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Final Four Media Coverage

In: Social Issues

Submitted By burnsr28
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Every spring avid sports fans look forward to the biggest college basketball tournament of the year, most commonly known as March Madness. This competition consists of both men’s and women’s NCAA basketball teams who compete in hopes of making it to the respected and heavily televised Final Four. The Final Four is the last game for each remaining team before the National Championship game, where the two deserving teams are matched up against each other. This series of competition creates a rich supply of content for sports media networks to influence viewer’s values and attitudes. Networks have become increasingly knowledgeable and schematic in using sport entertainment as a way to promote their ideologies, values, commercialization and interpretations of sport. Studies have found that people turn to sports in the media for entertainment. The different forms of media are evolving and moving in a more prevalent direction than they have been in the past. With the explosive growth of internet users in the past decade, media companies have created a domain where they can input their interpretations of sporting events and coverage. These domains have become dominated by the 18-34-year-old demographic (Kian, Mondello & Vincent 2009) who use websites such as ESPN, the most widely used website for obtaining sports related news (Lefton, 2006 as cited in Battenfield, Redmond & Ridinger 2014), and Sports Illustrated to read about upcoming games, watch live coverage, or get the low down on games that have already happened. These online sport websites are visited more frequently by males (62%) than females (38%) (Loechner, 2005 as cited in Battenfield et al. 2014) but that gap is slowly dwindling. Opportunities for women to participate in sports has increased dramatically since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, with the number of female participants in college sports at less than 32,000 before Title IX, to more than 170,000 by 2007 (Kian et al. 2009). Although there was rapid growth of female participation in sports over 40 years ago, it is still not reflected in the media coverage given to women. In this paper we analyzed and reviewed 12 scholarly articles and two online websites, and, to examine the differences in coverage between Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball tournaments.
Review of Literature Many Americans today would accept the perspective that the media as a whole and sports coverage specifically, can be socially constructed and crafted in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes (Cherry 2007). The articles we have examined provide readers with analyses concluding that some of these purposes come at the expense of others, particularly women. The four main points we concluded were most prevalent are the equity of coverage between men and women’s basketball, continuously reinforced hegemonic ideologies, how the interpretations of media attempt to shape society, and commercialization of sport.
After analyzing our articles it is clear that women receive less overall coverage than men do in all various forms of media. The articles we read focus mainly on television networks and the internet’s coverage of NCAA sports. Not only do women receive less coverage, but they fall victims to the reinforced ideology of masculine hegemony. In an article analyzing the differences in commentary coverage of basketball telecasts, it was concluded that the present underlying ideology “historically links the physicality, muscularity, and superiority of males to power and dominance in sports” (Duke 1996). Due to this widely accepted social belief of men and masculinity, an article published by Blinde, Greendorfer, & Shanker (1991) states they believe that is the underlying reason to why the subtle differences in commentary often “go unnoticed and are rarely challenged or questioned”. These subtle differences are also found and noted in numerous studies that explain them to be sexist, devaluing (Battenfield et al. 2014), and trivializing (Kian et al. 2009). The continual reinforcement of masculine hegemony shapes the vocabulary and topic choices commentators, usually males, discuss when referring to a woman’s athletic performance. This is discussed extensively in two articles which strive to make the point that commentators are continuously minimizing a females’ performance by comparing it to that of their male counterpart, describing them as more of a supportive role rather than a serious athlete, and by putting an emphasis on their personal and/or emotional lives (Kian et al. 2009).
While most of the recurring themes throughout our 12 articles seemed to coincide with each other, one article contested these widely accepted beliefs. This was done analyzing two internet websites as it remains “contested gender terrains” (Coakley 2009). The article focuses on challenging hegemonic masculinity by providing readers with a study where a total of 249 articles from and CBS SportsLine were coded for overall distribution of basketball articles between men and women, and gender-specific descriptors. While the conclusion shows an overwhelming number of the articles dedicated to coverage of men’s basketball (72.3%) as opposed to women’s (27.7%), the numbers may reflect these skewed results based on the monetary incentives as CBS had broadcasting rights for the men’s tournament that year (Kian et al 2009). The other variable coded for was the gender-specific descriptors, and this is what Kian et al. (2009) uses to contest the “hegemonic masculinity that generally results in male athletes being portrayed as naturally superior to female athletes”. This study revealed the use of positive descriptors being proportionately higher for the women, such as skill level/accomplishments and psychological/emotional strengths. The majority of media coverage and commentary of women’s sport often downplays the accomplishments of females with narratives and images, which reinforces the negative stereotypes that surround women (Kian et al. 2009). It is a common occurrence and often remains inconspicuous when commentators praise male athletes, while trivializing women and their performances.
The last major theme we came across in our articles was the use of commercialization in sports. Some people might not be aware, but this process has significantly changed the world of sports as we know it. Colleges with big-time sports have progressively become more of an entertainment industry, rather than an educational one. Not only does this directly contradict the mission statement of most schools, but increasing one’s desire of commercialization can often become paramount to the main reason students are there in the first place, an education. An article posted on Sports Illustrated titled “UConn Hoping To Capitalize on Championship” describes the overall expected increase in finances (better described as donations), admissions, applicants, and recruiting UConn will gain since both the men’s and women’s NCAA 2014 title victory. This is an extensive article that I would describe as gloating about the new “lack of room for mediocrity” at their school because of the feat they have accomplished. Nonetheless, what they have done is historic and shouldn’t be dismissed, however for such a lengthy article; strengthening education is only mentioned once, as opposed to the numerous times monetary gains are mentioned. Commercialization plays an important part of the NCAA Final Four, along with all national televised collegiate athletics. Large companies and corporate sponsors have become entities of college sports and take advantage of chances to advertise their ideologies and brands. Coakley notes “Media companies and corporate sponsors are unconcerned with educational issues because their profits don’t require academic accomplishments among athletes-as long as the most entertaining athletes retain their eligibility” (Coakley, 2009). The corporations are also uninterested in sports and teams that don’t attract large audiences because they will not provide any financial benefit for them. In the end, all powerful vested commercialized companies are only concerned with branding, advertising ideologies and making money. Coakley states that “90 percent of the NCAA’s operational funds come from the sale of media rights to their tournament” (Coakley, 2009). Not only do large corporations make money from the tournament, but businesses from the cities that host regional and final games gain popularity. Due to the fact that numerous companies and institutions make money from the March Madness tournament it is unlikely to change its ways.
Units of Analysis
Throughout the NCAA basketball tournament and especially during the “Final Four”, commercialization is at an all-time high. Viewers ratings are record breaking and according to a study done by Messner, Duncan, and Wachs (1996) “sports/media complexes are actively constructing audiences that are likely to see the men's Final Four as a dramatic, historic event that they simply "must" watch, while fans are likely to see the women's Final Four as a nonevent (Cooper, Eagleman & Laucella 2009) or, at best, as just another game. This, we argue, puts viewers of men’s sports at a nexus of power and pleasure while simultaneously containing the potential challenge that female athleticism poses to hegemonic masculinity.”
To begin our research, we each read 6 articles each and discussed the common themes that were found. Once we had established the appropriate and constant themes, we worked backwards to break each one down to the simplest idea. We have decided to use ideologies, values, commercialization, and interpretations of sport as our units of analysis. Our variables for ideologies will be hegemonic masculine ideologies, and feminine ideologies. We decided to use this unit and these variables because of the overwhelming amount of times masculine hegemonic ideology is discussed as being constructed and reproduced. We chose feminine ideologies to show the difference in findings between the two, due to the lack of support female hegemony receives. The variables we used to describe values are gender equity and stereotypes. These variables are present within all 12 scholarly articles we analyzed. The main topic of our paper, the differences in coverage between men’s and women’s NCAA basketball, was a point that was stressed in each article 11 of them being in agreement with one another on the inequity women’s basketball faced in relation to coverage time and quality. The 1 article that contested these agreements was arguing that women’s coverage was given equal, if not better, content coverage. The next variables we used to code for commercialization was product and branding. We chose these because the media networks’ main concerns of coverage lie within their financial confines. We decided on the terms products and branding because many articles discussed the privileges men’s basketball gets by receiving majority of the coverage. As a result of unequal coverage, men’s teams have an advantage to promote their brands to potential customers, thus stalling the process of commercialization for women (Cooper 2009). This isn’t only a financial issue, it’s a moral issue as well (Staurowsky 1995). Lastly, the variables we chose to represent interpretations of sport were intended audience, trivialization of women, and gendered-specific descriptions. The variables that are used to strengthen arguments regarding the interpretation of sports are intended audience, trivialization of women, and gendered-specific descriptions. These three variables are utilized by many authors to inform fans of NCAA basketball that the underlying issues of coverage are continuously reinforced by shaping the intended audience Networks do this through trivializing women’s accomplishments through gendered-specific descriptors, further influencing the ideology viewers have that men are superior. Women’s sports receive relatively little television coverage, a practice that signifies their low value to audiences (Hardin, Whiteside & Ash 2014). This only perpetuates a cycle that promotes unequal coverage.
When networks are bombarded with requests for expanded women’s sports media coverage, they often reply with “we are only giving the public what they want to see” (Messner, Duncan, & Wachs 1996). Contrary to their statement, research shows large corporations and media networks are focused on selling their products or brand to millions of potential consumers during this time and will go to any extent to do so. Most of the articles had an explicit ideology about the superiority of males to females and is evident in the way women are trivialized and the way companies try to sell their ideologies through coverage, commentaries, and advertisements.
Description of Results

Table 1: Illustrates the breakdown of main themes that were coded throughout a total of 12 scholarly articles.
The table above represents a breakdown of the themes present in our research on the media coverage of the Final Four. This table shows the number of times our units of analysis occurred in each article, but does not show the variables for each theme. The variables we used for values were gender equity and Title IX and stereotypes. The variables we used for ideologies were hegemonic masculinity and hegemonic femininity. The variables we used for commercialization were branding and products. Finally, the variables we used for interpretations were intended audience, trivialization of women, and gender-specific descriptors. This table shows that the dominant and recurring themes were related to ideologies and values.
Analysis of results
The results of our coding enforced the findings of our literature research. The most established and supported themes involved the lack of equity present in media coverage today between men’s and women’s sports. The studies and concrete evidence are irrefutable. Although Kian et al. 2009 provides evidence that the online coverage on ESPN during the Final Four is proportionately equal in regards to content, its argument that the quantity of coverage is equal falls apart when the study is completed. We will provide readers with a few more explanations as to why we chose the themes we did, and then we will briefly discuss some ambiguous themes that were not as prevalent but seemed to help build and solidify the main concepts.
One variable of commercialization we gathered in our research is the use of advertisements. While visiting the websites and Sports Illustrated (SI) during coverage of the NCAA Final Four, we couldn’t help but notice the advertisements on the top and sides of the screen even some that would pop up and interrupt our reading. These advertisements seemed to be carefully placed in spaces just to promote visibility of a product. On this was to the right and just beneath the top and most recent stories of the day. On there is one in the same spot as ESPN as well as above the picture of the top story. In visiting the websites I began to see a theme of the advertisements. They were aimed at males ages 18-34, who comprises majority of the demographic for online sports websites. Along with promoting commercialization the content of the advertisements reinforced gender stereotypes. Some of the advertisements on SI were Coors Banquet Beer, Life insurance, property investments, suits made of fine fabrics, and the most obvious of them all, testosterone pills. On ESPN some of the advertisements were Nike, UFC, Google Chrome, and StubHub. It is obvious why most of these ads would be present on a webpage filled with strong young male athletes (for the most part) that reinforce the idea of masculinity. I also noticed once that when I clicked on the women’s basketball tab, an ad for Zale’s the jewelry store appeared in the lower right hand corner. These advertisements are purposely placed on all websites and can even be gender specific depending on what kind of content you are looking at. Of course there is going to be more masculine advertisements when browsing men’s sport pages, however in my experience though visiting the site, the same is not true for women’s pages. Almost everyone overlooks these advertisements because we see them so often, but their presence helps reinforce corporation’s ideologies of masculinity and push theirs brands to the public through commercialization.
A common theme that appears when reading our articles is the idea of hegemonic masculinity in sports. Hegemony, in terms of masculinity, focuses on the aspect of how a social class (male) becomes an overwhelming governing influence on the opposing class (women) using gender ideologies formed by society. Sports are seen as “a powerful institution through which male hegemony is constructed and reconstructed” and that “it is only through understanding and confronting these processes that we can hope to break this domination” (Fink 2007). As seen in the studies conducted by Fink, hegemonic masculinity often presents itself as the “natural and correct order” (Fielding-Lloyd and Mean 2007 as cited in Fink 2007), demonstrating just how engraved the principles of gender inequalities and ideologies are in sports today. From the same article, a study performed by a man named Angelini in 2007 reported that “women are happier watching women participate in feminine sports, an indication that only certain sports are “acceptable” for the females” meaning that as a society, rather than challenging the gender inequalities, we are accepting and reinforcing patriarchy. Fink’s final thoughts suggest that even though our premonitions of gender in sports are well embedded into society today, it will be “worthwhile” to challenge these ideals. Furthermore, a theme that recurs throughout is the differences in commentary coverage of men’s and women’s basketball. By using men as a “standard” for comparison, the term “otherness” describes women “as masculinity becomes the standard against which everything is measured (Blinde, Greendorfer, & Shanker 1991).” Two more differences are stated when talking about qualifications of the women’s game, as well as the non-parallel and sexist language. In fact, when viewing the NCAA final four games, “despite the equal number of televised games for men and women, sportscasters had many more evaluative comments about male athletes” (Billings, Halone & Denham 2009). In an attempt to compare men and women’s athletic abilities, a commentator said, “women improved their games-physically and psychologically-by playing against boys as youths or in pickup games against adult men”, once again stressing the fact that males are the standard and women are to always going to be victims of hegemonic masculinity.
One thing we noticed while visiting the websites of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, was the difference in expectations by the network to uphold equal advertising of stories, and photographs. On ESPN the men’s basketball page was very comparable to that of their women’s basketball page; however that was hardly the case with Sports Illustrated. On the NCAA basketball page on SI website we were given numerous stories about men’s basketball accompanied with pictures in the icon. On the same page there was not one story about women’s coverage and it wasn’t until the 3rd visit to the site we realized there is a small link in the corner of the page that reads “Women’s Hoops”. So not only is women’s coverage not offered on the main NCAA basketball page, but it isn’t even given the title of “basketball”. We believe this is a perfect and unfortunate example of the hardships women face when attempting to minimize the gap media places between men and women’s sports.
Another common theme found in the articles is the similarity when comparing between the loss of femininity when women play sports and the slow progress of the change in sports. In Angelini’s article, it states that the downfall of women participation in sport is “due primarily to a fear that sports could cause a masculinization of the female’s attitudes and behaviors” and this loss of femininity “makes it socially difficult for a female athlete to be both a woman and an athlete” (Angelini 2007). If a women is already perceived as outside of a social norm by participating in a generally masculinized sport, not raising and taking care of family will be a hard enough task to take on as well, forcing the women to make a decision. The decision of sports versus raising a family is something unique to the ideologies of women, thus stalling the impact of women in sports over time. Also, as stated in Fink article, “negative evaluations of women’s capacities are implicit in the masculine hegemony in which sports is embedded” only adding to the idea that the change of women’s role in sports has been slow (Fink 2007).
The slow progress of women’s impact can also be seen when referring to the social construction of male body as complete, as women’s body are “made in ideological terms of subordination” and “thus, the female body is viewed as inferior, passive, weak, feminine- a social construction that reinforces the myth of female frailty and inadequacy (Blinde et al. 1991).”

The limitations of this project were dependent upon several factors. First, some of the articles could be arguably old, therefore outdated when it comes to the exact numbers and skewed data. Included in gender media is the idea of economics, and that in some cases companies like CBS, for example, were part of a larger lucrative television package granting CBS rights to the men’s NCAA tournament. The selective deal between in CBS and NCAA therefore skews the data coverage towards the influence of the men’s tournament, taking away from the women’s tournament. Also, most of the current research focused on a similar sport (basketball only), and if we were able to have access to the overall change of women sports in general, we could see how and which women’s sports are either reducing the gap or expanding the gap in regards to hegemonic masculinity. A limitation can be understood when talking about the coverage of men’s and women’s sports based on the idea that the men’s tournament has more cameras, tv angles, and national awareness in commercials, leading to information and data of women’s sports being altered. Commentary of sports broadcasters can also be a limitation because the possibility of an announcer having extreme societal or religious views, who may be in favor of masculinity or femininity, could possibly leave out important information regarding the impact of media coverage between males and females.

Annotated Bibliography

1. Kian, E., Mondello, M., & Vincent, J. (2009). ESPN—The Women’s Sports Network? A Content Analysis of Internet Coverage of March Madness. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media.
Sports have always been a huge part of the American culture and have changed dramatically after the passing of Title IX in 1972. This article talks about the even distribution of online coverage of men's and women's collegiate basketball, which is contrary to popular belief. The findings in this article did not support the stereotype of female athletes that demonstrate hegemonic masculinity.
2. Kian, E. M., Vincent, J., & Mondello, M. (2008). Masculine Hegemonic Hoops: An Analysis of Media Coverage of March Madness. Sociology of Sport Journal, 223-242.
This article was actually nearly exactly the same as the guidelines for this assignment.
This article studied narratives over a 26-day period and looked for primary themes from their research. It makes a big point about how the male domain almost always popped up even in females were the subject of the conversation.

Hardin, M., Whiteside, E., & Ash, E. (2012). Ambivalence on the front lines? Attitudes toward title IX and women's sports among division 1 sports information directors. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 47.
Title IX states that there have been different types of feelings toward the new implementations that support women's sports. Even though Title IX is not accepted by most male athletes it is a work in progress. Women's sports have been increasingly getting more and more popular with the help of Title IX. Women still may not be given the same respect that men athletes are but we are moving in the right direction for better inclusion.
Cherry, R., Scherer, S.(2007). Gender and Media:ESPN Coverage of 'March Madness' on SportsCenter.
This article focuses on the ESPN Sportscenter coverage of March Madness. It gets into detail not only on the men coverage but the women's as well, and which gender is covered more. They predicted before there testing that men would be at a higher level while women's would gradually increase. Their hypothesis was correct after the last weeks of the NCAA
Copper, C., Eagleman, A., Laucella, P. (2009). NCAA March Madness: An Investigation of Gender Coverage In U.S.A. Today During the NCAA Basketball Tournaments.
This article is focusing on the men's and women's in the NCAA basketball tournaments. It looks at the media coverage and how well it is distributed between the two genders in the athletic field. It shows that men’s sports have far more media coverage over female athletes. This article as well provides graphs on the coverage during tournaments between the male and female athletes.

Angelini, J. (2008). What to watch? Choosing a gendered sports broadcast.Conference Papers -- International Communication Association, 1-25.
This article focuses on how watching sports broadcasts, whether you are male or female, drastically changes your chosen channel to watch. The channels are varied by sex of athlete, gender of the sport being played, and configuration of athlete. The article also talks about the idea of gender schema, or how personal conceptualization of masculinity and femininity shape our attitudes towards men and women. Emotional responses like social dominance orientation, or how an individual prefers toward a societal hierarchy.
Blinde, E. M. (1991). Differential Media Coverage of Men's and Women's intercollegiate basketball: Reflection of Gender Ideology. Journal of Sport and and Social Issues, 1-18.
The article’s goal is to help and reflect on the broader side of gender ideology of society and mass media coverage. The goals included to identify qualitative differences in the manner in which mens and women’s games were presented by networks, and second to identify ideological assumptions which may underlie such differences. At conclusion, findings should suggest ideology of sport as a male domain.
Fink, J. S. (2007). Gender and Sex Diversity in Sport Organizations: Concluding Comments. Springer Science + Business Media, 1-2.
The articles main focus is to tell of how sports are an institution, which serves to produce, reinforce, and perpetuate male hegemony. Also, in regards to sex and gender diversity, they are usually in taken-for-granted policies, inside of sport organizations, and the journal calls for work in this area to be successful and produce greater theoretical development. The article provides evidence that female athletes resist traditional roles and ideals of femininity.
Staurowsky, E. J. (1995). Examining the roots of a gendered division of labor in intercollegiate
Athletics: Insights into the Gender Equity Debate. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 1-18.
Objective of this article is to examine gender based inequity in sport during the 1993 report of the NCAA gender Equity Task force. Identify the underlying ideological and structural framework within intercollegiate athletics. Understand two different models of athletics: one that can legitimately afford to operate as a commercialized enterprise and the other rooted in a more traditional concept of educational athletics.

Redmond, M., Ridinger, L., & Battenfield, F. (2009). Website Coverage of NCAA Basketball: Are women Getting Equal Playing Time? Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal.
This article emphasizes the need for studies to be done on the newly emerging internet domain. It describes how the media coverage women are receiving isn’t proportionate to the dramatic increases in women’s sports participation. The authors conduct a study comparing the amount of print and photographic coverage on the ESPN website of female and male NCAA basketball players. They discuss the challenges women face in the eye of the media when attempting to move towards a positive ideology of female athletes.
Cherry, R., Ph.D, & Sherer, S. (2007). “Gender and Media: ESPN Coverage of ‘March
Madness’ on SportsCenter”. American Sociological Association. The objective of this article is to show evidence that ESPN Sports Center allot a large portion of media coverage for men’s sports. This study examines multiple sports, not just basketball so the results are not as controlled as other articles. It continues to educate us on the topic of “audience building” and how gendered coverage reinforces hegemonic ideologies of masculinity.

Kane, M. J. (1996). Gender & Sports: Setting a course for college athletics: Media coverage of the post title IX female athlete: A feminist analysis of sport, gender, and power. Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy. This article argues the fact that more than any institution, sport reflects, constructs, and perpetuates beliefs about male superiority and female inferiority. It touches on the denial of gender underrepresentation by Sports Illustrated. They provide readers with areas of discrimination in media based on age, gender and race, and sport type. The concluding thoughts discuss the disbelief felt by the author that although women have historically broken down barriers it is not reflected in mass sports media.…...

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