Student guest post: Working to close the gender gap in the media

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the third of those posts. Rebecca Dudley is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in editing and graphic design, with a minor in folklore studies. She plans to move to East Asia in August with a Christian organization.

How much attention should journalists give to gender?

With the Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s lift on the military’s ban on women in combat last week, the discussion of women in the media is a timely one.

There were dozens of stories published by all sorts of media on Panetta’s decision. Some, like the article published by The New York Times, did a decent job of quoting and picturing women in the story.

However, other news sources, like Fox News and The Houston Chronicle, did not give readers a proportional amount of female voice in their articles about women. The Fox News article was written by a man and did not include any quotes by women.

Americans like to think that we are past the time of sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination. Especially in the liberal university environment that many students are part of, it is easy to forget or even realize that there is a gender gap in our current media.

According to the annual “Who Makes the News Report,” although women consist of 51 percent of the American population, only 24 percent of the people mentioned in print, radio and television news are female. In contrast, 76 percent of the people in the news are male.

At the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, about 75 percent of the students are female. This statistic is the same in other journalism schools throughout the country. So, the question is, why is this disconnect happening? Why are female journalists discriminating against themselves?

More importantly, why should we worry about this issue? It seems that editors have enough to keep track of, especially with deadlines looming. However, if we want to see the face of American media more accurately represent what the American people look like, we would do well to make sure that our writers are quoting and writing about women.