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Tuesday, July 28 • 14:46 - 16:15
"Gender Disparities in Social Media Coverage of the 2012 Olympics"

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Author: Adam Peruta

Background: 

The opportunities for female athletes have greatly increased since the passing of Title IX, yet media coverage of female athletes continues to lag behind. Although laws such as Title IX have been implemented to promote equity and female participation in sport, recent studies have shown that the institution of sport has given men a platform through which they sustain the ideology of male superiority (Messner 1993). Sport today is still dominated by men at nearly all levels, and the amount of coverage male athletes get in traditional media echoes this (Messner 2010). The increased participation of female athletes counter intuitively resulted in a decline of coverage in media. In 2010, Messner and Cooky, found that less than 2% of sports coverage on three top networks focused on women, and this was a decline from 2004. Studies of print media (Messner, Duncan & Jensen 1993) show similar results. What is less understood, however, is whether these disparities also apply to social media coverage.

Social media permeated every aspect of the 2012 London Olympics and played a critical role in the success of the broadcasting (Greyser and Kogan 2013). With our youngest generations of sports fans using new media more than old media to get their information, it is important to analyze the alignment of the content from the sports media outlets to these recipients.

Objective: 

This study seeks to contribute to our understanding of how media biases perpetuates inequality in sports by examining the social media coverage of the 2012 London Olympics by leading sports media outlets. Specifically, this research investigates 1) whether coverage varies by outlet; 2) whether the male bias in coverage observed in print and television media also applies to social media platforms; 3) whether engagement on social media content also favors male sports.

Methods: 

These questions were examined by conducting a content analysis of Faceboook posts (n=496) appearing on the top six sports news outlets’ Facebook pages during the 2012 Olympic Games (July 27- August 12, 2012). These data were collected using the Faceboook Graph API. The data were post level data and also included the engagement details on these posts – the likes, comments and shares. A content analysis was performed to code the data and create variables for: Olympic posts, gender, race, sport, team or individual sport and country. Univariate and bivariate analysis were performed to answer research questions related to frequency of Olympics posts, coverage of female sports and engagement levels on posts.

Results: 

The results show that nearly 60% of social media posts during the London Olympics from these sports outlets focused on the Olympics. Coverage, however, varied by network with NBC Sports (74%) having the highest coverage and Fox Sports (26%) the lowest. Results also show statistical differences in engagement with Olympics coverage content, with ESPN and Yahoo Sports posts having the highest engagement, even after adjusting proportionally for total page likes.

Across all news outlets, male athletes had higher levels of coverage compared to female athletes. On average, twice as many posts focused on male athletes (60%) compared to female athletes (31%), and 10% of the posts focused on both male and female athletes. Like overall coverage, there was variation between networks in the coverage of female athletes. NBC (8%) and Fox News (6%) had smallest difference in male to female coverage while Yahoo, CBS, Bleacher Report, and ESPN covered male athletes 2-3 times more compared to female athletes.

Future Work: 

Future work will examine the specific content of the posts, including text and media type, to investigate differences in the framing of male and female athletes. To extend this content analysis, I will also look at foreign media outlets’ Facebook posts from this timeframe to see if there are different perceptions and representations of Olympic athletes. Lastly, looking at the comments garnered on the posts and doing a sentiment analysis might yield insights into how the audience perceives a post based on its form and content.

References:
Greyser, S. A., Kogan, V. (2013). “NBC and the 2012 London Olympics: Unexpected 
Success” Harvard Business School.

Messner, M. A., Cooky, C. (2010). “Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlight Shows, 
1989-2009.” Center for Feminist Research.

Messner, M. A., Duncan, C., Jensen, K. (1993). “Separating the Men from the Girls: The 
Gendered Language of Televised Sports.” Gender & Society 7(1): 121-137.

Speakers

Tuesday July 28, 2015 14:46 - 16:15
(9th Floor) TRS 3-176 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

Attendees (6)