Gender, Sport and Agenda Setting in a British Newspaper

Following my year-long machine learning analysis on gender representations on The Independent (UK) [for a month long analysis see this post here], here I want to focus on one particular issue: how those patterns fluctuate over time.

As I have discussed previously, women’s sport feature around 4% (see this post) and 13% (see this post) of the total news items produced on different mass media outlets – newspapers. Those figures are congruent with what other authors – like Toni Bruce in 2013 – find, and does show how media sport is still predominantly male – written by men, for men, and especially about men.

But my year-long machine learning analysis (Cohen’s k 0.79) on The Independent showed that there is a fluctuation on those patterns, especially with some peaks where women’s sport receive slightly more attention (7x increase). If we look at my previous post – focusing on just a month – we can see that on one day women’s sport has featured up to 19% of the total news.

But is this just a day fluctuation or can we see this over months as well?

If we look at the image below, it is possible to see that those fluctuations also take place on longer timeframes. With the analysis in hand it is interesting that it is not that difficult to finding possible causes for these peaks.

For instance, when women’s sport feature around 20% of the total news in June and July 2019 is because there are some events that become part of the agenda of mass media outlets. Either they were mega-events competed solely by women like the FIFA World Cup in France and Netball World Cup in England, hallmark events like Ashes and the British Open (Golf), or they were events where men and women competed at the same time and place like the US Open (Tennis), Wimbledon (Tennis), and the Diamond League (Track and Field Athletics).

So, what does this seasonal fluctuation tells us about women’s sport as part of mass media agenda? What can be the main reasons for those fluctuations? Are there ways of keeping a more balanced agenda setting in respect of gender representations?

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