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Too little women sports in the media

The talented athletes are there. The cheering fans are there. But the media? It’s nowhere to be found. This is a summary of women’s sports, which continue to be almost entirely excluded from television news and sports highlights shows, according to a University of Southern California/Purdue University study with a summary published in EurekAlert, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

95% of total television coverage as well as the ESPN sports highlights show SportsCenter focused on men’s sports in 2019. The situation is similar in social media posts and in online sports newsletters coverage, which were included in the report for the first time since researchers began gathering data three decades ago.

Positive development include increasing live televised coverage and prominent news outlets like the Los Angeles Times devoting more resources to women’s sports.

But the coverage of women’s sports hasn’t increased in terms of television news and highlights shows, the more critical components of the “larger media apparatus” that helps create audiences for sports, report author Michael Messner told EurekAlert. Messner is professor of sociology and gender studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“News media focus on the ‘big three’ men’s sports –football, basketball and baseball–creating audience knowledge about and excitement for the same sporting events over and over. Meanwhile, women’s sports continue to get short shrift, which is significant when you consider the larger picture of girls’ and women’s efforts to achieve equal opportunities, resources, pay and respect in sports.”

Messner and study co-author Cheryl Cooky of Purdue University say this “missing piece” of media coverage is stunting the growth of audience interest in and excitement for women’s sports.

“Eighty percent of the news and highlights programs in our study devoted zero time for women’s sports,” said Cooky, a professor of American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “On the rare broadcast when a women’s sports story does appear, it is usually a case of ‘one and done’ — a single women’s sports story partially eclipsed by a cluster of men’s stories that precede it, follow it and are longer in length.”

“Considering the ease of posting content and the relative lack of production and budgetary constraints when compared to TV news, we anticipated more coverage of women’s sports in online and social media spaces,” Cooky said. “We were surprised by how little coverage we found. There just isn’t a compelling excuse for that absence.”

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