly the creators of national stories and they are most likely to be featured as guests on news shows. While this is what you’d expect, the stats provide an important picture of the gender disparity in our media. When we talk about how poorly women and people of color are often represented in our pop culture, it’s helpful to examine who’s behind the scenes driving media narratives as writers, directors, producers, and on-call experts.
The new report examined the bylines for a huge number of articles—27,758 to be exact—published in print and online over three months in 2014. They found that men published the majority of articles in both mediums, but that the Internet was a bit more equitable. The only online national news site with a majority of female bylines that the study looked at, though, was the Huffington Post, which doesn’t pay many of the writers it features.
The Women’s Media Center also includes really interesting data from a recent Media Matters for America study, which looked at race and gender on Sunday news shows. Cultural critics have often pointed out how women are less likely to be called upon as experts and the recent data bears this out: on Sunday morning shows, 61 percent of expert guests were white men. The only show with a majority of invited guests who were not white men was Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show.
I also want to point to another recent media study that’s been on my mind this month as I’ve been thinking about coverage of the women’s soccer World Cup. A new USC study of gender representation in sports media found that women’s sports are actually getting less coverage now than they were 20 years ago. The researchers looked at Los Angeles broadcast affiliates and found that found that in 1989, the stations devoted five percent of their sports coverage to women’s sports. In 2014, that time onscreen was down to 3.2 percent. ESPN’s SportsCenter consistently has devoted just two percent of its airtime to women’s sports since the USC researchers began tracking the show in 1999. This lack of coverage is especially bizarre given that there’s been a big increase in the number of women who play sports.
What can we do to change these dismal numbers? Seeking out and supporting women-made media is certainly an option, but it’s not the only solution. I think a large part of the responsibility for improving media is on editors and producers. We need people in powerful media positions to recognize the disparities of who is represented and then seek out more women and people of color to feature. One great place to start: The writers of color database, a searchable list of writers of color who editors can hire. Now there’s no excuse for “not being able to find” knowledgable writers who aren’t all white dudes.
Sarah Mirk is Bitch Media’s online editor and a big fan of charts.