How much photo coverage do news outlets devote to major sporting events? Does the game or the surrounding excitement command more attention?
Are national outlets even-handed in their coverage of the teams? How biased are hometown publications?
In this study researchers analyzed the photo coverage of the 2013 Super Bowl and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Researchers considered the photographic coverage of 16 sports media outlets— four online television networks, four internet natives and eight online newspapers and magazines: CBS Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, NFL.com, SB Nation, Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Baltimore Sun, Detroit Free Press, Louisville Courier-Journal, New Orleans Times-Picayune, San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today. Click through to the specific pages for each outlet under the “Comparing News Outlets” drop-down menu above.
Researchers also specifically compared the coverage of the “local” news outlets — the online sites of historically print newspapers. Researchers analyzed every picture* published by the two hometown and one host city newspapers at each event: The Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Chronicle and New Orleans Times-Picayune’s coverage of the Super Bowl, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Detroit Free-Press and Louisville Courier-Journal’s coverage of the Men’s NCAA Basketball final.
Scroll down for a breakdown of the hometown papers’ Super Bowl and NCAA Championship games’ images.
The top EIGHT HIGHLIGHTS from the online newspaper analysis
- News outlets don’t always focus on the MVP. Consider the NCAA’s Luke Hancock. Despite being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and being Louisville’s leading scorer in the men’s championship game, junior Luke Hancock was mentioned in fewer than one percent of the captions in the Journal-Constitution, Courier-Journal and Free-Press combined.
Twelve people, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino and eleven other players, garnered more attention — and more caption mentions — than Hancock.
- Winning teams’ hometown news outlets LOVE the game — and run literally hundreds of images of the games. Of the six online papers evaluated, the Baltimore Sun ran far more photos than the other five papers studied. With no shortage of storylines to track–Ray Lewis’ retirement, the blackout, the Ravens’ success–the Sun led the way in overall photo count for the Super Bowl with 415 photos published throughout the site (and another 70 via social media). The Times-Picayune finished with 320, while the Chronicle had just 270. For the NCAA championship, the Courier-Journal, also the hometown paper of the winning team, led with 211 pictures. The Free-Press, paper of the losing team, had 118 and the Journal-Constitution published just 67 of an event that took place in their city.
- Winning team news outlets focus on the game; losing team outlets (or unaligned outlets) emphasize other elements — such as Beyoncé’s halftime show. Beyonce’s halftime performance was a major selling point of the Super Bowl, but researchers observed that the Baltimore Sun ran just a fraction of the coverage as the Times-Picayune and the San Francisco Chronicle. While over one in ten photos published in the Times-Picayune and Chronicle were dedicated to Beyonce’s halftime show, just 3% of the Sun’s pictures featured Beyoncé’s performance.
- Not all news outlets are equally enamored of celebrities. The Times-Picayune made celebrity tracking a cornerstone of its coverage — photos of celebrities accounted for the main subject in a quarter of the photos found on the site and subsequently pinned to Pinterest. By contrast, the Chronicle and Sun, focused more on their hometown teams’ success in the game, featuring celebrities in only 10% or 6% of their photo coverage, respectively.
- Host city news outlets do not always champion their hometown — but host cities that are major tourist destinations do (and to the detriment of coverage of the game itself). While the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published few photos (only 6% of its NCAA photo coverage) of its host city beyond the Georgia Dome, over one-third of the Super Bowl coverage of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, featured the colorful city and overflow of tourists at the Super Bowl. As a consequence, however, only one in five photos in the Times-Picayune were of the game itself.
To put that in context: almost half of the photographic coverage of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun, each with rooting interests in the game, featured the Super Bowl game itself.
- Not just host-city news outlets feature photos of their hometowns. Almost two-thirds of the Courier-Journal’s coverage of the NCAA Championship had a home-town angle — more attention than the news outlet gave to the game itself. The Louisville Courier-Journal had more of a focus on its own city than any other paper. They published 133 pictures, or 63% of their total count, of NCAA Championship-related events in Louisville. That was more photographic attention to its hometown than the combined hometown coverage of the Baltimore Sun, the Detroit Free-Press and the San Francisco Chronicle.
- The online newspapers that covered the NCAA Championship published more photos of fans than newspapers at the Super Bowl — perhaps due to the close-in rowdy student sections. Over all, just over one in 20 photos in the three online newspapers that covered the Super Bowl pictured fans. By contrast, nearly one in five photos published by the three online papers covering the NCAA Championship pictured fans.