Women athletes in the United States feel cheated by the lack of media coverage on women in sports, according to a survey conducted by the non-profit group Women, Men, and the Media, chaired by Betty Friedan.
Over half of the 130 women athletes surveyed were dissatisfied with the amount and quality of coverage their teams and sport received, as well as women’s sports in general. Fifty-three percent said they would like more individual coverage as well.
Interviews were conducted on athletes from 14 different sports. Skaters proved most satisfied with the amount of personal coverage they received, while soccer players were the most unhappy.
When it came to the focus of news stories, however, even skaters were critical of journalists. One skater commented in an interview that the sports sections of newspapers contained stories focused on “300 pound, overweight football players who are violent and aggressive, but covered as if they are the epitome of athleticism. Meanwhile we have to look in the Style section of the newspaper for stories about us.”
The women athletes interviewed felt strongly that when competing in the same sports as men, women receive much less coverage than men.
“Female athletes continue to be heavily underrepresented in print and broadcast media,” stated the group’s report. “This differential sends the message to female athletes and to girls and women generally that their accomplishments and achievements are not important.”
Criticism from the women athletes was also directed toward the reporters covering them. They contended that reporters were often unfamiliar with their sport, uncomfortable with them, or dismissive of their accomplishments. Many also believed women who participated in individual events gained more coverage than women in teams.
The report also cited a 1995 statistic which identified that 95 percent of air time from two national cable sports news shows contained stories about men, leaving 5 percent of its air time for women’s sports stories.
The fact that men dominate the field of sports journalism was noted as one of the primary reasons for the lack of coverage of female sports. “The behind the scenes decisions on what will air or what will make the front of the sports section is still largely the province of men,” the report stated.