Collaborative research from the University of Bristol and the Cardiff University has concluded that women are being marginalised by mainstream news websites.

Using facial and name recognition technology to evaluate more than 2.3 million news reports, collected from 950 separate news outlets over a six-month period, scientists were able to identify the difference between male and female representations on digital news platforms.

Findings demonstrated how women are being marginalised by the mainstream media, which prefers to feature the female form in pictures while quoting men as the professional source or expert.

Comparatively, women were found to feature significantly more in articles regarding topics such as fashion, art and entertainment, but were much less noticeable in articles about sport and politics, in which the male opinion tends to dominate. According to researchers, these findings provide “empirical evidence” that women are being marginalised by the digital news media.

“When women do show up in the news, it is often as ‘eye candy’, thus reinforcing women’s value as sources of visual pleasure rather than residing in the content of their views,” notes the paper, entitled Women Are Seen More than Heard in Online Newspapers.

Researchers state these results support similar results found in previous studies. One such study analysed hundreds of televised news events to find that female reporters were considerably more likely to present human interest or health-related stories, whereas men were once again used as experts.

“Our large-scale, data-driven analysis offers important empirical evidence of macroscopic patterns in news content, supporting feminist researchers’ longstanding claim that the marginalisation of women’s voices in the news media undervalues their potential contributions to society, and in the process, diminishes democracy,” said Dr Cynthia Carter, senior lecturer at the Cardiff School of Journalism and co-author of the study.

Findings will be published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Additional reporting by The Independent.

Image via Shutterstock.

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