New report: Want more women in the news? Hire more women journalists.

A newly-released report on gender in Uganda’s news media says that female journalists are more likely than their male counterparts to select females as new sources.

The findings are part of the Uganda country report of the Global Media Monitoring Project 2015. For the past 20 years, the Global Media Monitoring Project has conducted “the world’s longest-running and most extensive research on gender in the news media”. The findings are released every five years in a report titled Who Makes the News and comprise an internationally recognised data source on gender reporting, gender representation and women in the newsroom.

The report, released in November this year, shows that female journalists were two times more likely to use women as news sources than their male colleagues. Stories written by female journalists were also more likely to raise issues of gender equality or inequality, and were “almost two times more likely to challenge gender stereotypes” than male journalists.

The Uganda country report is based on findings from 84 stories in four newspapers (New Vision, Daily Monitor, Red Pepper and The Observer), one television station (UBC TV) and three radio stations (UBC Radio, Capital FM and Central Broadcasting Service). These media houses were chosen because of their wide coverage and audience sizes and monitoring of their output was conducted on one news day, 25 March 2015.

Central to the findings is the absence of women’s voices in major topics covered by the news media. Of the stories monitored, women constituted only 28% of the total news subjects. They were either significantly absent or barely used in stories on politics and government, the economy, and social and legal issues.

According to the report, “women made the news mostly in the area of celebrity, arts and media”, the reporting topic that received the least coverage in all media monitored. It is noteworthy that this topic, as well as the area of science and health in which women were also the majority of main news subjects, are news beats in which reporting by female journalists was dominant.

While news subjects were overwhelmingly male (72 percent of all news subjects), women were more likely to be covered by newspapers and television. Radio, on the day monitored, featured women the least, dedicating only 13 percent of their reporting to women as the main subjects of a news story.

How women are portrayed in the news

One of the most striking results of the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project findings on Uganda is that “women who made the news did so mostly in the fields traditionally associated with women as homemakers, parents”, as well as child care workers or less-prestigious roles “such as office or service worker and non-management worker”. On the other hand, professions associated with power were dominated by men.

Although the number of women in the police, military and parliament is growing, journalists used them as new subjects only to a marginal extent. In the academia, where women are growing in number, both in leadership and research expertise, 87 percent of the academic sources were men, while only 13 percent were women.

The report provides data that suggests that this state of affairs may be caused by biases regarding women’s roles in society. It notes that while most news subjects were not identified by their family status, “further analysis shows that women were almost five times more likely to be identified by their family status a wives, mothers, daughters, aunties, etc, as opposed to men being referred to as husbands, sons, uncles, etc”.

This data confirms earlier findings published in a 2014 report, ‘Gender dimensions in Uganda’s print media: A case for engendering practitioners’, commissioned by the Uganda Media Women’s Association. That study of five newspapers, conducted in April and May 2014, found that women “are less likely to write about, appear in, or have their voices heard in ‘hard’ news stories such as politics, defence, spirituality and the economy. They are, however, more evident in ‘soft’ news areas such as education, health and agriculture, but more so in arts, entertainment and relationships.”

Global comparisons

The global report found that media in Uganda are not alone in their male-centred selection of news sources. The journalistic gender lens, the report says, “is also skewed towards a certain type of masculinity when selecting interviewees for all types of views, from ‘expert’ opinion to ‘ordinary’ person testimonies”.

Interestingly, this bias does not affect media house decisions on who presents the news on television or radio. Across the countries surveyed, about half the television newscasts and radio programmes are presented by women. However, the study found that there was a “gross overrepresentation of younger women as anchors, a severe underrepresentation of women in the 50-64 bracket … and at 65 years and older, women also disappear from the screen as reporters”.

In Uganda, the television announcers and reporters monitored were all female. Interesting though, was the observation that none was over the age of 34.

On the global print media front, male journalists were more than two times the number of their female counterparts. In Uganda that figure was much higher. Of all the print journalists surveyed, 80 percent were male.

Finding solutions

The Global Media Monitoring Report 2015 recommends the four main strategies for media houses to advance gender equality:

  • Mainstream gender by developing gender policies, resource materials and policy guidelines.
  • Ensure gender balanced reporting by imparting gender analytical and writing skills for all journalists.
  • Allocate assignments, resources and space equitably to both female and male journalists.
  • Adopt universally acceptable and recommended strategies.

The recommendations add to efforts currently being undertaken through separate training events conducted by the Uganda Journalists Union and the Uganda Media Women’s Association. A number of newsrooms also have adopted a training manual on gender-sensitive reporting that was released in May 2015.


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