WACC General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter and Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, consultant to United Methodist Women, present the findings of WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project at the Religion Communicators Council convention. Photo: Solange De Santis.
Attendees at the Religion Communicators Council annual convention, meeting in New York from March 31 to April 2, reacted to a workshop on WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) with ideas as to how the media can better cover women.
Among the suggestions – a comprehensive list of female experts and sources in denominations and elsewhere for deadline-driven journalists to consult and counteract the patriarchal nature of some organizations.
“If we want to promote women’s voices on faith and other issues, we should curate a common list of spokespeople,” said Carole St. Laurent, vice president of the WACC North American Executive Committee and founder of FluidIT Solutions, a multimedia consulting firm.
WACC General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter and Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, consultant to United Methodist Women (UMW), led the workshop on April 1, entitled “Red Light, Green Light: Coverage of Women in Media.” UMW is the largest denominational faith organization for women, with approximately 800,000 members. The U.S. portion of the GMMP was supported by UMW with funding and volunteers.
They presented the overall and North America findings of the 2015 GMMP, a survey of gender in the news media implemented in 114 countries. The 2015 edition took place on March 25. The GMMP has taken place every five years, starting in 1995, and is a comprehensive analysis of gender representation in print, broadcast and Internet news.
The latest version discovered that women – globally – are 24% of the persons seen, heard or read about in the news, a proportion unchanged since 2010 and only marginally higher than the 17% recorded in the first GMMP in 1995, Achtelstetter said. The GMMP monitors news since it is “seen as factual, showing reality, objective, and neutral,” she said.
Among solutions that have emerged along the way are a training kit developed with the International Federation of Journalists for reporters to be sensitive to gender issues across all stories, said Achtelstetter, but “nevertheless we are still at 24%.”
The GMMP also discovered an age bias in broadcast journalism, as older women – but not older men – were less represented among reporters and presenters. “The older you get, you disappear,” Achtelstetter said.
The issue, Dharmaraj said “is patriarchy at work. It is not women against men. It is against the system which puts our structures in men’s hands.”
An illustration of the issues discussed at the workshop, St. Laurent said, was that there was only one man attending the session. “We are preaching to the choir,” she said.
Solange De Santis is a freelance journalist who previously worked for AP and Reuters. She was a staff writer for nine years at the Anglican Journal in Toronto and most recently editor of the ecumenical news service ENInews.