Research: Male, female reporters cover sports differently

Jun 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Male and female reporters differ in the way they cover sports, especially in regard to the athleticism of female athletes, according to a recent study.

Analysis of stories about men's and women's basketball by researchers in the John Curley Center for Journalism at Penn State and the Sport Leadership Program at the University of Central Florida found that male writers — who dominate the sportswriting ranks — were less likely to present women's sports in positive terms than were female writers.

The study, co-authored by Marie Hardin, an associate professor in the College of Communications at Penn State and the associate director of the Curley Center, and Edward (Ted) Kian, an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Central Florida, is published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Sport Communication. More than 500 print and online articles focusing on NCAA basketball games were analyzed as part of the study.

Most stories analyzed, 86 percent, were written by men, which mirrors industry demographics. More than 60 percent of stories about women's games were covered by men. When male reporters covered women's games, they were less likely than female reporters to present student-athletes as athletically skilled.

The reverse was also true — women covering men's games were less likely to focus on the players' athleticism and instead mentioned the athletes' family relationships and attractiveness. Women wrote only six percent of all stories about men's games, however.

The bottom line: The way athletes were presented — as athletically gifted or in other terms relating to appearance, for instance — was related to the gender of the reporter covering them. And, because of lopsided industry demographics, coverage of women's still differs from men's in ways that might reinforce stereotypes, said Hardin.

"The research shows how the lack of female sportswriters can make a real difference in the ways athletes are presented in coverage," she said. "Men have always dominated sports departments, and that has clearly shaped the ways sports are covered."

The study is part of a growing body of research pointing to differences in the ways men and women cover sports, said Hardin. Previous Curley Center studies have documented differences in the ways reporters use sources and frame Title IX and women's sports. Specifically, women are more likely to use female sources and to present Title IX in more positive terms than are men.

The differences in the ways men and women cover sports are important, said Hardin. She pointed to a 2005 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which suggested that sports coverage, in general, is not very innovative and focuses on just a handful of sports.

"As more women move into sports journalism careers, we could see more diversity in sports coverage," Hardin said. "More diversity in types of stories, in sourcing and in the way stories are framed might draw new fans and allow for a wider array of sports and athletes to get visibility."

Provided by Pennsylvania State University

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Ballplayers use different tactics to repair images

Sep 26, 2008

As steroid-use scandals have threatened the reputations of Major League Baseball’s most prominent players during the past several years, those players have used a variety of strategies to repair their images, a new study ...

Sports machismo may be cue to male teen violence

Jan 23, 2008

The sports culture surrounding football and wrestling may be fueling aggressive and violent behavior not only among teen male players but also among their male friends and peers on and off the field, according to a Penn State ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

4 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

7 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

18 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...