From front page bylines to quotes and comments, statistics released by industry body Women In Journalism speak volumes about the patriarchal nature of news provision. Something that will surprise few who take an interest in the media’s cogs and wheels.
According to a recent story in The Guardian based on the report, 78% of all lead articles are written by men, with 84% of the people referenced therein also male. Even in the quality publications, the ever balanced Financial Times could only manage 34% female front page credits and came out on top.
Needless to say when it comes to imagery the bias is notably less extreme, though apparently within one month of analysis not a single politician or leader of the fairer sex featured in the top 10 images in terms of print usage. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be too much of an assumption to say there’s a good chance most pictures of women that do get published are frequently negative in terms of portrayal.
The result is, understandably, renewed complaints over the fairness of British media, in particular but not exclusively print. TV and radio have also come under fire, with the BBC’s lack of female presenters in the so-called ‘iconic roles’ one major example. Worse still, men are apparently five times more likely to be quoted on women’s issues than women. But with much of this centred on a lack of representation in political reports and presentation, the figures tell a far more worrying story.
Not that the idea of a fundamentally sexist industry in control of what we see and hear isn’t deeply troubling. However, as Auntie’s General Director George Entwistle responded after admitting a problem- what the broadcaster “often reflects is the way the world is”, and the same can be said for every press outlet in the free world. Excuses excuses, some might say, whilst that may be true to an extent there’s a despicable yet undeniable legitimacy to the statement. In short, if we need to look at press standards, which we certainly do (and not just in this instance), then surely we must also look at the wider culture that promotes this kind of attitude in both business and policy making.