Women’s sports coverage sparse compared to men’s

T.J. Gerlach - Senior Editor

T.J. Gerlach – Senior Editor

Recently I began to notice a trend in the media. It has become pretty bad on television, but it is even worse in print.

The coverage of women’s athletics in the news severely lacks. College papers seem to be the only major source of coverage women athletes can get, and this is only for those athletes still in college.

Professionals are lucky, and I am sure glad, when sports magazines like Sports Illustrated or ESPN: The Magazine show up to cover a game or event.

On the other hand, go to any regular season match-up between two average men’s professional teams (or college for that matter), and look how many reporters, photographers and camera people are around. Usually, you could count them on one hand at a women’s game, even in the playoffs.

I have known several women athletes in both high school, and here at Missouri Southern. I know there are hundreds more like them in the world, and I know each of them is just as dedicated to their team and sport as all the male athletes in the world. Many of these women gain determination from the lack of attention in order to attract some attention to them and their team.

The Women’s Sports Foundation said 38-42 percent of all sports participants are women, but women receive only six to eight percent of the total sports coverage. The Foundation included a study done of four major newspapers, finding only three-and-a-half percent of all sports stories were women-only. Men’s stories outnumbered women’s 23 to one.

Where did this trend start? I doubt anyone could say for sure. More than likely it stems from the fact women’s sports were, in general, developed later than men’s sports. Also, when most modern sports were developed, the world had a large male bias, and this carried over through the years, especially in the media.

The Media Awareness Network of Canada gave the results of a study done on three network affiliates in Los Angeles and ESPN’s “Sports Center.” The study showed only nine percent of airtime on the LA affiliates and just two percent on “Sports Center.”

MNet also said images of women athletes in the media tend to be more “hyper-sexualized poses.”

The group also said sports commentators typically use forceful words when talking about male athletes, but use weaker terms to describe female athletes. MNet said this type of labeling makes women seem more child-like. This notion is amplified by the commentators using women’s first names almost exclusively as opposed to their last names, as is typically done in men’s sports.

Admittedly, I have seen and done this in my time on The Chart, but we do strive for equal coverage. In general, we and the other college newspapers I have seen do shed equal light on women’s sports.

It is unfortunate the majority of the market does not follow suit.

But, as the Women’s Sports Foundation said research has shown one major factor in what determines sports coverage in professional newspapers is the interests of the sports editor. And since many sports editors grew up when women’s sports were not highly appreciated, the coverage suffers as well.

It is time the media woke up and give women athletes their due.