Images of Women in the West African Press

By Eugenie Almeida and R. Babatunde Oyinade.

Published by The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies

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This study presents a discourse analysis of images of women in newspapers of West Africa. A total of 869 news articles were studied from five different newspapers published in Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The discourse analysis was performed in two stages. In the first stage, all of the news articles were subject to a close reading to determine if the articles described or mentioned women. It was found that the majority of news articles, roughly 2/3 of the sample, did not mention women in any way. In the second stage of the discourse analysis, those news articles which mentioned, described or cited women were subjected to additional close readings. It was found that women were characterized in relatively patterned ways, and nine themes eventually emerged from this analysis. These nine themes can be categorized as positive or negative in their portrayal of women. Three of the themes were positive: (1) women were described in a variety of leadership positions; (2) women were portrayed as entertainment and sport stars; and (3) women were portrayed as fighting for women’s rights. Six of the themes were negative: (1) women were portrayed as victims, and frequently as victims of strange misfortunes; (2) women were portrayed as engaging in deviant sexual practices; (3) female criminals were highlighted in several stories; (4) women were either described or charged with professional misconduct; (5) women were charged with witchcraft; and (6) lower class women were described as engaging in a variety of survival activities. These positive and negative themes are illustrated in this paper by examples from the news stories. The authors conclude that women play only a minor role in West African news accounts and that the West African press has strongly ambivalent attitudes towards gender equality and towards women in general.

Keywords: Discourse Analysis, West African Press, Images of Women

The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.15-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 480.582KB).

Dr. Eugenie Almeida

Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

Eugenie Almeida received her PH. D. in Communication from the University of Buffalo in 1991. Her dissertation research was entitled, “Facuality in Newspaper Discourse” and was published in Text as an article, entitled, “Categories of Factuality in News Discourse,” With her husband and colleague, Michael J. Almeida, a professor of computer science, she then developed a partial computerization of her category system. She continued doing research on news discourse, exploring other discourse structures routinely used by American newspapers. These investigations were presented at numerous conferences, including the National Communication Association, Eastern Communication Association, International Communication Association and Southern States Communication Association. In the late 1990’s, she turned her attention to the area of communication competence, and, after presenting several conference papers, published her new research in Communication Education and The International Journal of Learning. For the past five years, she has been investigating how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been portrayed by American newspapers. She is currently working on a discourse analysis of West African newspapers.

Dr. R. Babatunde Oyinade

Associate Professor, School of Atrs and Sciences, Department of Communication, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA

R. Babatunde Oyinade earned his Ph.D. in Mass Communication at Howard University. He is currently an associate professor of mass communication and a communication generalist with extensive experience in quantitative/qualitative, content analysis, and survey historical critical analysis research approaches. He focuses on political communication with emphasis on communication policies in Africa, Media and gender and conflicts, and inter-cultural communication.