Analysis: Gender Gap Narrowest in Network News

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Broadcast and cable primetime newscasts are the most gender-equitable news platforms, while print newspapers and wire services are the least, according to a new analysis by the Women‘s Media Center, that found, overall, a continuing media gender gap.

The center did not look at local broadcast news, only cable and broadcast network primetime newscasts as well as print, wire services and some major internet sites.

The survey found an even 50/50 split of women and men among the anchors and correspondents on the prime time weekday network evening newscasts, but from their the equity meter headed in the wrong direction. Of the online news stories studied, 57% were by men and 43% by women. For wire services, 63% of the bylines were men and 37% women.

Print remained the most male-centric, with 69% of the stories by men and 31% by women. Among the most male top-heavy papers was the Los Angeles Times with 81% men to 19% women.

Among the evening news broadcasts, the survey found that the majority of newscasts anchored by women — CBS‘s Norah O’Donnell, CNN’s Erin Burnett, MSNBC‘s Joy Reid and PBS‘s Judy Woodruff — tended to have more women anchors, hosts, correspondents and reporters. The exception was Fox News Channel‘s The Story with Martha McCallum.

But the newscast with the least percentage of women anchors, hosts, correspondents and reporters was ABC's World News Tonight (anchored by David Muir) with 28%, followed by NBC Nightly News (anchored by Lester Holt) at 34%, then Fox News‘s The Story with Martha McCallum at 39%. The network newscast with the highest percentage of women was The ReidOut on MSNBC (anchored by Joy Reid) at 70%, to 30% men.

But while MSNBC had the most women on the network newscast side, it had the least on its website, with 88% of the stories by men and only 12% by women. CNN was the most balanced with 54% of the stories by women to 46% by men.

Overall the outlets, the most male-dominated category of reporting is on sports, with 87% of the stories on broadcast, cable, print and wires by men and 13% by women. But that gap is much narrower in broadcast and cable, with women reporting 40% of the sports stories and men 60%.

The survey was based on an analysis of 62,002 "pieces of news content" Jan. 1-March 31, 2021, collected from the top 14 newspapers by circulation, seven primetime newscasts on “major broadcast and cable networks” two newswires and seven “major” internet sites. The networks were ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. The internet sites were, HuffPost, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, New York Times, The Washington Post and Vox.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.