Date of Completion

Spring 5-10-2009

Thesis Advisor(s)

Jennifer Bruening, Maureen Croteau

Honors Major

Communication Science


Journalism Studies | Mass Communication


Despite gains made by Title IX in the past 36 years, including increased female participation in high school and collegiate sport, there is evidence that gender equity in sport is not fully achieved. Researchers target the media because they tend to shape social values and disseminate information to the masses (Kane, 1978, in Fink & Kensicki, 2002). As sports become more pervasive, framing theory has become particularly relevant. The purpose of this study is to build on the Hardin et al.

(2002) study by examining the relationship among media sports coverage, gender equity in sport and the perceptions young sports fans begin to form about gender and sport based on media consumption. The researcher hypothesized that since women face discrimination in sport starting from the time that they choose to participate, children will perceive male athletes and their sports as more legitimate. Additionally, the media play a major role in shaping the views of audiences, so the way that they represent male and female athletes, including juxtaposing them, may have an impact on children. The researcher conducted a content analysis of 24 Sports Illustrated for Kids issues from 1996 to 1999 and 24 issues from

2006 to 2007. The researcher analyzed the content of photographs (N=3219) and of headlines (N=762) by using the definitions determined by Hardin et al. (2002). We found that there is a disproportionate amount of coverage devoted to male athletes and that the discrepancy between media representation between men and women in sport has grown since the mid-1990s. This study also includes a focus group conducted with three children from a community swimming program in a northeastern town and found that those children were acutely aware of the differences between men and women in sport based on the discussion. The researcher does not attempt to find a causal relationship between these children’s perceptions and the way media represents them, but rather uses the focus group to complement the content analysis. As children become sports consumers in later life, future research exploring the relationship between children’s perceptions and the media’s representations need to be done before causality and the significance of media effects are determined.