Women in Sports Continue to Be Ignored by Mainstream Television New Shows

A new study led by Cheryl Cooky, an associate professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, finds that women’s sports on the collegiate and professional level get little attention in the mainstream media.

The authors have analyzed coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news shows for three decades. They have found “little change in the quantitative apportionment of coverage of women’s and men’s sports over the past 30 years.” Of all the sports news showed watched by researchers, 80 percent had no stories whatsoever about women’s sports.

The researchers found that men’s sports — especially the “Big Three” of basketball, football, and baseball — still receive the lion’s share of the coverage, whether in-season or out of season. “When a women’s sports story does appear,” the authors noted, “it is usually a case of ‘one and done,’ a single women’s sports story obscured by a cluster of men’s stories that precede it, follow it, and are longer in length.

In 2014, when the authors examined the lead story of televised sports news stories, there was not one story that was about women’s sports. In 2019, five sports news broadcasts opened with a story on women’s sports: all five were in the month of July, and all focused on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team winning the World Cup.

The authors conclude by saying that “daily sports news and highlights shows’ continuing failure to equitably cover women’s sports mutes women’s historic movement into sport and the impressive accomplishments of women athletes, as it continues to legitimize greater material rewards for men athletes while shoring up stubbornly persistent ideologies of male superiority.”

Dr. Cooky is a graduate of the University of Illinois, where she majored in kinesiology. She holds a master’s degree in sports studies from Miami University in Ohio and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Southern California.

The full study, “One and Done: The Long Eclipse of Women’s Televised Sports, 1989–2019,” was published on the website of the journal Communication & Sport. It may be accessed here.

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