HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
This page provides a summary of research results for the Dallas Morning News’s photographic coverage of the 2012 GOP primaries.
In February and March 2012, when photographs of GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney inundated most news sites, TV and print media, it was notable that researchers found slightly more photographs of candidate Rick Santorum than Romney on DallasNews.com. The Dallas news outlet was the only outlet in the study to run more photos of Santorum than Romney. In total, researchers “pinned” to Pinterest a total of 32 photos: 10 photos of Mitt Romney, 16 photographs of Rick Santorum, 5 of Newt Gingrich and a single image of Ron Paul.
That said, despite the disparity in number of photographs between Romney and Santorum, researchers coded the photos of both men as positive in tone — DallasNews.com generally selected photos of both men smiling and engaging with voters. By contrast coders found the images of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to be generally negative in tone — both appeared in photographs isolated from supporters.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
ROMNEY / 10 PINS *
POSITIVE: The relatively few photographs of Mitt Romney that did appear in DallasNews.com pictured the frontrunner in a quite positive light: In all but three out of the 10 images he is smiling or laughing, and in those three he is either actively talking or listening. In five of the images he is photographed with a prominent American flag (or flags) alongside. And in four images he is engaged with a group of people, with his hands literally reaching out to the supporter(s).
- Coders noted that the DallasNews.com’s images made Romney appear friendly, confident and genuine; he is depicted as a serious contender for the presidency. Yet two of the ten images of Romney show him with Teddy Kennedy, the former senior senator from Massachusetts, an icon of liberalism for much of the country. (Both photos illustrated an article entitled “Mitt Romney can’t shake influence of rival turned collaborator Edward Kennedy.”) Both of the images show the men smiling, seeming to be in accord with each other. To a conservative Republican audience those “positive” photos might be interpreted as damning — in essence documenting that Romney is too sympathetic to liberal ideals and politicians — lending credence to the notion that the context in which photographs are seen matters, and can affect the interpretation of those images.
SANTORUM / 16 PINS *
POSITIVE: Researchers pinned half again as many DallasNews.com photographs of Rick Santorum as they found of Mitt Romney, suggesting a preference on the part of the news outlet for the second-place contender.
- Coders noted that in half of the images of Santorum he is smiling, and in an additional image he is kissing his wife. In nine of the photos Santorum is actively talking or listening to a group of supporters, and in a quarter of the photos he is alone on stage, forcefully making a point — in one case (above), while holding an Etch-a-Sketch toy, a negative reference to competitor Romney.
- As a result of these portraits, coders noted that the images made Santorum appear much like Romney, both approachable and confident. But, as the opening sentences of an article following Super Tuesday said: “With all of its potential to clarify and simplify, Super Tuesday has settled nothing. Another smattering of underwhelming wins for Mitt Romney. Another night of victories for Rick Santorum that justify continuing but fall short of pulling him up to Romney’s level.”
GINGRICH / 5 PINS *
NEGATIVE: Researchers noted just five published photographs of Newt Gingrich that were able to be pinned from DallasNews.com. One image, showed Gingrich, head in hands, face obscured (left), surrounded by other men in suits, presumably staffers. Three of the five images showed Gingrich at a substantial remove from the viewer — in one image he is small and distant, his back to the camera; in a second image his face appears on a TV screen, while Rick Santorum is in the foreground; in a third image all that can be seen of Gingrich is his hand signing his autograph on a banner.
- Researchers coded these photographs as negative in their depiction of the former Speaker of the House, as the photographs either appear to show Gingrich depressed — with his face in his hands — or isolated and disengaged. The negative tone is best noticed by comparison: the DallasNews.com did not pictured Gingrich gleefully wading into crowds or forcefully speaking to an audience, as it showed Romney and Santorum.
PAUL / 1 PIN *
NEGATIVE: DallasNews.com published only a single image of candidate Ron Paul that researchers were able to pin during the month-long period of study. That photograph (left) showed Paul emerging from behind a red velvet curtain with both arms raised and fingers spread, as if he were casting a spell over his audience.
- DallasNews.com selected an aesthetically compelling moment as Paul made this odd gesture to supporters at a pre-caucus rally in Wichita, Kansas in early March — but coders did not consider the gesture to be ”presidential.”
The Dallas Morning News
2012 Primary Election Coverage
During the 2012 presidential primary season, DallasNews.com dedicated a section of its online content to “National Politics.” On that page — essentially a list of articles — the site aggregated brief news about national politics, including, but not limited to those about the presidential primaries and general election.
PINTEREST: The Dallas Morning News integrated easily with Pinterest; when clicked, photos “pinned” to Pinterest boards led back to the article associated with that photograph. Not all photos on the Dallas news site, however, were available to be pinned; thumbnail images (including head shots, etc.) did not show up on the “Pin It” screen. Therefore, because some photographs only appeared in thumbnail form, not all the election images from the Dallas news site could be captured and evaluated by researchers.
CONTEXT: The Dallas Morning News is an online (DallasNews.com) and print news organization that reports on topics including news, sports, traffic and entertainment. Now owned by the A.H. Belo Corporation, the paper began printing as The Dallas Morning News in 1885, making it the oldest continuous publishing newspaper in the state of Texas.