By Krystie Lee Yandoli
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The Women's World Cup riveted fans and garnered major coverage in newspapers and Web sites. Make no mistake. This media attention to women's sports is not the norm. Female athletes still only make up 8 percent of the sports pages.
(WOMENSENEWS)--The president's tweet, millions of TV viewers, serious and prolonged public interest, front-page coverage in mainstream major news outlets and the highest rating for a women's sports event in the history of broadcaster ESPN all made Sunday's match between the United States' and Japan's women's soccer teams a high-water mark for women's sports.
Twitter even announced on July 18 that the Women's World Cup sparked a record-breaking high of 7,196 tweets per second, outdoing the previous record held by the tweeting around the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
Among those who celebrated the game was Kali Villarosa, a 15-year-old commentator for the Women's Media Center, who wrote on July 18: "The bigger win was that millions of people tuned into one of the most watched women's athletic events in history and brought attention to a sport so important to girls like me."
The high tide of euphoria, attention and even glory paid to women's soccer shouldn't be mistaken for a new normal for women's competitions overall though.
Coverage of competitive female athletes is still only 8 percent of the sports pages, said Kathryn Olson, in a recent e-mail exchange. She is CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, based in East Meadow, N.Y.
On its Web site, the Women's Sports Foundation highlights a 20-year study of network and cable by the University of Southern California and Purdue sociologists that indicates that 8 percent could even be an overstatement.
The researchers found that 96 percent of sports news in 2009 was male-centric, while women's sports accounted for less than 2 percent of network news and ESPN Sportscenter coverage.
Sports Illustrated for Women, one of the only mainstream publications devoted to women's sports, closed shop in 2002 after operating for only four years. The majority of women's magazines cover health and fitness, with little if any journalism focused on female competitors.
The recent buzz around women's soccer could deceive readers into believing this amount of attention is normal. The front page of Monday's New York Times featured a sizable image of Japan's team celebrating their victory and sports sections everywhere were filled with coverage.
The 2011 Women's World Cup suggests there are many more women's sports fans out there than the paucity of media attention might suggest.
The National Football League and National Basketball Association are both facing lockouts because of disputes between players and owners over money and financial budgets.
Instead of filling Web sites and newspapers with articles about the details of these lockouts, editors might wish to consider giving readers--who more than likely prefer sports to financial negotiations--more coverage of Michelle Wie in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour this week? Or perhaps provide highlights of the Women's National Basketball Association All-Star game that airs today on ABC at 3:00 p.m. EST?
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Krystie Lee Yandoli is a Women's eNews editorial intern.
Women's Sports Foundation: