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How Women Make Front Pages in the UK's Media

01/03/2016 07:56 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:12 GMT

all women everywhere

The 2016 Press Awards, to be announced in London on 22 March, are causing quite a stir. Only 20 of the 114 journalists nominated are women, suggesting that that gender inequality in newspapers still remains an innate problem.

One of the UK's largest training, networking and campaigning organisations for women working in media, Women in Journalism (WIJ), published research into the question of how women are represented in newspapers, both as the writers and subjects of stories. Its findings were striking.

Five Women in Journalism committee members looked at the front pages of our major national daily newspapers, both broadsheets and tabloids, from 16 April to 13 May, 2012 and organised their research into three categories: "byline count"; "content analysis" and "photo analysis."

The investigation revealed a distinct lack of leading female bylines in print, a lack of female experts cited by journalists and an often reductive image of women presented within stories.

The researchers from Women in Journalism included Sue Ryan, former managing editor of the Daily Telegraph and chair of the Journalist's Charity, Fiona Bawdon, editor of Legal Action magazine, Tracy Corrigan, then editor of the Wall Street Journal UK, Jane Martinson, the Guardian's Head of Media and Kira Cochrane, Guardian Features writer and author.

The team decided to undertake their own investigations following an article by Cochrane that found 75% of bylines were male across the seven national newspapers over a four-week period and that in no single edition, did the number of female bylines surpass or even equal that of their male counterparts.

The Women in Journalism study:

WIJ's research found that on average, 78% of bylines on our national daily front pages were male and 22% female. It also found that the lead story - or the "splash" - was more often written by a man (81%) than by a woman (19%).

Although the researchers assumed that tabloid newspapers would have fewer female bylines, there seemed to be little apparent difference between them and broadsheets.

women in journalism

One surprise in these findings was the distinct lack of female representation on the front page of the Independent. In the four weeks of research there was only one woman mentioned in the Independent's lead stories. Although less pronounced in other papers, the Independent's under-representation reflected a general trend across the titles.

The team categorised people mentioned according to their roles in the stories. The following categories were chosen after examining the most common types of people portrayed in articles: experts, victims, celebrity, family or perpetrators.

Of the sample of women, 61% were experts, 19% victims, 11% celebrity, 5% family and 4% perpetrators, whilst amongst the male sample 82% were experts, 2% victims, 5% celebrity, 4% family, and 6% were perpetrators.

It seems newspapers are reluctant to cite female experts as readily as they do men, instead preferring to portray women as victims. Across all the front page stories, 75% of experts cited were men and 79% of victims were women. In fact, over this four-week period, in every single one of the Guardian's lead stories, all named men were experts.

This is not a problem particular to print. At a City University event, journalism professor Lis Howell, a former senior TV executive, revealed that an anonymous ITV journalist had justified his decision not to use female experts in his broadcast reports with, "It's our job to hold authority to account, and women aren't in authority."

The final stage of the research involved a photo analysis. The team found the following people were the most represented, with the number of images used in brackets:

Duchess of Cambridge (19)

Simon Cowell (13)

Nicolas Sarkozy (10)

Madeleine McCann (7)

Jeremy Hunt (7)

Prince William (7)

Pippa Middleton (7)

Francois Hollande (6)

Rupert Murdoch (6)

Fabrice Muamba (5)

The photo analysis found that 70% of the images portrayed men. Whilst the men were part of legitimate hard news stories, for example Sarkozy had just lost the French presidential election and was replaced by Hollande, and Simon Cowell had a new book published during the investigation, women were portrayed for their royal appendage and looks or defined by their status of "victim".

Although the Women in Journalism study was conducted from a small sample, its findings show the media's general trend towards the under-representation of women and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Despite inroads with the closing of 'lad's mags' FHM and ZOO last year, the (albeit reluctant) suspension of Page 3 and Katherine Viner's editorship at The Guardian, print media, it seems, is still overtly dominated by men.

For more information about the research and for details about upcoming WIJ events follow @WIJ_UK on Twitter or visit our website, www.womeninjournalism.co.uk

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about