RESEARCH • Covering Sports

EXCERPT FROM ICMPA RESEARCH PROJECT — SEE FULL WEBSITE OF STUDY HERE


SportPix: A Photo Study of Super Bowl XLVII & the NCAA Basketball Championship


Louisville guard Russ Smith, taking a shot — USA Today
Louisville guard Russ Smith, taking a shot — USA Today

SportPix, a study from the International Center on Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA), evaluated 3274 photographs published by 16 major American sports and news outlets as those outlets covered Super Bowl XLVII and the 2013 NCAA final game.

Researchers then analyzed the photos to determine how sports news outlets, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FoxSports, CBSSports, Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation, together with the hometown newspapers of each team visually portrayed the two events.



Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance — ESPN
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime performance — ESPN 

Even at times of high drama in sports, when media are covering a championship game, only half of what they photograph and publish is of the game itself, according to a study of the photographic coverage of the 2013 Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Researchers found that photographically covering championship games is now about much more than “THE Game.”

A case in point? Researchers found that across the Super Bowl coverage, Beyoncé received more attention than any other personality in the game — more than the coaches, the quarterbacks or any other players.


What makes a photo so powerful is that just one can create an understanding, right or wrong, of a person or event.”
Kevin Blackistone, Panelist at ESPN & Visiting Professor, Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park

eyonc� performs during Super Bowl 2013 halftimeduring Super Bowl 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday February 3, 2013. (Photo by Ted Jackson, Nola.com |The Times-Picayune) Ted Jackson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Beyoncé performs during halftime —
Ted Jackson, NOLA.com /The Times-Picayune

See the TOP 5 HIGHLIGHTS of the study below: 

1.  The “entertainment” culture of American sports was very much in evidence.  Across the 16 sports and news outlets considered in the SportPix study, only half of the photo coverage of BOTH the Super Bowl and the NCAA Championship game featured “the games.”
•  See here for analysis of the coverage of the games.

2.  Across the Super Bowl coverage, Beyoncé received more attention than any other personality — more than the coaches, quarterbacks or players.  Beyonce’s performance attracted immense coverage for an event that only lasted 14 minutes — and overwhelming the published photos  showed her  in very sexualized poses.
•  See here  for more on the coverage of Beyoncé in the Super Bowl.

Kevin Ware was the breakaway star of the 2013 NCAA Championship, cheering his team on in the face of a terrible injury. – Sports Illustrated/David Klutho.
Kevin Ware was the breakaway star of the 2013 NCAA Championship, cheering his team on in the face of a terrible injury. – Sports Illustrated/David Klutho.

3.  The iconic players of the championship games were not the MVPs, but the players who came into the finals with compelling stories.  When Ray Lewis announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2013 postseason and Kevin Ware broke his leg  in the Elite Eight, they became centerpieces of the coverage of the NCAA and NFL final games.  Ware was depicted as a gutsy athlete, appearing often in on the sidelines and in the postgame celebration coverage. Photos of Lewis hoisting the Lombardi trophy became the iconic image of the Ravens’ win.
•  See here for more on how news outlets portrayed the iconic players Ray Lewis and Kevin Ware..

4.  News outlets pictured the dejection and disappointment of the losing teams and players — EVEN in photos taken during the game.  For both the Super Bowl and the NCAA Basketball Championship, outlets covered the failed plays and post-game disappointments of the losing teams (the 49ers and the Wolverines) much more often than of the winning teams. In fact, researchers never coded a single photo of a Louisville basketball player as expressing negative emotions or frustrations.
•  See here for more on how news outlets captured the emotions of the games.

5.  Across news outlets, the winners appeared in photographs more than the losers — LOTS more.  Across the board, the sports news outlets published significantly more photos of the winning teams — the Baltimore Ravens and the Louisville Cardinals.  Some of that imbalance was due to extensive post-game coverage, but not all of it.   Sports outlets also ran more photos of plays by the winning teams than by the losing teams and tended to show the winning teams in a more positive light photographically, not just after the game, but during as well.
•  See here for analysis of the photo coverage of the winners and losers.


To read more about how media photographically cover sports, and to learn about the findings of this study, visit the FULL WEBSITE OF THE STUDY HERE

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