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New Study Confirms Continuing Under-Representation of Women in Media

The White House Project has released an analysis of the continuing dearth of female voices in mainstream media, focusing on Sunday morning talk shows. According to the report, titled Who’s Talking Now, women compose only 14 percent of guests on these shows, up from the 11 percent representation found in a 2001 report. The 2005 report notes that “the absence of women on the Sunday shows matters…It perpetuates the invisibility of female leaders, it limits the scope of our national political debates and it leaves women under-represented and undervalued as citizens of our democracy.”

The report asserts that the Sunday shows are important as they have both an “agenda-setting effect” and an “authority-setting effect,” conferring legitimacy upon guests. According to the report’s analysis of these shows, 56 percent of all episodes did not have a single female voice, while only 37 women made more than one appearance, in comparison with 186 men. In an effort to counter the claim that qualified women journalists are simply not available to appear on television news, the White House Project has launched www.SheSource.org, a site to link ethnically diverse female journalists, who have expertise in various fields, with a larger audience.

The White House Project’s report is part of a larger debate over the representation of women’s voices in the media. In March, as reported in Ms. Magazine, a debate began between Susan Estrich of FOX News and Michael Kinsley, op-ed editor of the Los Angeles Times, where women wrote a mere 20% of op-ed columns over a nine-week period. Kinsley retorted that increasing women’s representation would automatically mean a decrease in black and Latino voices. Similarly, as noted by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), a media watch group, New York Times op-ed page editor Gail Collins replaced William Safire with John Tierney, another white man, despite only having one regular female columnist on staff.

Sources:

The White House Project, 10/05; FAIR May/June 05; "A Matter of Opinion," Ms. Magazine Summer 05; Shesource.org

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