Coding photographs is not an exact science.
SportPix researchers coded each of the over 3,200 images* of the Super Bowl and the NCAA Championship game pinned to Pinterest with criteria both objective (e.g. ‘Who is pictured in the photo?’) and subjective (e.g. ‘How would you best describe the tone of the photo?’).
This study’s value is in the quantity of images assessed across 16 online news outlets during and after the Super Bowl and NCAA championship games. The researchers who evaluated the photos received training in coding images, and even given the inevitable subjectivity of some of those measurements, the consistency of the survey mechanisms identified strong trend lines.
Those trends are identified throughout this study website.
For a sampling of photos coded by researchers see the photos below of the Super Bowl and NCAA championship game.
Researchers coded these photos with five rankings: very negative, slightly negative, neutral, slightly positive, very positive.
The positive-negative ranking was arrived at via the coding of such visual elements as action and expression. See below for a sampling of images coded in the five categories.
Researchers additionally looked for trends in the tone of coverage by clustering the two “positive” categories and the two “negative” categories together. Yet, at the end of the coding of the thousands of images, researchers observed that that the differences in WHAT was pictured, appeared to be more important than any differences in tone among the news outlets.
This takeaway stands in contrast to a similar ICMPA study conducted during the 2012 Presidential primaries and the general election. In that study researchers noted significant differences across news outlets both in WHICH POLITICIANS were covered and HOW POSITIVELY (tone) they were covered. See that PrezPix study here.
Note: Clicking on the images below connects to the photo’s Pinterest location.
A sampling of photos from ESPN’s coverage of the Super Bowl
A sampling of photos from Yahoo Sports’ coverage
of the NCAA Championship game
(See here for a more in-depth explanation of the methodology of this study.)