Friday, October 18, 2013

Breaking News: Female Jounalists Undressed but Still Disguised

The News is a vital institution within our society. Journalists and media outlets serve as the medium between elite discourse and the public. But it is essential that we acknowledge the misrepresentation presented by these media conglomerates. Women are highly disenfranchised by the media proven by the lack of women who actually participate in producing and delivering the news.  Women make up 51% of the general population but only 38% of women hold positions in newsrooms. The most public transition of a female journalist was met in 2006 when Katie Couric took over as lead anchor on CBS’s nightly news, coming in as the first female to compete with the suits and ties which had always dominated the nightly news. Unfortunately, compared to her contemporaries Ms. Couric bided farewells just five years later; a very short tenure for a serious nightly news anchor. To understand why Ms. Couric was so unsuccessful in such a prestigious position, we must first understand how women are used by the media and the challenges they often endure.
In a content analysis of essays by female journalists it was found that women in both print and broadcast media perceived themselves as marginalized in their newsrooms, and that they attributed this marginalization to less access to news due to traditional gender-related roles in their jobs. A survey of female news correspondents at national networks found that women were less satisfied than men about their work environment, and also less satisfied with their jobs overall (Price and Wulff, 2005).Williams (1997) found that gender altered the nature of decision making for female journalists. The reason for this difference is that women are a clear minority in the news organization, and may not seek advice from peers because of the pressure to compete against males. He suggests that, “female journalists in television may feel pressure from males to prove their toughness and intelligence to be accepted as more than window dressing (52, Williams). Because of the imposition on women to conform to gender-norms, aspiring female journalist either change course entirely or subject themselves to the stereotypes of institutions like sports networks.

ESPN, Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated are three of the most popular sports news providers in the world. No matter how often SportsCenter loops the same stories, or how false their “expert” opinions are, ESPN is currently being shown in every sports bar across the nation. In all the years of ESPN’s existence, two things have remained constant; you can always find the score of “the game” and there will always be a drop dead gorgeous anchor giving you that score. Female anchors are sexualized to the point, that websites such as (a Time Warner Company) have published articles titled “Erin Andrews and Other Sports Hotties That Need a Bikini Shoot” and “The 30 Hottest Women in ESPN History.” As John Berger said, “Men Act-Women Appear.”
The question then becomes, who is calling the shots? Certainly among the executives who are responsible for producing such sexist and inferior representations of women there are probably some female heads, but in 2012 women comprised only 16.6 % of board seats. This percentage is unacceptable and the discourse has to be changed. The Katie, Couric’s, Diane Sawyers, Jill Abramson's and Sheryl Sandberg’s are the very women who set the stage for future female media pioneers.

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