Study Says Women Are Seen Too Much and Not Heard Enough in Online Journalism

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Where are all the female news subjects in online journalism?
Where are all the female news subjects in online journalism?Photo: NBC/Getty Images

While by last count it felt like there were several hundred websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts dedicated to the stories of women and their precious yonis (this one included, hello), a new study says that women in media are often seen rather than heard.

Published in peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE last week, the study examined 2,353,642 articles, culled from 950 English-language news outlets, over a period of six months. Using artificial intelligence to investigate both words and images in stories published online, researchers found that within these articles women were more often represented in images rather than in text, meaning women were used to illustrate stories visually but not asked to contribute their voices.

According to their research, “We found that males were represented more often than females in both images and text, but in proportions that changed across topics, news outlets and mode.” The study’s authors, who are researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Bristol, said their findings were “consistent across nearly all topics and in over 96% of the news outlets under scrutiny, and points in the direction of a traditional association in western philosophy, linking women to bodies and the private sphere, and men to mind and the public sphere.”

The findings in PLOS ONE line up with a 2013 study published in the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications that discovered that, during a two-week period leading up to the 2012 presidential election, men were used more often than women as expert sources in stories written by both male and female journalists.

Time to start asking women questions, which is a drag, we know.