The media is our society’s most powerful and influential purveyor of cultural and ideological messages, whether they are obvious or latent. This is especially true of the sports media, which downplays the importance of women’s sports to males and females alike. Although sports are viewed as a system of attaining personal achievement and moving towards equality among the sexes, the “female versions” of most sports are widely considered less significant than their male “equivalents.” While the most prevalent male sports athletes are household names, with their names and faces being printed on magazines and apparel, dominant female athletes are rarely featured in the limelight or well known throughout general society. This is largely due to the sports media’s grossly disproportionate balance of its coverage between male and female sports. Two relevant pieces of literature that support this conviction are “Female Athletes in the Media: Under Representation and Inadequacy” by Jessica Shaller of St. John Fisher College, and “Media Coverage of Women’s Sports Is Important” by Donna A. Lopiano, Ph.D. of Sports Management Resources. Through examining the homepage of ESPN’s website, I estimate that less than 5% of the featured material will pertain to women’s sports, while the overwhelming majority will cover men’s sports and male athletes.
I decided to code the homepage of the ESPN website because it is commonly known as the most popular sports-journalism outlet available on the Internet. ESPN, Inc. is the leading multinational sports entertainment company featuring the broadest portfolio of multimedia sports assets. Therefore, observations derived from examining its website are an accurate depiction of trends within the sports media industry as a whole. As I looked to prove that the sports media disproportionately represents men’s athletics over women’s athletics, my approach in coding was to physically count the number of men’s and women’s sports articles, scores, and “tweets” that appeared on the ESPN homepage on four separate days. I surmised that if ESPN did not believe any information within these three categories were especially relevant or interesting to their audience then they would not publish it onto the homepage.