`Sun' executive attacks press portrayal of women in press

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WOMEN OTHER than models or celebrities are not properly represented in newspaper images, according to a new report.

Research conducted for the group Women in Journalism says that, even taking into account that men outnumber women in public life, and that showbusiness and modelling put a premium on promoting how women look, the way newspapers use images of women is "at best old-fashioned and at worst complacent".

The report states that although more women are in mainstream work than ever before, images of men dramatically outnumber those of women.

"Women are much more likely to feature in irrelevant images than men, or to be actresses, models and other celebrities. The majority of men pictured, by contrast, are `professionals' and politicians."

The research, conducted for Women in Journalism by the Trends Group of the advertising agency Publicis, looked at 12,333 photographs in nine national newspapers over four weeks this autumn.

It found that 59 per cent of photographs were of men only, 20 per cent of women only, 10 per cent of both men and women, and 11 per cent featured neither men nor women.

The report says that when images of women are included,the choice of image is often irrelevant and misleading.

It cites `sexy' pictures on business pages as among the worst offenders. "A recent results story accompanied by three men in shirtsleeves behind a naked model soaping a raised leg in a foaming bubble bath (The Times); a picture of a scantily clad Kate Moss taken from an ad campaign for Calvin Klein and used to accompany a City story on Calvin Klein parent [company] Procter & Gamble [in The Guardian]."

Rebekah Wade, deputy editor of The Sun, is the chairwoman of the group. She said: "Our research shows that women are significantly under- represented in newspapers, even though they make up almost half the readers. In a highly competitive newspaper market, every editor needs to appeal to female readers to boost their circulation."

The report Real Women - The Hidden Sex says the Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Telegraph had the highest percentages of pictures featuring women, while The Financial Times had the lowest.

The report excluded fashion pages where the vast majority of pictures are of women, saying the images on these pages are `self-selecting'; but it included sports pages, where the majority of pictures are of men.

The report bemoans the lack of female picture editors on national newspapers. However, The Independent on Sunday has a female picture editor for several months; The Independent has just appointed one; and until recently the News of the World had a female picture editor on an all-women desk.