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Newspapers key to spreading #MeToo message in Britain

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Print press played a key part in taking the #MeToo movement beyond social media, shows a study out today from media analysts.

It’s just a hashtag. But when Alyssa Milano used it in October 2017, #MeToo triggered a global outpouring from women who have faced sexual harassment and abuse.

The actor reused the 2006 sexual assault awareness-raising tag to spotlight allegations against film director Harvey Weinstein. Celebrities flocked to back the cause and it went viral - the hashtag’s now on The Oxford English Dictionary’s watch list for new words.

But in the UK, while it began trending on Twitter, traditional newspapers were the launch pad to catapult the movement beyond social media and land it centre stage. That’s the finding from a study out today from Brunel University London, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Nottingham.

“The press’s overall support of #MeToo played an important role in engaging the public on the issue of sexual violence raised by the digital campaign,” said Brunel’s Dr Sara De Benedictis and the team.

Newspaper coverage spotlighted the campaign in the UK, giving it momentum beyond social media and left-leaning liberals to new and different audiences, says the study. But overall, this newspaper coverage, it said, tended not to engage with the complexities and feminist debates that have emerged through the #MeToo campaign.

The Team combed six months of UK newspaper coverage from 11 October 2017 – the date Harvey Weinstein’s sex assault accusation was first reported – through to 31 March 2018. They found 3,450 newspaper articles related to #MeToo, and after examining 613 articles across 9 major UK papers they show:

• The overall tone is positive: 56% of the coverage show a clearly positive view of #MeToo, while 21% were unclear or balanced and only 15% negative. The Guardian ran the greatest number of positive pieces, followed by the Independent

• It wasn’t just the usual suspects - nearly a third (31%) of the coverage came from the Daily Mail

• While much coverage developed from social media, the press also generated fresh stories including an investigation on alleged sexual harassment in international aid organisations

• The overwhelming focus (60%) of the entire coverage was on entertainment and fashion spotlighting wealthy, white celebrities

These findings, the study says “support the claim that ‘feminism is clearly having a moment, basking in a warm – if selective – …glow of appreciation’.”

#MeToo, popular feminism and the news: A content analysis of UK newspaper coverage is published in the European Journal of Cultural Studies

 

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk