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July 2010, Week 3

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Sat, 17 Jul 2010 14:59:01 -0400
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Women's Sports Gets 1.6 Percent of Local TV News Sports
Coverage

By Julie Hollar
Fair & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
July 13, 2010

http://www.fair.org/blog/2010/07/13/no-room-for-female-athletes-in-sports-news/

No, that's not a typo: Only 1.6 percent of sports
coverage on L.A.'s three major network affiliates went
to women's sports. On ESPN Sportscenter, it's 1.4
percent. It's just slightly higher when you add in
ticker-tape coverage. And it's getting worse, not
better: Those numbers are down from about 5 percent in
1989. And a major part of that drop, according to study
co-author Michael Messner of the University of Southern
California, is because of a drop in "insulting or
trivialization or humorous sexualization of women
athletes, like a nude bungee jumper or leering court
reports on tennis players like Anna Kournikova or later
Maria Sharapova."

Messner explained:

    When you see that kind of coverage disappear, what
    also disappears is coverage of women's sports at
    all. I think part of this has to do with the fact
    that a lot of these sports reporters, on the
    evening news especially, are the same guys,
    basically, who we saw in 1989 and 1993: Fred Rogan
    at KNBC, Jim Hill at KCBS, it's the same reporters
    and they are doing the same stuff. I think one of
    the keys to this when thinking about Sportscenter
    and the evening news is it's kind of a men's club,
    though Sportscenter does include a couple of women
    reporters, but the news shows really don't. It's
    been really interesting this week since our report
    came out: Only women reporters have seen fit to
    cover this as a story. I think there is some reason
    to think if we could desegregate the sports desk on
    newspapers and in TV news and so forth, you might
    get a little bit more respectful coverage of
    women's sports....

    I think they make conscious decisions about what
    they cover every day, but I think there is a
    tremendous amount of inertia as well. And only a
    part of it has to do with the fact it's men making
    most of these decisions. Men are capable of doing
    really good sports reporting on women's sports, and
    a lot of men really like women's sports. But I
    think there is a fear on a lot of their parts if
    they don't stay with the big three sports. About
    three-fourths of all the news coverage we saw was
    of men's football, men's basketball and men's
    baseball. So it is important that we recognize that
    it's not just women's sports that are getting edged
    out of this, it's a whole lot of the other men's
    sports as well.

It's not that women's sports are unpopular. As Messner
points out, more than 11 million people attended NCAA
women's basketball games in 2009-10, and Title IX has
helped foster an explosion in girls' participation in
sports in recent decades. But with male-heavy newsrooms
and intense bottom-line pressures from the bosses,
there's just no room in corporate reporting for the
female half of sports news.

Read Dave Zirin's interview with Messner at
TheNation.com (7/6/10) http://tinyurl.com/22rv8j9

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