Written By Guest Author Robert Riley

Dawn Wheatley, professor at the DCU School of Communications, featured on the Dublin City FM, Mediascope with Ellen Gunning. They discussed the findings Dawn’s research that appears in the recent BAI report ‘Digital News Report: Gender & Diversity in Ireland 2016-2021 & Internationally 2021”. The report examines the role of gender and diversity in the consumption and engagement with news in Ireland and internationally.

Over the five years how news is consumed has changed rapidly with the growth of social media and since the start of the COVID19 pandemic. Along with that, the study a difference in the type of news that men and women were more interested in. For example, men were found to be more interested in current affairs and politics, while women were interested in health and education. Given the events of the last two years it follows that health would be high on everyone’s agenda.

The Online Factor

It was shown that men are more interested in news than women, three quarters of men in comparison to two thirds of women. This doesn’t apply to only in Ireland, it also seems to be the case in other countries. In terms of engagement, men are also seen to be more outgoing in terms of giving their own opinions on any given topic compared to women. The reason for this seems to be women discuss news on WhatsApp or closed social groups as they are more likely to get trolled online or receive negative reactions for discussing their opinions. This can mean there is a lack of diversity in open discussion areas.

Photo Courtesy of Roman Kraft via Unsplash

Different Consumption Habits

Professor Wheatly drew attention to the different ways that men and women consume their news. Men were more likely to consume text, while women listened to news. This could mean that men have more time while women are consuming the news on the go, while multitasking.

The Trust Issue

Information on social media has been debated and will continue for some time. Since 2016, there is more distrust of traditional media sources. Since then, the public are more aware of where they get their news from. Professor Wheatley tells us that the research shows “those with higher education are less trusting of what they see on social media”. This suggests that those with a lower level of education are more susceptible to misinformation and fake news. Socioeconomic factors also figured in news consumption; the study has shown that those with a higher income are overall more interested in news to begin with.

Photo Courtesy of Eric Nopanen

Different Circumstances

An audience member circumstances seems to dictate the news they consume and how they consume. Whether they are younger, older, male, female or what their job is. The news is meant to be consumed by everyone in some way, but how you receive (i.e. tv radio or online) is almost more important in 2022.

In Ireland, the media landscape is quite interesting because we are a small nation. We have RTE which is public service broadcasting, Virgin Media which is commercial and a range of radio stations and newspapers. On top of that we are geographically based between the big media powerhouses of the United States and the United Kingdom. These countries do have an influence with how news is presented in Ireland. Both nations have an impact on Ireland and how news is perceived, however, Ireland has so far avoided the deep polarization that has been seen recently in the USA and UK.

The Future of Media

Professor Wheatly would hope this this report would generate an interest in making the media more inclusive and appealing to the wider community. She suggests that media outlets conduct an audit and see how they could include more gender diversity, people from different backgrounds and cultures. She believes that if people saw themselves reflected in the news it would raise levels of engagement and consumption. This is a very interesting and worthwhile piece of research, well worth a peruse. Link to Report


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