Women's Media Center Study Will Cause Depression, Nausea

We’re just a couple of months into 2014 and already women are making serious strides in the media. After all, February marked the first time in human history that NBC allowed a woman to anchor the primetime Olympics coverage without a man by her side.

Of course, Meredith Vieira doesn’t really have NBC to thank. No, she owes the hosting gig to the conjunctivitis that sidelined regular host Bob Costas — and to the scheduling conflict that made it impossible for first-choice sub Matt Lauer to fill in for a fourth consecutive night.

Yes, this is where we are in 2014. And as it happens it’s that time of year when the amazing Women’s Media Center simultaneously enlightens and depresses us with its annual report on the state of women in the U.S. media.

As in previous years, the report does not paint a pretty picture. Here are some numbers from the world of journalism:

  • Women represent 36 percent of all newspaper-newsroom staff — a figure that’s barely budged since 1999.
  • Male opinion-page writers outnumber women four to one at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
  • Women comprise 15.3 percent of the boards of the nation’s top-10 news organizations.
  • White men host all but one of the Sunday morning talk shows.
  • Men own all of the 20 most-visited online news sites.

The study also looks at women in Hollywood. If you think the success of Gravity and the Hunger Games franchise means that women are making some genuine inroads — well, think again.

Indeed, as Cate Blanchett pointed out in her Oscar acceptance speech, male decision makers in Hollywood are “still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences.”

  • In the top 100 films of 2012, women had 28.4 percent of the speaking roles.
  • Women made up just 16 percent of the directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors who worked on the 250 top-grossing American films of 2013.
  • Women had 43 percent of the speaking parts in prime-time TV. (Hold the champagne: According to a San Diego State study cited here, women tended to be much younger than their male counterparts. Think about the 17-year age difference between Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn the next time they’re entangled in a Scandal-ous smooch.)

The Women’s Media Center study also explores race, and the data are just as troubling. In fact, it’s no coincidence that Melissa Harris-Perry — a biracial woman — hosts the Sunday talk show booking the most diverse range of guests.

A Media Matters study of the first six months of 2013 found that 61 percent of the guests on The Melissa-Harris Perry Show were people of color. In contrast, 80 percent of the guests on Meet the Press were white and a whopping 88 percent of Face the Nation’s guests were white.

These statistics should do more than dishearten us. They should also serve as a wakeup call. As Free Press has noted on other occasions, white men own almost all of our media. And when you own the vehicles of production, chances are the content emerging from those newspapers, TV networks, movie studios and Internet companies will look a lot like you.

So if you needed another reason to oppose the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, this is it. The merger will bring us one giant company that controls marquee television and movie content, as well as the primary vehicles — a major television broadcast network, a major cable system operator and a major broadband Internet access provider — for distributing that content.

Think women and people of color will fare well in that scenario?

Think again.

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