Graphic designer shows what sports pages look like with men removed
Katherine Burgess cut men from the New York Times sports section front to show how little remains
Katherine Burgess has been a runner since high school and an avid follower of women's sports.
But the Pittsburgh-based graphic designer has been dismayed to see the accomplishments of female athletes receive so little media coverage compared to those of men.
So to illustrate the difference — and measure it, too — Burgess undertook a simple but novel project.
Each day for a week, she'd take the front page of The New York Times sports section and see how much remained after cutting away the coverage of men's athletics with an Exacto knife.
"I've been following women's sports coverage on the Keeping Track Media podcast for some time now, and a couple of months ago, I heard a statistic that said only four per cent of the athletics coverage goes towards women. The other 96 per cent goes towards men," Burgess told As It Happens host Carol Off.
Although coverage of women's tennis made it to the front of the sports section on two of seven days — the U.S. Open was on, after all — the results over the week painted a stark picture. With men removed, the section fronts were "very gutted," said Burgess.
"I have a big pile of them right now, of the seven pages, and it kind of looks like newspaper shredding leftovers just because there's so many little thin shreds."
And pandemic cancellations can't explain away the discrepancy, she said.
"I'm really big into the running and the track and field community. They've been putting on a lot of closed, small races with professionals, a tight-knit field," said Burgess.
"There's been countless national and world records that have been broken during a pandemic, of all times, with track and field. Yet I was kind of shocked to not see the coverage on that, when I opened up the Times."
She says that's important given that it's hard for girls and women to strive toward goals they don't see documented around them.
"Growing up as a female athlete, I definitely at times just felt like I didn't have a position in athletics for me when I got older," Burgess said.
"And I think there being more coverage of sports and more sports writers, photographers, coaches and everything else just holistically, I think that would help the future generation of female athletes a lot."
Experience in sports can help women both on and off the field, said Burgess, noting that a survey of more than 800 top female executives by Ernst and Young found that 90 per cent of them played sports growing up.
Burgess's project has garnered attention from Instagram users, including male and female high school coaches and gender studies professors who want to help effect change.
Along with colleagues from Garrison Hughes, the advertising agency where she works, Burgess said she hopes to expand the project to other media.
"I would really like to dive into TV [and] maybe take an hour broadcast of sports news, take out all of the commercials and coverage on men and see how many minutes are left."
Written by Brandie Weikle. Interview produced by Menaka Raman-Wilms.