Study: women readers don’t rate female sports journalists

When it comes to sports coverage, it seems women don’t rate female sports journalists. 

A recent study conducted in Germany and based on responses from 635 people reading football articles, found that female readers considered female sports journalist to be less competent than male journalists.

Male readers, by contrast, don’t appear to care if an article about sports is written by a male or female journalist. Male readers rated male and female journalists as having equal expertise. As long as it’s about sport, it seems, men will read it.

Writing in Journalism, German researchers Karin Boczek, Leyla Dogruel and Christiana Schallhorn suggest that the low evaluation of female sports journalists by female readers might be linked to low visibility of female sports reporters in the first place. 

“It might be a result of sexism unknowingly internalized by women, because they are used to seeing other women on television portrayed as less competent or in inferior job positions as men”, the researchers write.

“In that way, women learn from an early age from the media—and thus, they more or less adopt unconsciously—that men are superior to women.”

If the under-representation of female sports journalists is behind the harsh judgment of female sports fan, this perception is unlikely to change anytime soon.

As part of their study the researchers also analysed just over 40,000 sports articles that appeared in German newspapers between 2006–2020. They found that an average of 8.1 per cent were written by female journalists. 

And when the sport was football, a traditionally male sport, the percentage fell to just 7.8 per cent.

Similar findings are reflected in Australia. The 2021 Women for Media Report: ‘Take the Next Steps’, which examined 60,000 articles published in Australian news media in May 2021, found that 87 per cent of articles on sport were written by men. 

The German researchers argue that these findings underline urgent need for steps to improve the visibility of female sports journalists.  

“This makes it even more important that women receive higher visibility in sports journalism—especially in popular sports, such as men’s football—so that they become the norm and are not regarded as a less competent minority that has to face prejudices and objectivation.” 

Steps are being taken to lift the profile of female journalists both in sport and other areas where they are underrepresented. The 50:50 Equality Project, which includes the ABC and BBC, is seeking to improve the representation of women and underrepresented voices in news media. 

Find the study here: Boczek K, Dogruel L, and Schallhorn C (2022) ‘Gender byline bias in sports reporting: Examining the visibility and audience perception of male and female journalists in sports coverage’, Journalism, 1–20, doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy-b.deakin.edu.au/10.1177/14648849211063312

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