Why the question "who makes the news?" matters

Or, what I took away from my internship on the Global Media Monitoring Project

by Esther Franke,
GMMP 2015 student  intern

When I came to the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) as an intern in August 2015, I was not sure what to expect: A faith-based organization working on gender, communication and feminism?! I had an academic background in gender studies but not so much in communication, so I was not aware of the standing WACC and its flagship initiative the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) in particular have in the gender and media world. When I started working on the GMMP I realized the scope and the importance of this research and advocacy initiative and I was proud to contribute to a project working in 114 countries and analyzing 22,136 news stories.

And the GMMP results show that we need to keep working hard.

As a woman I find it shocking that women make up only 24% of the persons in the news. As an activist I am stupefied that this number has not increased since 2010. As a student of political science I find it shocking that women make up only 16% of the people in stories on politics and government, a statistic that has risen by a mere nine points since 1995.

Related to this, it is especially interesting to observe the deplorable example of media sexism that is the coverage of U.S. Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, which Kripa Koshy and Saba Mirsalari show in their article Clinton Coverage a Teaching Moment on Enduring News Media Sexism. The student of gender studies in me tells me that an increase of only 1% of stories that challenge gender stereotypes from 2005 to 2015 (from 3% to 4%) is definitely not enough.

As part of a generation that grew up with digital media and that had high hopes in the potential, to learn that the levels of women’s relative invisibility are similar in legacy as in digital media makes me question the "promise" of new media.

And finally, as a sports loving person and organizer of the women’s rights and sports NGO Discover Football, I find the coverage of women in sports highly problematic – take the 2016 Olympic Games as an example (cf.:  Saba Mirsalari: A Long Road Ahead: Gender and the Rio 2016 Olympics News Coverage)

During my time at WACC I understood the importance of the question “Who makes the news?” for equality, feminism and society in general and learned to value its importance both in academia and in activism. Having had the chance to be part of this important project was eye-opening and immensely enriching. I encourage everyone who is interested in gender and media to support the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).

There is a long road ahead to achieve gender equality in and through the news media, but that should not be discouraging. We should be motivated and thrilled to keep up the work knowing how important it is!

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Advancing gender equality in media

In my opinion, the most effective strategy to achieve gender-sensitive media is:

Increased gender-awareness training of media professionals
Greater action by audiences to hold their media accountable
Stricter enforcement of gender-focussed media codes and policies
More female journalists, editors and media house managers


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