Women in the sports pages, 1968--1997: A study of ideological influences on media content

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Women, Sports pages, Ideological, Media content

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Communication | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Women's Studies


This study examines the influence of ideology on mass media content. Employing hegemony theory and Shoemaker & Reese's (1996) levels of analysis, the author argues that the dominant ideologies of a society permeate the levels of analysis, affecting all those who help to shape news (reporters, sources, advertisers, etc.), and, ultimately, these ideologies are reflected in media content. Furthermore, when one of the dominant ideologies changes in response to a counter-hegemonic movement, the change is reflected in media content, as well.

The theory was tested by examining the connection between patriarchal ideology in the United States and coverage of women's and girls' sports in U.S. newspapers from 1968 through 1997. The hypotheses predict that as women gain status in U.S. society, the quantity of newspaper coverage of women's and girls' sports increases, and the quality of the coverage improves. Data representing newspaper coverage of women's and girls' sports were collected through a content analysis of 840 sports sections from four mid-sized metropolitan newspapers ( The Syracuse Post-Standard, The Des Moines Register, The Charlotte Observer , and The Sacramento Bee ). Data representing the status of women (the number of women in management and women's income as a percentage of men's income) were obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The hypotheses were tested with Pearson's correlation coefficient and regression analysis. Support was found for both hypotheses. One indicator of the quality of coverage and four indicators of the quantity of coverage had strong linear relationships with the indicators of women's status. The test results indicate that as patriarchal ideology evolved and women's status rose over the thirty years of the study, the amount of coverage of women's and girls' sports increased along a similar trajectory. Thus, the author concludes that patriarchal ideology, even as it was changing, was reflected in newspaper coverage of women participating in a part of the culture that had previously been the exclusive domain of boys and men. Autocorrelation, its remedies, and other issues of time-series analysis are discussed in the study.


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