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The gender of “soft” and “hard” news
journal contributionposted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by Louise North
Research from around the globe has long emphasised the problem of vertical segregation in the news media where women remain largely absent from key editorial decision-making roles. Horizontal segregation, however, where there are gendered divisions of tasks associated with reporting, is also an ongoing issue and has been highlighted in a recent large-scale survey of female journalists in Australia. To date, just one other small industry survey in 1996 has asked female journalists in Australia about the types of stories that they cover and raised the implications of gendered inequity. This current survey finds that while more female reporters appear be covering hard news rounds like politics and business, the majority are still assigned to cover the bulk of the soft news areas of features, the arts, education and health—and most perceive that female reporters remain pigeon-holed in those traditionally female story areas. Respondents understand soft news as less important within the organisation in comparison to the highly valued areas of politics and sports that male reporters most often cover. This paper analyses female journalists’ responses to the gendered nature of the soft news–hard news binary and the ramifications of such disparity.