New Zealand's media "regressed" to having among the world's most male-dominated news agendas last year - but World Cup cricket was partly to blame.
The Global Media Monitoring Project has found that women declined from 26 per cent of people reported in New Zealand news stories in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2010 and just 18 per cent last year.
New Zealand has dropped from well above a global average of 21 per cent of women in the news in 2005 to well below the global average of 24 per cent in the latest 114-nation survey.
"As the rest of the world makes progress, New Zealand is in fact regressing," the New Zealand section of the latest report said.
Ironically, New Zealand has among the world's higher shares of female reporters (47 per cent) and presenters (59 per cent). But most of their stories are still about men.
"It's so disappointing," said Massey University journalism lecturer Dr Cathy Strong, one of the New Zealand authors. "We have a huge percentage of the workforce fronting and doing the stories who are women, but they are just pulled into the machine that is already there."
The global surveys have been run since 1995 by the Toronto-based World Association for Christian Communication, which describes its mission as "working with all those denied the right to communicate because of status, identity or gender".
The latest survey monitored news stories on March 25 last year. New Zealand media that day were dominated by the Black Caps' win in the Cricket World Cup semifinal, which was splashed across five news pages of the Herald. (The survey measured only general news in newspapers and news bulletins, and not sports pages or sports bulletins).
As a result, a massive 35 per cent of general news stories in New Zealand media that day, compared with 11 per cent globally, were about sports, arts and celebrities.
The second-biggest category in New Zealand (28 per cent), and the biggest category globally (27 per cent), was social and legal stories.
New Zealand also gave slightly more coverage to crime and violence (15 per cent) than the global average (13 per cent).
But our media gave far less coverage to politics and government (New Zealand 11 per cent, world 24 per cent), the economy (New Zealand 8 per cent, world 14 per cent) and science and health (New Zealand 2 per cent, world 8 per cent).
"While the cricket headlines mean March 25 was 'atypical' in many respects, it is also not unusual for sports stories to dominate the news agenda in NZ," the report said.
"It is also not unusual for such stories to be heavily male-dominated, as they were on monitoring day. For instance, across the five news pages the NZ Herald devoted to cricket reportage, there were no stories written by female reporters and only one instance of a female voice (a fan)."
Largely due to the cricket, women declined from only 15 per cent of the people reported in New Zealand sports, arts and celebrity stories in 2010 to even fewer (12 per cent) in the latest survey.
Mentions of women also dropped in social and legal stories (down from 36 per cent to 26 per cent) and stories on crime and violence (down from 38 per cent to 13 per cent).
Women's mentions were virtually unchanged in stories on politics and government (20 per cent), the economy (22 per cent) and science and health (33 per cent). They did not increase in any category.
Overall, New Zealand's ranking for coverage of women slid from 52nd out of 109 countries in 2010 to 86th out of 114 last year.