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New Study Shows That Women in Online Media Are Seen, But Not Heard

We're doing our best to counteract that here at TMS, okay?!

woman quiet (shutterstock)

A new study from the University of Bristol’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL), led by Nello Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence, and social scientist, Dr. Cynthia Carter, Senior Lecturer in the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies found that when it comes to online media outlets, women are seen, but not heard.

The team used AI to gather 2,353,652 articles collected over a period of six months from more than 950 different news outlets. From these, they extracted 2,171,239 references to people’s names and 1,376,824 images resolving the gender of names and faces. They found that men are more often represented in news stories in both text and images, but that when it comes to percentage of mentions in text or photos, women are more often used in images rather than being mentioned in the text as a source, or having any active part in a news story.

According to Phys.org, Carter says that the findings show how the lack of representation in media informs women’s lack of participation in society by making them seem less valuable than they actually are:

Our large-scale, data-driven analysis offers important empirical evidence of macroscopic patterns in news content, supporting feminist researchers’ longstanding claim that the marginalisation of women’s voices in the news media under-values their potential contributions to society, and in the processes, diminishes democracy.

This reminds me of a panel on which I participated at last year’s Online News Association Conference. We talked not only about the representation of people of color and women in futurist stories, but — it being a journalism conference — I brought up the idea that, though we spend a lot of time talking about representation in the fictional content we consume, journalists need to also consider the way they tell stories, the same way that one would expect a Hollywood filmmaker or showrunner to do.

When writing an article about an event, journalists should consider how they’re “populating” their story and what quotes they’re using the same way that a screenwriter, director, or casting director would. Anything less means you’re not getting as full a picture of the story as possible, and it not only dilutes the journalism, but also has a real impact on those watching in “teaching” them about the value of men vs. women in society, or white people vs. people of color.

How do you think that women and people of color could be better served by news media? Tell us in the comments below!

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