By Brigitte L. Nacos
Each spring, when the media report on “March Madness,” they hype the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with the NCAA women’s basketball play-offs not even an afterthought. That’s how it was in the past; that’s how it is today. And it is likely that nothing changes dramatically in the foreseeable future.
You can observe gender framing in sports reporting in print, TV, radio, and online. If covered at all, women sports rarely receive as extensive and prominently placed coverage as male sports. I have observed this for years in the sports pages of the New York Times, for example, but equally on television, such as ESPN and the Golf Channel.
Even the crawls on TV screens show gender bias in that the results of female competitions rank inevitably behind literally all male results, if reported at all. That is not unique but particularly striking on the Golf Channel, where the male PGA tour, the secondary male Web.com Tour, the Champions Tour of male golfers 50 years and older, and the male European Tour rank most of the time before the Ladies Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.
This morning, I experienced this gender gap online.
Trying to find the schedule of the NCAA’s women’s tournament, I clicked on Yahoo’s “Sports” and found on the left sidebar NCAAB for NCAA Basketball. I was hardly surprised that a mouse click brought up plenty of information about the Men’s2014 NCAA Tournament, nothing on the women’s tournament.
I found it eventually by clicking “All Sports” and NCAAW among the choices.
Similarly, as usual, Yahoo’s golf page displays today the PGA leaderboard of this week’s tour event but not that of the LPGA’s.
In the past, when I discussed what I consider gender discrimination in sports reporting, the number one counterargument has been that male sports, professionals and amateurs, are far more popular, draw huge crowds, bring in the big money.
Although I haven’t seen empty seats watching the ladies of Connecticut or Tennessee or Stanford or Notre Dame or many others now competing in the big tournament, it is true that there is generally far more interest in men’s competition.
Here the old “chicken-or-egg first” question comes in. Are most people simply less interested in female sports competition or has the mass-mediated gender bias in favor of male athletes caused this gender gap?
I believe that the mass media together with male dominated sports programs contributed, if not caused this drastic difference in the appreciation of male and female athletics.
The notion that greater diversity in the news rooms would diminish all kinds of biases—among them disadvantageous gender frames--has not materialized so far.
Even women at the top of media organizations do not promise change in this respect.
Note that Marissa Mayer is the President and CEO of Yahoo and thus in charge of Yahoo Sports as well.
P.S. This Sunday morning, as I listened to New York based local radio and TV programs, the sports newscasters talked at length about yesterday's results in the men's NCAA basketball tournaments, detailling the major matchups and mentioning in particular how the Connecticut and Syracuse teams had fared. There was not a word about the local St. John's Women's team that was victorious in the NCAA Womens' basketball playoffs nor about Fordham's women who lost a very close game.