Global Challenges Academy

Staff Profile

Professor Karen Ross

Director of Research


Background and context

Karen Ross is Professor of Gender and Media, the first such named chair in the UK. She joined Newcastle in 2016 from her previous position at Northumbria University and has previously held positions at the universities of Liverpool, Coventry, Gloucestershire and Birmingham.

On leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, Karen trained to be a secretary before embracing higher education and studying for her first degree at Middlesex University (1st class hons) as a mature student. After graduation, she became a youth worker before the lure of further study beckoned and she was subsequently awarded a PhD in Race and Ethnic Relations from Warwick University in 1990. Her first academic appointment was at the University of Birmingham in 1991.

In 2015, she was Distinguished Visitor at the University of Alberta and has held visiting positions at Queens University Belfast and Stellenbosch University, South Africa: she was a Distinguished Visitor at Massy University (New Zealand) in 2018. In 2014, she gave oral and written evidence to the House of Lords Inquiry into Women and Current Affairs News Broadcasting and some of her recommendations made their way into the published report of the Inquiry. She also contributed to the drafting of policy recommendations on combatting sexism for the Council of Europe (2017). She is currently a reviewer of Athena Swan charter award applications for AdvanceHE (2017-).

Karen was the Principal Investigator on an EU-funded project (2017-2019) on Advancing Gender Equality in Media Industries (AGEMI) which followed on from an earlier project funderd by the European Institute for Gender Equality which looked at women and management in European media organisations (2011-2014). More recently, she has received ESRC Impact Acclerator Account funding for two projects focusing on older women's challenge to media invisibility - see Research tab and currently (2020) has an exhibition up at the Catalyst (Newcastle Helix) called 'Joy' which celebrates the joyfulness of older women.

Karen has authored and edited a large number of books on aspects of media and popular culture including on topics as diverse as the audience, racial stereotypes and television, and the media and the public. However, for the past twenty years, most of her scholarship has focused on the relationship between gender and media and more specifically, the relationship between gender, politics and news. Recent books include: Gender, Politics, News: A Game of Three Sides (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017); Gender Equality and the Media: A Challenge for Europe (edited, with Claudia Padovani) Taylor & Francis/Routledge (2016); A Handbook of Gender, Sex and Media (edited, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012); The Media and the Public (with Stephen Coleman, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); and Gendered Media: Women, Men and Identity Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009). Her latest project is the first international encycloapedia on Gender Media and Communication, comprising 260 individual entries, published in summer 2020 by Wiley Blackwell.  

Karen was the founding editor of the journal Communication, Culture & Critique and sits on the editorial boards of a number of leading journals. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of Wiley Blackwell’s sub-disciplinary encyclopaedia series. She was a member of REF 2014, serving as a panel member of UoA36 and is currently a panel member for UoA34 for REF2021. She is a member of the QAA and of the ESRC’s Peer Review College and was previously a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. She is an elected member of the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association and has been an executive member of both the International Communication Association and the International Association of Media and Communication Research. In 2013, she received the Teresa Award from the Feminist Scholarship Division of ICA in recognition of her contribution to feminist media scholarship and in 2017, she was made a Fellow of ICA. She has reviewed for EU programmes including FP6, and currently reviews for a number of programmes supported by the European Science Foundation. She has reviewed Marie Curie fellowships and undertaken a variety of reviewing activities for international research councils including those in Israel, South Africa, Australia, Romania, Norway and Finland. She has been the external examiner for UG and PG programmes at a range of UK and international universities. She has supervised 20 research students to successful completion and examined 27 research theses, 24 at PhD, some of which have been international including Canada, Australia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Finland, Norway and Iceland.

Karen has written for a number of blog sites including The Conversation and has made numerous media appearances, mostly on radio including Woman’s Hour, TalkRadio, and most recently appeared on Deutsche Welle's news and current affairs programme (2017).

Roles and responsibilities: Director of Research, School of Arts and Cultures

Google Scholar: Click here.


Research activities

Karen’s broad research interests are around the relationships between gender and media, both in terms of representation and production. Much of her work has focused on the particular relations between women politicians and journalists, exploring their views on their own representation and the forms of relationship they have cultivated with lobby and local journalists. Whilst her early work looked exclusively at traditional media such as TV, radio and the press, her more recent research has also focused on social media platforms such as facebook and twitter, exploring the ways in which women and men politicians narrate themselves when they have control over content and style.

Her book, Women, Politics, Media (2002) was the first full-length monograph to explore this particular set of relations outside the US context and the sequel to that foundational text, Gender, Politics, News (2017) both updates the first text but also adds in important contemporary dimensions including news coverage of women’s campaigns for the top job and the ways in which scandal and celebrity have become important aspects of political communication and political life. In 2013, Karen was given the Teresa Award by the Feminist Scholarship Division of the International Communication Association, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to advancing feminist media scholarship over a sustained period. In 2017, she was made a Fellow of the International Communication Association which acknowledged the contribution her scholarship has made to the field over several decades.

Karen is currently (2020-21) involved in a number of research projects including a collaborative project on the reporting of gender-based violence, including during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and an analysis of the NZ 2020 general election in relation to media coverage and social media posts about and by the two women leader candidates, Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins. Most recently, she was the PI for an EU-funded project (2017-2019) on Advancing Gender Equality in Media Industries. The project included the development of a web platform and original teaching and learning materials aimed mostly at students but also media professionals. During 2016-18, she worked on a community-engagement project with older women to create images of themselves which confounded normative social expectations of older age - see here for the project's FB page.  In 2017-18, she worked on a second community engagement project with older women, this time producing a short film on older women celebrating active life and you can see the film here.  Her most recent project with older women was Joy, a multimedia installation currently on exhibition at the Catalyst (Newcastle Helix), and the virtual exhibition and context can be found here. She was also the UK member of a European collaborative project on gender equality and the media funded by the Swedish Research Council (2015-2020).

A major research thread has been media monitoring gender and news and Karen has worked as part of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) since it was established in 1995: in 2000 she became the UK coordinator and in 2015 also became the European coordinator. She is leading the UK 2020 GMMP team. She is one of the founding members of the Global Alliance for Gender and Media (GAMAG) which is supported by UNESCO and which had its first General Assembly in Geneva in December 2015. 

PhD Supervision

Karen is currently supervising 7 PhD students whose work focuses on politicians’ use of twitter; girls and film, social media influences in Saudi Arabia, gender and representation in Quatar, women's political parties and gender and music journalism.

An indicative list of her most recent publications is included under the 'Publications' tab. However, a full list can be found on Karen's personal website here..


PhD supervision

Karen is currently supervising 7 PhD students. Projects include: politicians’ use of twitter; girls and film, women's political parties, feminism and neoliberalism, social influencers in Saudi Arabia, gender and representation in Quatar, gender and music journalism.

Postgraduate and Undergraduate Teaching

Karen teaches the third year module, MCH3080  Feminist Approaches to Media Analysis

Karen also provides dissertation supervision for MA and UG dissertations.