COLUMBUS – Male voices and perspectives are blocking out females, even in coverage of women’s reproductive health, according to new research by the Women’s Media Center.
Journalists who are women produce 37 percent of articles on contraception or abortion, compared with 52 percent by men, according to the research. The rest didn’t have bylines.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said she sees balanced gender reporting on reproductive health in Ohio, but feels it’s a different story with national coverage.
“It’s a male host interviewing a panel of men about women’s reproductive health,” she said, “and you kind of have to scratch your head and say, ‘Wow, you know, is there not a qualified woman anywhere in America that they could have found to be on this panel?’ “
The study suggested that a reporter’s gender also affects who is quoted in news stories, with women tapping female sources more often than their male counterparts. Overall, the research showed, men account for 41 percent of all quotes in articles about reproductive issues, compared with 33 percent from women. The remaining percentage was quotes attributed to organizations.
The context for stories also is different between genders, according to the report. Male journalists tended to frame reproductive issues in political terms, while women were more likely to present them primarily as health-care matters. Soraya Chemaly, a Women’s Media Center board member, said the cumulative impact on the national conversation is significant.
“The media outlets that were studied are the places that most people are getting their news from,” she said. “In aggregate, they make up the highest-circulation media outlets in the country.”
The research focused on a year’s worth of stories from 12 of the nation’s biggest news outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press.
Copeland said the media has a special obligation to ensure those relaying the news are representative of the community they serve.
“That means that there should be an appropriate representation of racial groups, of genders, of sexuality – of all of those different viewpoints and identities that are important when you consider how someone experiences the world,” she said.
The national conversation on women’s reproductive health is out of balance, according to some interesting new research. Mary Schuermann has more.
The report is online at wmc.3cdn.net.