Study: Women Journalists Have Produced More Credible, Trustworthy News on Covid19 Than Men
Women journalists have been producing more trustworthy news reports on Covid19 than men, a study by The Factual, a California-based technology company that measures the credibility of many news outlets, has found.
“At least when it comes to coronavirus, female journalists have been more neutral in their tone,” Phillip Meylan, a political analyst at The Factual told Voice of America (VOA). “They’ve been better resourced, and they’ve overall just produced better articles,” he added.
The Factual studied 39,084 articles from 167 news outlets. Of these, women made up 45% of all journalists and 41% of publication output. To determine the credibility of each news report, The Factual used an algorithm based on the publication’s history of trustworthiness, the author’s work, the sources used, and the tone of the story. Anything with a rating of 75% or above was considered very credible. Based on this calculation, they concluded that women reporters dominated the rankings for Covid19 by accounting for 19 of the top 25 journalists, and 58 of the top 100.
One possible reason for women performing better is that in fields such as journalism or political leadership, women have to be “as prepared or even overprepared to hold the same jobs that men hold, sometimes being paid less for those jobs, and are not afforded any mistakes,” said Lucina Di Meco, a gender equality expert and co-author of the current study.
Women are also known to approach leadership in a way that is more participatory and take into consideration a variety of stakeholders as compared to men. “And those are some of the same skills that are needed for a journalist to really shape a very good story that takes into account all the dimensions. So I definitely see parallels here,” Di Meco added.
The authors of the study said that while the findings don’t imply that we should only read the works of female journalists on Covid19, but they present an opportunity to ask one pertinent question — if female journalists are underrepresented, but are known to produce more credible news stories, how might that be affecting the quality of news we consume?
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According to a study, each year, women comprise more than two-thirds of graduates with degrees in journalism or mass communications. However, the media industry comprises just one-third of women, a number that only decreases for women of color. And of those who make it to the newsrooms, they are rarely assigned decision-making positions and relegated soft news stories such as entertainment and lifestyle as compared to men who are assigned stories of national and international importance. As part of the workforce, women continue to face challenges like those related to salary, promotions, and having to let go of stories for practical reasons like safety. In addition, women journalists are also more likely to experience sexual harassment regarding their work, even in the online space they continue to face threats and abuse.
As a result, women journalists often avoid engaging with readers, report on certain issues, or consider leaving journalism altogether, a combination that would mean less diversity in newsrooms with potentially damaging effects such as the absence of a layered perspective, said authors of the current study. Take, for instance, a study by the Women’s Media Center stated that women quote women in 42% of quotes, as compared to men who quote women in just 27% of them. This impacts the tone of the coverage and the scope, especially in political journalism, and ultimately shapes public opinion with regards to who we view as expert or credible.
“Recovering from the challenges Covid-19 has posed to our health system, democratic institutions, and the economy at large will need everyone’s effort and contribution — we can’t hope to do so with so many muted voices,” the authors stated.