It’s been 45 years since the passage of Title IX, 20 years since the successful launching of the WNBA, and over two decades since the Williams sisters’ debut and dominance in tennis both singly and together, yet women’s sports coverage remains as imbalanced as ever.
“Anyone can tell when you look at the sports pages,” stated Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women (OESW) Director Barbara Battiste. “Let’s actually do a count and see.”
She and Intern Jaimee Leibfried, a St. Catherine University graduating senior, examined the Star Tribune’s November 2016 women’s sports coverage and found just 8.7 percent of its stories were on women’s sports but over 85 percent were on men’s sports, with 6 percent on both genders.
“We subsequently received suggestions that we do a similar analysis during March Madness,” wrote Battiste in the OESW’s May newsletter that goes to all Minnesota lawmakers and others. “We were told that the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) does an outstanding job of covering women’s sports.”
As a result, the two women used this past March — the busiest sports month of the year — and counted sports articles, including multiple stories, “notes,” “jottings” and unrelated “etc.” pieces published in the Star Tribune, Duluth News Tribune, Sports Illustrated and the MSR, and examined women’s and men’s sports articles.
Sports media analysis falls within the OESW’s overall mission of advising state lawmakers on the importance of gender balance in all facets of life in Minnesota, said Battiste to the MSR in her State Capitol Building office as she shared her findings.
The MSR in March published an equal balance in men’s and women’s sports stories (41 percent each) and 18 percent in both gender articles; Star Tribune (83 percent men, 13 percent women, 4 percent both), Duluth News Tribune (76 percent men, 12 percent women, 12 percent both), and Sports Illustrated (75 percent men, 4 percent women, 21 percent both).
As the OESW results show, Minnesota’s oldest Black newspaper and the only Twin Cities weekly that regularly covers sports, is the proud, undisputed women’s sports coverage leader (more on this in this week’s MSR front page).
When asked, this longtime reporter admitted I was a bit surprised by the OESW’s findings. I wasn’t surprised that almost 50 percent of our sports coverage regularly features women’s sports. But I was surprised at the startlingly large margin between us and the others in this regard — three-to-one compared to the Minneapolis and Duluth dailies and 10-to-one compared to SI.
The late MSR senior columnist Kwame McDonald decades ago set the standard in women’s sports coverage, not only for this newspaper but for all media in this town. He taught me so much from the time we first met, as the two of us were on assignment for competing entities in the late 1980s — McDonald started his beat over a decade before that.
The Minnesota National Girls and Women in Sports Day Committee in 2015 renamed its annual media award after McDonald, who died in 2012. It’s the same award I was humbly honored in 2011.
After McDonald’s death, I became this area’s longest running women’s sports reporter, but this being said, I could never fill the shoes McDonald left behind or come close to reaching the high bar he set no matter how hard I try. But the OESW and our print and web readers nonetheless have appreciated our weekly efforts.
Deadspin.com’s Lyndsay D’Arcangelo lamented that some major sports sites “don’t have a WNBA tab on their websites.” But, the MSR does.
ESPN’s LaChina Robinson said in D’Arcangelo’s piece that she is offended that many media outlets don’t cover women’s pro basketball unless something controversial occurs. “They run a negative story about the league because they want to get clicks and views,” said the longtime WNBA and women’s college basketball analyst.
A year ago (MSR, June 16, 2016), I wrote that covering women’s sports has been a personal pleasure. A year later, it still is at the MSR — the women’s sports leader both locally and nationally.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.