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July 3, 2024

Why male voices dominate when it comes to news on social media

Sophia Smith Galer, Marverine Cole and Amy Ross Arguedas share their views.

By Juliana Pamiloza

Why do male voices dominate when it comes to news influencers on social media? The Reuters Institute Digital News Report asked a representative sample in Britain and the US to name any individual social media accounts they follow when it comes to news content and found that in both the UK and US all ten of the most popular news influencers were men.

When Press Gazette shared the list on Twitter, radio presenter Louise Hulland suggested a list of female news influencers: Victoria Derbyshire from the BBC, Emily Maitlis from Global, Shelagh Fogarty (BBC), Sophy Ridge from LBC and Beth Rigby from Sky.

ITV newsreader Marverine Cole noted that women of colour were also missing from the list. She said: “So many excellent female news broadcasters out there, across the board. Big question is how can that balance be achieved where weight and support (as revenue?) is put behind top female news and current affairs voices and faces?”.

And Sky News digital assistant Talya Varga suggested colleagues including Sophie Ridge, Yalda Hakim and Alex Crawford would be good female additions to the list.

In 2023, Press Gazette compiled a list of 180 UK journalists with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. Nine out of the top ten most-followed individuals were men with Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC in fifth spot with 1.41 million followers.

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The Collabstr 2024 Influence Marketing Report looked at 80,000 influencer profiles across major social media platforms globally and found that 70% are from women. However, these female influencers often orient their content towards beauty and lifestyle, rather than news.

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According to The Missing Perspectives of Women in News Report in 2020, women remain a minority in newsrooms globally, especially when it comes to senior newsroom roles in the UK and US.

Press Gazette asked postdoctoral research fellow Amy Ross Arguedas, who helped write the 2024 Reuters Digital News Report, to explain the findings.

She said: “The gender imbalance, when it comes to top individual news-related accounts, is striking, especially when keeping in mind that women tend to be heavier users of social media in general.

“This is the case across all five countries analysed, where we see men almost exclusively dominate these lists of top five or ten news-related accounts mentioned.

“There are variety of factors that could be shaping this, both on the supply and demand side, many of which are impacted by gender norms and disparities in the broader culture. For example, on the demand side, it is possible that many audiences prefer following men for news on social and video platforms.

“Many of the individual accounts mentioned are largely focused on politics and political commentary, a traditionally male-dominated subject, and that might be magnifying the trend we see in the data. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this is a survey of audience perceptions and subject to recall biases, so another possibility is that people defaulted to providing examples of accounts centered on political topics when answering the question, even as they may also follow other kinds of accounts focused on more ‘soft’ news.

“Some of this could also be driven by the supply side of things, meaning there could be more men producing this kind of news-oriented content, and especially politics-focused content, on social media. Some research shows women are underrepresented in bylines of political news topics and this could be an extension of more traditional newsroom gender dynamics (which in turn can also be driven by unequal allocation of beats by newsroom managers as well as journalists’ preferences).

“However, there is also a lot of research documenting the online harassment of women journalists, often through social media (which can in some cases escalate to other forms of violence), and which could disincentivize more women from doing this kind of work online.”

We also asked Marverine Cole to expand on the comments she shared via X about the report. Cole is a newsreader for ITV’s Good Morning Britain and worked in broadcasting for 20 years.

She said: “I think the reason it is happening is because of the old adages that: men dominate generally in journalism, and media presenting; they are platformed more readily and white men in particular, men’s viewpoints are held paramount above women’s and women having any opinion often get shouted down and belittled when it comes to news topics, and we generally get abused for having one, full stop.

“Then when it comes to female journalists of colour we are few and far between in the industry anyway, so we’re even less likely to be hired, let alone be listened to, commissioned or promoted in this space. I started my politics podcast to have a ‘dog in the fight’ because I knew no-one was ever going to commission or resource me to do it, so I did it myself and carve my own path and narrative… I get appreciation for talking about things in a way, no other podcast is.”

Former BBC and Vice journalist Sophia Smith Galer has more than 500,000 follower on Tiktok.

Asked whether she thinks female influencers are being silenced by men, she said: “I’m not sure this is the case. I am confident that on Twitter it is mainly men who retweet each other and women retweet each other as that is what research has suggested.

“Male news influencers aren’t the problem – I would be asking news bosses about what they are doing to amplify women both internally and externally, and what they have done in the last year to serve women audiences.

“We also know from non-fiction readership that women are far more likely to read a book by men than the other way round. There is a fundamental issue here both with how women are amplified in journalism and their career progression; there’s also an issue with how much appetite men have as news audiences to pay attention to women.

“That’s not a problem of a select few high profile men online – that’s a problem of all men.”.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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