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Olympic media under spotlight

Monday, August 11, 2008
Olympic media under spotlight

The way athletes at the Beijing Olympics are portrayed by the media will be scrutinised by two University researchers.

Dr Sarah Leberman and Dr Farah Palmer, both senior lecturers in the Department of Management, will study how athletes are portrayed by media in New Zealand, China, Italy, South Africa and the US.

Dr Leberman says they will look at a number of different aspects including how male athletes are shown compared with females and how team sports are portrayed compared with individual athletes.

“All athletes should really get the same coverage, for instance if both the women’s and men’s hockey teams are competing they should get the same exposure, but that may not be the case.”

Female athletes are often portrayed differently to men, she says.

“Previous research suggests the number of photos of women is coming close to the number of men. But there is still the tendency for women to be shown off the court, or off the field, and the shots can be of a more sexualised nature.”

Media in different countries is being studied to see if there are cultural differences in the way sport is covered.

“We’re looking at 12 newspapers spread across the five countries, but are also recording the television news here in New Zealand to see how this country approaches its Olympic coverage,” Dr Leberman says.

The study is being carried out in conjunction with researchers at the University of Minnesota in the US.

School pupils in New Zealand will be interviewed and shown photographs of sports events to see information they glean from them.

“Our findings will be published in academic journals at a later date, but will also be helpful for organisations who want to promote sport,” Dr Leberman says.


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