By Susan Wiczynski, Owner, Sporty Hair
If you are one of the 30 million Americans who reads a newspaper (paper or digital) everyday, have you looked at the Sports section lately?
Ever noticed who is largely missing from those pages? Here’s a hint: if you are a female athlete or are involved in women's sports, then the answer is YOU.
We did an unscientific research project using our local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. Over a period of 4 days last spring, we counted 95 articles (with 58 photos) of boys’ and men’s sports, but only 8 stories about female athletes or teams.
We tried again later in the year (not during the Olympics). Over 5 days (Monday through Friday), there were 110 articles or blurbs about male athletes (79 photos) but only 19 about female athletes -- most of which were 1-sentence mentions about local student athletes. Of the six women’s photos, two were of the same person.
Meanwhile, during these survey periods:
a female wrestler was the first ever to win an individual state championship, beating male opponents
a female coach will be the first to go to the Superbowl
an All-Star WNBA guard was re-signed
the women’s division winner of a Kite Surfing World Cup was announced
a new cricket competition in the UK announced that male and female winners would be given equal prize money
a partial deal was struck between the US Soccer Federation and the women’s national team over unequal working conditions.
Female athletes are out there. None of this news was included in the local newspaper.
It’s not as if there was too much crucial men’s news to leave room for the women’s. The articles about men’s athletics included drivel about a MLB player who had to shave his beard when he moved from the Rangers to the Yankees and a multi-page (!) article about the catcher on our baseball team who has shifted his stance from squatting to kneeling. Even when women were covered, the coverage could be male-centric: one story about Trinity Rodman, an impressive young soccer player, reserved half the article to the fact that she is Dennis Rodman’s daughter.
WeI reached out to Izzy Tihanyi, co-owner of Surf Diva (one of San Diego’s largest and oldest surf schools) for her thoughts. “It makes me question their motives and accountability in the rest of their reporting, if they can be so blinded to females in sports,” she said. She feels that the media is either lazy, or the lack of coverage is intentional. “It would be cool to call out the old sports hacks who ignore the feminine side of sports. It’s like females don’t exist in the Sports section.”
Jay Posner, Sports Editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, discussed the chicken-egg problem with us. Without a local women’s pro basketball or soccer team, “there is not as much interest … as there is in the major men’s sports.” Without interest, there is little or no coverage (exacerbated by shrinking editorial resources), and of course with no coverage, there is little interest.
Some say that women’s sports are less interesting and thus less lucrative than men’s. If they are, then it’s only BECAUSE they get less coverage. During the Olympics, we saw a much larger slice of the sports page pie given over to female athletes; however, the grossly unequal coverage has returned now that the games are over. We need to demand media coverage for women’s sports and female athletes so fans can get excited about them, and little girls can dream of future sports successes just like little boys do.