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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Employment equity in Canadian newspaper sports journalism : a comparative study of the work experiences of women and men sports reporters Dépatie, Caroline


There is continuing evidence that North American newspaper sports departments are under pressure to rethink the contents of their sports pages as part of an overall strategy to gain larger readerships and rebuild their revenue base which eroded during the last recession (Sparks, 1994). Rambo (1986) has noted that some sports departments in the United States have hired more women sports journalists as a strategy to appeal to women readers and expand thereby their section readerships and potential advertising income. However, as reported in the literature, the overall number of women sports journalists working in major daily newspapers remains low. Women represent approximately 9% of the total work force of newspaper sports reporters in the United States (Eberhard & Myers, 1986) and 4.3% in Canada (Sparks, 1991). In addition to being under represented, women working in sports journalism often face discrimination on the job. This discrimination is, for example, revealed in a lack of high profile assignments and in difficulties with accessing senior editorial ranks (Eberhard & Myers, 1988; Creedon, 1994). This thesis investigated the work environment in Canadian daily newspaper sports departments and assessed the differential impacts of hiring practices, assignments procedures and promotion opportunities on women and men sports reporters respectively. Data was collected through a national survey. Questionnaires were sent to all women sports reporters (N=21) working full-time in a Canadian daily newspaper and to all men sports reporters (N=134) working full-time in a Canadian daily newspaper that employed one or more women sports reporters full-time. Questionnaires were also sent to all sports editors (N=106) working for a Canadian daily newspaper. Separate questionnaires were designed for sports reporters and for sports editors. For sports reporters a total of 88 questionnaires (56.8%) were completed and returned, 16 (76.2%) from women sports reporters and 72 (53.7%) from men sports reporters, for a total response rate of 56.8%. The information obtained from sports reporters was first analyzed as a whole and then analyzed with a matched sample. The matched sample included all women sports reporters who had responded (n=16) and an equivalent selected number of men sports reporters. The information obtained from sports editors was used to support the findings from the sports reporters. Four major themes emerged from the data analyses of the matched sample. First, the nature of the assignments and the visibility of the work was different for women and men sports reporters. Women sports reporters covered less prestigious assignments, published 17 articles less per month than their male peers, and a significantly higher number of women than men (p=.0170) agreed to covering more women's sports than their male peers. Second, there was a lack of opportunities to advance in the field of sports journalism and for women working in sports journalism. Although, the opportunities to advance in the field of sports journalism were limited, significantly (p=.0281) more women than men respondents tended to think that women did not have the same opportunities to advance in the field than their male peers. Third, sports journalism was male dominated and women and men sports reporters tended to belong to different networking groups. No woman was affiliated with a professional sports association. Fourth, although women reporters were unhappy with a number of things, they would still be willing to become reporters again. Over 50% (n=8) of them were not satisfied with issues surrounding career advancement, working schedule and work assignments. However, seventy five percent (n=12) of them said they would choose to become sports reporters if they had to decide again.

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