- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2008

Men and women in the United States differed in how closely they followed several major news stories in 2007, according to a study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The Pew study, released last week, asked people how closely they had followed particular news stories from the previous week for every week of 2007 and highlighted the stories that generated “substantial differences” among women and men who followed those stories “very closely,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The study was the first week-by-week analysis by Pew throughout an entire year, but it correlated with previous research about the news topics of particular interest to men and women.

A 15 percent difference in the interest in the March 2007 tornadoes in the South and Midwest was the largest gap among men and women. Forty percent of women said they followed the story very closely, while only 25 percent of men did.

John Doolittle, associate professor in the School of Communication at American University, found the gender disparity on the tornado story “a little surprising.”

“To me, it’s a gender-neutral event,” he said.

A 2006 Pew study found that women who “closely follow” the weather outnumber men by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.

The new Pew study also revealed that 32 percent of women followed the August 2007 flooding in the Midwest “very closely” while only 20 percent of men did.

Among the stories that men followed “very closely,” the two stories with the greatest gap were the 2007 Super Bowl and the February 2007 tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. The gender gap in both stories was 13 percent.

The statistics also support 2006 Pew data that reveal men who “closely follow” sports outnumbered women by 74 percent to 26 percent and men who “closely follow” international news outnumbered women by 63 percent to 37 percent.

Mr. Doolittle said he hopes the new Pew study will lead to greater gender appeal in the press in order to “invite the other sex in” to news coverage.

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