Published on July 9, 2007
Will a New Medium for Sports News Offer Less Trivialization of Female Athletes? Examining Descriptors and Traditional Stereotypes in Internet Articles on the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournaments: Will a New Medium for Sports News Offer Less Trivialization of Female Athletes? Examining Descriptors and Traditional Stereotypes in Internet Articles on the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournaments Presented by Edward (Ted) M. Kian, Ph.D. University of Central Florida RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA: RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA A plethora of quantitative and qualitative studies on televisions, newspapers, and magazines have shown sport media provide less and different types of coverage to women’s sports than men’s sports. ( e.g., Bishop, 2003; Kane, 1996; Vincent, 2004) RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA: RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA Two major themes are prevalent in research on media coverage given to female athletes: 1. Exclusion: Sport media provides minimal coverage of women’s sports. 2. Trivialization: Describing female athletes as sex objects or comparing their abilities to men. RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA: RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA Historically, in the Western world sport has served as a hegemonic institution to preserve the power of men over women (Schell andamp; Rodriguez, 2000). Numerous scholars contended that the institutions of sport and mass media combine to reinforce masculine hegemony in society (e.g., Davis, 1997; Duncan andamp; Messner, 1998; Hardin et al., 2002). RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA: RESEARCH ON SPORT MEDIA In general, little academic research has been done on the emerging field of Internet sport journalism (Real, 2006). More than 50 million Americans now employ the Internet as their primary source of news information (Pew Research Center). No known scholars have examined if the gender-specific stereotypes of female and male athletes that have been reinforced through the use of descriptors, portrayals, and narratives in broadcast and traditional print sport journalism are also prevalent in online sportswriting. RESEARCH QUESTIONS: RESEARCH QUESTIONS RQ1: What types of descriptors and writing styles do Internet sportswriters use when writing about March Madness? RQ2: Are the gender-specific stereotypes and descriptors found in broadcast commentary of women’s and men’s college basketball, as well as nearly all types of media coverage of female and male athletes, also found in online stories on March Madness? METHODOLOGY: METHODOLOGY Content analysis of articles on the 2006 NCAA Division I women’s and men’s basketball tournaments to examine results on the use of descriptors. Content analysis is an unobtrusive or non-reactive method used by social scientists that has been applied to nearly every form of communication, such as newspapers, television, and speeches (Gunter, 2000; Krippendorff, 2004). SAMPLING SELECTION: SAMPLING SELECTION 249 total byline articles examined and coded on the NCAA Division I women’s and men’s basketball tournaments. Two sources: CBS SportsLine ESPN Internet These sources were selected because their host TV networks broadcasted the women’s and men’s tournaments. A PRIORI CODING PROCEDURES: A PRIORI CODING PROCEDURES Text of articles were coded for nine descriptive categories derived from pervious research: (1) physical appearances/attire; (2) athletic prowess/strengths; (3) athletic weaknesses/limitations; (4) positive skill level/accomplishments; CODING PROCEDURES AND DATA ANALYSIS: CODING PROCEDURES AND DATA ANALYSIS (5) negative skill level/failures; (6) family role/personal relationships; (7) psychological/emotional strengths; (8) psychological/emotional weaknesses; (9) humor. Intercoder reliability GENERAL FINDINGS: GENERAL FINDINGS QUESTION 1 FINDINGS: QUESTION 1 FINDINGS RQ 2: Are the gender-specific stereotypes and descriptors found in broadcast commentary of women’s and men’s college basketball, as well as nearly all types of media coverage of female and male athletes, also found in online stories on March Madness? Assumptions were made based on previous research (Billings andamp; Eastman, 2002; Billings, Halone, andamp; Denham, 2002; Carty, 2006; Christopherson, Janning, andamp; McConnell, 2002; Elueze andamp; Jones, 1998; Harris andamp; Clayton, 2002; Messner, Duncan, andamp; Jensen, 1996; Vincent, 2004; Vincent, Pedersen, Whisenant, andamp; Massey, 2007). ASSUMPTIONS: ASSUMPTIONS Women’s stories would include more descriptors on physical appearances, family roles or personal relationships, athletic weaknesses, negative skill level or failures, psychological or emotional weakness, and humor. Men’s stories would include more descriptors on athletic prowess, positive skill level or accomplishments, and psychological or emotional strengths. PRIMARY RQ FINDINGS: PRIMARY RQ FINDINGS However, just one of these assumptions held true for each area of examination. Overall, online articles had a higher average number of descriptors on athletic prowess for men’s basketball. PRIMARY RQ FINDINGS: PRIMARY RQ FINDINGS Most interesting, online writers were more likely to have included descriptors for physical appearances/attire and personal relationships/family roles when covering men’s basketball than women’s basketball. This contradicted previous media studies on gendered coverage, nearly all of which found descriptors on physical appearances or personal lives used more often in media commentary on female athletes than male athletes (e.g., Davis, 1997; Fink andamp; Kensicki, 2002; Kane andamp; Parks, 1992; Messner et al., 1996; Vincent, 2004). DISCUSSION: DISCUSSION The unexpected results from the a priori coding suggest online writers for at least the two examined media outlets may now recognize female basketball players for their athleticism and skill level at least as much as they do for male players. LIMITATIONS/DELIMITATIONS: LIMITATIONS/DELIMITATIONS This research only examined two major media outlets. Generalizations cannot be made from just examining two online sport news outlets. These two outlets are very popular, national outlets. However, no smaller, or regional outlets were examined. Therefore, the scope of this study may have been too broad. Unusual circumstances (e.g., UF basketball) could have skewed the results.