COVID-19 coverage

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the news, both as subjects and reporters. 

Studies like the Global Media Monitoring Project and the Women’s Media Center’s 2019 report of women in U.S. media have shown how the industry continues to fall short in gender inclusion. According to new research published in September, COVID-19 coverage is no different. 

In the “The Missing Perspectives of Women in COVID-19 News,” author Luba Kassova and her team at AKAS Ltd. explored women as sources of news and protagonists in news stories, as well as coverage of gender equality issues in reporting on the pandemic. The results highlight an absence of women in news, and little coverage of the issues that matter most to women as they navigate unique challenges during this global health crisis. 

“It felt that it would be a lost opportunity to not understand how the story was covered — the biggest issue of our lifetimes,” said Kassova.

The research explores news production in six countries — India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and the U.K. — during the early stages of the pandemic, from March 1-April 15, 2020. These countries were selected because of their large English-speaking audiences and geographic diversity.

The researchers, in collaboration with Media Ecosystems Analysis Group, analyzed more than 11,000 publications, public surveys, academic literature and public databases, and conducted a pronoun review of COVID-19 headlines. They were careful not to present the data in a vacuum. “Women have unique and profound challenges related to the pandemic,” said Kassova. “That makes the contrast with them lacking coverage of their views particularly painful.”

To clarify COVID-19’s impact on women, and the ways that different audiences consume news, the researchers included an opening section dedicated to the context into which the research was published. It explores the unique burden women carry globally during the pandemic, and the differences in the type of news they consume.

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by Taylor Mulcahey, International Journalists’ Network

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