The media almost never writes about age discrimination

Older workers are rarely mentioned in the press. As far as they appear, most of the time they deal with happy results. Very few articles are about negative events or bad attitudes towards seniors.

Media researcher Nanna Alida Grit Fredheim of Kristiania University College studied how independent Norwegian news media refer to older workers.

“In general, we know that the absence of elderly people in the media is striking. Other research has shown that the media rarely interview older people,” says Fredheim.

This is a trend that has continued, it may now conclude.

Articles about older workers have not become more popular. Even less is written on the subject today than ever before, as a comparison Fredheim made of earlier research from 2009 shows.

Not on social media

She also looked to social media.

Older people are, to a very small extent, used by advocacy and news organizations to bring attention to older workers, she finds.

Out of over 100,000 entries, a total of only ten mentioned older workers.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Center for Senior Policy and looks over the period 2019-2021. Media coverage was mapped using the Retriever media file.

But the challenges are there

Only 5 percent of the news reports refer to age-related legal conflicts in professional life.

“Elderly people are a resource”, for example, is the headline of several comments in several communication vehicles. Older workers are also “safe”, “adaptable” and “attractive” workers, according to the media.

That media coverage is a bit of a contrast to the research, Fredheim believes.

Research shows that many older people are exposed to age discrimination in their working lives. It’s also harder for middle-aged and older people to get a new job, research shows.

“We need to talk more about the phobia of the elderly in society,” said social researcher Anne Skevik Grødem in an interview with forskning.no in 2021 (link in Norwegian). Grødem points out that there are now several studies that show that older people are indeed exposed to discrimination.

mostly happy stories

Most of the articles are about older workers who come forward and tell their story about their working lives.

Articles are usually angled like a happy story.

The title and lead are about people who got a job after age 50 or retired after working too long.

Further down the article, more negative aspects often emerge. For example, that the person in question has been subjected to age discrimination or feels pressured to pay compensation.

related

Negative attitudes towards the elderly have a profound effect on society.

Pressured by severance packages

Fredheim spoke about the new findings at a seminar in Oslo recently.

The leader of the Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ), Dag Idar Tryggestad, was also present.

He says many of his older members were approached in his office and encouraged to accept a resignation package. Either because the media wants to reduce the number of employees or because the company wants to invest in something younger and more exciting and needs new skills. That pressure already starts from the age of 55, he says.

For some years, this pressure was not so great due to the good finances of the media. But now it’s back, he believes.

Last year, all employees of Aller Media and the national newspaper Dagbladet over the age of 60 received severance packages, writes Journalisten (link in Norwegian). This was called “good senior policy”.

Why is this interesting to study?

News coverage of older workers can help maintain or reinforce stereotypical attitudes about this group, believes Fredheim.

Research has shown that stereotypical presentations in the media can influence attitudes towards them in working life.

Other studies show that age stereotypes can influence the satisfaction of older people themselves with their jobs.

It can even become a self-fulfilling prophecy because seniors assume prejudices. It affects how they perceive themselves.

———

Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.

Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

Source:

N. Fredheim: Older media workers, Kristiania report2022/03.

The media almost never writes about age discrimination

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