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By By Dr Kris Rampersad, Media Cultural and Literary Consultant, kriscivica@yahoo.com

We in Trinidad and Tobago pride ourselves in the strides women have made in education, in management and in leadership. We recognise and celebrate a number of feisty women who bring us the news and function as editors, commentators and hosts of various media shows in print and electronically. But here's some breaking news: the perception is one thing; the actual figures tell a story. How have our women in the media actually been impacting and changing the sphere in which they work?

Global Media Monitoring Day, November 10, 2009 might have been an ordinary day at work for newsroom staff. It was, however, a special day for the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago whose team monitored T&T's news media to feed into the report Who Makes the News of the Fourth Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). GMMP is the world's oldest and most extensive research on gender in the news media. It monitors women's voice/presence on national radio, television and print news. The GMMP exercise on that randomly chosen, fated day revealed a startling picture:

1. That presentations of women in the news had changed only marginally over the last decade;

2. That not unlike the global norm, the world that is reported in the news is mostly male; women continue to hover to near invisibility in the news;

3. Very little news – just under 10% of all stories – focussed specifically on women;

4. Overall, news stories were twice as likely to reinforce gender stereotypes rather than challenge them;

5. News stories on gender (in)equality were almost non-existent as in the 70-plus countries monitored;

6. Women were rarely central in stories that comprised the bulk of the news agenda. Less than 20% of news subjects – the people who are interviewed or whom the news is about – were women;

7. The sex of the journalist made a difference in whether or not women made the news: there were more female news subjects in stories reported by female journalists (25%) than in stories reported by male journalists (20%);

8. Expert opinion was overwhelmingly male with women comprising only 17% of experts who appeared in news stories;

9. As newsmakers, women were under-represented in professional categories.

Although it may be slightly skewed in terms of representation of the general picture given its focus on one random day, the GMMP 2010 report does show that gender parity is still a somewhat distant prospect for T&T and indeed in many regions of the world. News was more often being presented by women but it was still rarely about women. On this randomly chosen day, women were outnumbered by men as newsmakers in every major news topic.

In the Network's view, news media remain the major and most influential source of information, ideas and opinion for most people around the world. It is a key element of the public and private space in which people, nations and societies live. A nation or society that does not fully know itself cannot respond to its citizens' aspirations. Who and what appears in the news and how people and events are portrayed matters. Who is left out and what is not covered are equally important. Across the world, the cultural underpinnings of gender inequality and discrimination against women are reinforced through the media.

Specifically, in the analyses, of media parity for women in T&T, who delivered the news in T&T? On that day, 16 per cent were Women and 84 per cent were male; while the overall presence of women and men as news announcers in radio were 14 per cent female and 86 per cent male.

Who are the newsmakers in Trinidad and Tobago? Politicians and criminals. These two categories dominate with government officials, politicians, president, government numbering 26 stories on that day and criminal and suspect comprising ten stories. The Male to Female ratio in these two categories was 90 per cent versus 10 per cent, and 88 per cent versus 12 per cent, respectively. The presence of female and male news subjects in Trinidad and Tobago by medium – radio, TV and newspapers showed Print- female subjects 24 per cent; male subjects 76 per cent.

Other newsmakers were the police, military, paramilitary group, prison officers and in all instances featured men; similarly too for stories with lawyers, judges, magistrates, and legal advocate. The picture eased a little when it came to business persons, executives, managers, and entrepreneurs where women commanded some 23 per cent of the scene compared to men, at 73 per cent.

In terms of gender functions assigned by/in the news, women were marginally seen as news subjects or experts/commentators (only eight per cent), and as spokespersons (only 34 per cent) with men commanding all three areas.

In like manner, in construction social 'victims', in all categories victims were male subjects including areas such as accident, natural disaster, disease, poverty, domestic violence and crime.

In 35 per cent of the cases, the news equated women's identity through representation of their family status, while such identity was ascribed to men in only 16 per cent of the cases.

Significantly, female reporters identified men by their familial status 27 per cent of the time and women 25 per cent; while male reporters identified women 50 per cent of the time in this way and men only 9 per cent. Also significantly, female sources were equally sought by male and female reporters (50/50). However male sources were sought more by female reporters than male reporters (59/41). In effect, it also showed that female reporters reinforced gender stereotypes 100 per cent of the time and male reporters 94 per cent. This disparity however only represents one story in which the male reporter neither challenged nor reinforced stereotypes.

Overall, the Network found that 'Politics and Government' was one of the most highly discussed topics and also represented one of the highest percentage differences between male and female reporters — 74 per cent versus 26 per cent respectively. The gender gap was also strongly felt in topic ranked third 'Social and Legal' with 83 per cent versus 17 per cent and in 'Celebrity, Arts and Media' with 79 per cent versus 21 per cent male to women. 'Crime and Violence', however presented an almost equal figure of 51 per cent versus 49 per cent and women led only in two lower-ranking categories of Economy and Science and Health by small margins.

Not unexpectedly, the overall presence of women was highest in relation to the least popular topic 'Celebrity, Arts and the Media' (64 per cent), while the two highest ranking topics 'Politics & Government' and 'Crime & Violence' presented the greatest disparities of men to women, with 93 per cent versus seven per cent; and 95 per cent versus five per cent respectively.

Female subjects were present 100 per cent of the time in the following topics: Women's movement, activism, events, demonstrations, gender equality and advocacy, beauty contests, models, fashion, beauty aids, cosmetic surgery, and Celebrities, Arts and Media. Other high female representation showed 50-60 per cent representation in reporting related to: Education, child care, nursery, pre schools to University, adult education, literacy; Economic policies, strategies, models; Medicine, health, hygiene, safety, disabilities, medical research, funding and 'other' (minor) stories on politics and government. There was a male subject in 100 per cent of the time in 20 out of 50 topics and an overall percentage of 85.

Some of the statistics are in the chart below.

Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant and international relations director of the Network of NGOs of T&T for the Advancement of Women. Email: kriscivica@yahoo.com. Adapted from BlogSpot Demokrissy: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2010/10/breaking-news-about-women-in-t-news-by.html

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