'Lebanon war coverage lacked women's voices'

Study: Television media covered the Second Lebanon War as a "conservative masculine issue."

Lebanon war 224.88 (photo credit: AP )
Lebanon war 224.88
(photo credit: AP )
Television media covered the Second Lebanon War as a "conservative masculine issue," according to a study marking two years since the war. The lead researcher said that this type of coverage negatively impacted the public discussion of the war. Dr. Hagar Lahav presented her study last week at Netanya Academic College, where she showed that in only five percent of television news stories on the war had there been equal coverage of men and women. "Someone trying to understand reality from the television coverage could think there are barely any women in society," she said. "The few that do exist there play the stereotypical roles of a worrying mother or a passive and helpless victim." Lahav and her team watched and analyzed 120 hours of archived nightly news coverage of the war from channels 1, 2 and 10. She said that her research came up with four defined roles that television media gave women in the few cases they did appear on screen. The first role was that of the victim of a war. Another was Sephardi women, who were mostly portrayed as mothers watching over their families in places such as bomb shelters. A third role was primarily Ashkenazi women who were mothers mourning over soldiers who had fallen. Only a small fraction of women in the news had an "active role in the political sphere." The analysts and public figures invited to the news studios were almost exclusively male, she added. Lahav's study highlighted that even though women such as Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni held key positions, the coverage of the war focused on the male military leaders of the war. "For every appearance of Tzipi Livni as a woman there were 99 appearances of Olmerts (meaning male decision makers)," she said. Lahav said she did not believe the male-dominated coverage was an intentional policy of news producers. Instead, she said it was a product of entrenched misconceptions about war. By presenting war as a masculine and militaristic issue television media neglected that "war is a human, social and diplomatic issue," she said, which involves the life of everyone. "Maybe if media coverage was different, parts of society (other than the military) would have more influence over whether the country should go to war." While Lahav said she saw an improvement in media gender equality in the last war compared to the coverage of previous wars, the progress was still slow toward a more complete coverage of all aspects of war. "The media needs to take advantage of calmer times to think about how the war was covered and to see that message they want to send," she said.