Equal Coverage? Clearly a Miss in Rio

What an unbelievable two weeks in Rio de Janeiro…and what a long list of unbelievable “misses” by the media covering the athletes.

As a female leader, and an active promoter of women’s leadership issues, many of the misses hit close to home. The biggest was from my hometown newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, who proclaimed “Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.” Yes, they issued an apology, but only after a couple of passes with edits to the headline. And then it was still delayed.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Simone Manuel of the United States competes in the Women's 100m Freestyle heat on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 10: Simone Manuel of the United States competes in the Women’s 100m Freestyle heat on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Not to be outdone, the Chicago Tribune days before tweeted, “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.” Stunner that the wife didn’t have a name, but her association to her husband was the attention grabber. But the list of blunders goes on and on, and as the two weeks of Olympic coverage continued, it wasn’t as if the media improved much.

Some of it I get – you have announcers who are doing live interviews, and I’ve been there when the mouth isn’t necessarily in sinc with the brain. But the depth in which reporters missed and the Ledecky’s of the world were proclaimed the next Michael Phelps weren’t missed by worldwide audiences.

Call it the era of advanced technology, far exceeding the usage in London in 2012 and you’ll see more negative reactions to the shortcomings. As I scanned the Twitter headlines each night, more and more retweets were highlighting what many of us already know – there is an innate bias against women. Acknowledge it or deny it – it’s prevalent, evident and shows no sign of changing any time soon.

On the heels of Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Fox News for sexual harassment at the hands (pun intended) of then Chairman Roger Ailes, one would think the major networks might be a tad bit more careful. Fewer comments about US female gymnasts standing around like they were at the mall. Fewer suggestions that a swimmer’s success is a result of her husband’s coaching. Fewer…well, you get my point.
No, my point really is this – we can do better. A lot better. With that said, thank you major networks for so frequently getting it wrong and providing additional teachable moments for my own eleven year old daughters.

Language matters.

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