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By Claudia Padovani

In the sixth edition of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), we observe some Italian trends similar to those found in Europe and globally. Among the positive elements, we should recognize some progress in women’s representation in the news: the number of female subjects, also with respect to the thematic areas in which they appear, have grown, even if only by a few percentage points compared to 2015. And yet, this progress is very slow. Among the negative aspects, we must recognize that the overall news quality has not improved, and in several cases, it has worsened. For example, the number of news stories that refer to issues of equality or women’s rights remains stable at around 4% in Europe (1% in Italy), and the number of news that tend to challenge stereotypical readings of gender issues has reduced (in this case, for Italy, 1% for traditional media and 3% for digital media).

However, we would like to point out some highly problematic aspects that characterize our country compared to other regions:

  • At a global and European level, the number of women experts is increasing (reaching 25% and 24%, respectively), partly due to the pandemic context having favored the involvement of specific female skills. In Italy, though, the overall percentage of women experts has fallen from an already low 18% in 2015 to the current 12%, down to a worrying 6% when it comes to pandemic-related news;
  • At the same time, the presence of female subjects acting as witnesses, or ‘non-expert’ voices speaking based on personal experience, continues to be relevant at a global (42% for traditional media) and European level (the average is above 40% for those speaking from personal experience and around 30% for eyewitnesses). But in Italy, this value remains much lower (33% for subjects reporting personal experience, 0% for eyewitnesses).

Overall, these data provide a worrying overview for our country: right in the midst of a crisis – described as a health, economic, social one, and ultimately a ‘crisis of care’ – in which it would be essential to give voice to multiple needs, collect different experiences, and make use of all the knowledge and skills available, as both authoritative voices and voices that express popular sentiment are marginalized. All 173 Covid19-related news show an overall reduction of female subjects (11% compared to 26% for the overall news agenda of the day the monitoring took place). On the one hand, the expert knowledge of women professionals, scholars, scientists, and health workers who would be able to provide articulated and perceptive interpretations of the pandemic reality is silenced. On the other, all those female voices that would best help reflect on the impact and consequences of the pandemic on family, local, and community contexts also go unheard.

A double check on the capacity and democratic growth of Italy, where the information world continues not to worry about giving room to the plurality of perspectives, and not to try to represent gender diversity, even in the exceptional circumstances in which such diversity could help find answers to specific problems and needs.

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