HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
This page provides a summary of research results for Philly.com’s photographic coverage of the 2012 GOP primaries.
From the primaries at the end of February through those late in March, Philly.com published a significantly larger number of photos of both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum then it did of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Researchers understood this disparity to likely a reflection of the favorable chances both Romney and Santorum were perceived as having for becoming the Republican presidential nominee, and the concomitant lack of optimism about Gingrich’s and Paul’s chances.
Yet, with the exception of the photos of Ron Paul, the pictures selected by Philly.com of the three other candidates were extraordinarily positive in tone. This might have reflected an effort by editors to “objectively” represent the candidates over these four key weeks at the height of the political primary season.
In total, researchers “pinned” to Pinterest 241 photos: 112 photos of Mitt Romney, 88 photographs of Rick Santorum, 26 of Newt Gingrich and 15 photos of Ron Paul.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
ROMNEY / 112 PINS *
POSITIVE: Philly.com published extremely positive photos of Romney, repeatedly showing him smiling, engaged, assertive. Philly.com, like many of the other news outlets looked at during the primaries as well as the general election, used one photograph repeatedly for different stories. The upbeat photo (left), for example, of Romney with hand raised in greeting while supporters surrounded him (one taking his picture with a smart phone) illustrated eight different breaking news stories on Super Tuesday, including two announcing that Santorum had won Oklahoma and Tennessee.
- In more than half the pinned photos, Philly.com selected photos of Romney that pictured him surrounded by supporters, so that he appeared confident, friendly and approachable. Coders noted many positive elements in the images: the American flag was often evident in backgrounds, and Romney was often shown literally reaching out and/or touching supporters and family.
- A significant number of images showed Romney on a podium, often in mid-speech. Most of those showed him optimistic or firm; others, such as the photo right, pictured him almost visionary.
SANTORUM / 88 PINS *
POSITIVE: Philly.com published extremely positive photos of Rick Santorum, repeatedly highlighting him smiling and connecting with supporters. Many photos capitalized on his boyish charm and his evident connection with his wife. As with Philly.com’s photos of Romney, Santorum is also often depicted with hand outstretched, literally almost out of the camera frame, as if he is reaching out to the viewer of the photo.
- Coders noted that Philly.com’s photos of Santorum mingling with supporters suggested that Santorum was friendly and approachable. Many photos of Santorum speaking to an audience showed him looking out at the crowd with a level gaze, but as they are taken from a lower level he appears confident and sure of what he is saying.
GINGRICH / 26 PINS *
POSITIVE: Few news outlets pictured the warm and fuzzy side of Newt Gingrich, but the majority of photos from Philly.com showed him smiling, engaged and genuine, coders noted.
- Often pictured with his wife by his side, Gingrich appeared confident and likeable in the photos selected by Philly.com
- As was the case with essentially all the other outlets, Gingrich often appeared alone in photos, but in the Philly.com photos — unusually — he rarely appeared frowning, scowling or lecturing, but instead avuncular, thoughtful or amused.
PAUL / 15 PINS *
NEGATIVE: Even in a photo with Ron Paul signing an autograph (left) that appeared on Super Tuesday in Philly.com, somehow the candidate appears lost and alone. None of the supporters or staff in frame are looking at Paul, and he himself appears downcast. Such a tone was typical of how Philly.com represented Paul.
- Most of the photos of Paul selected by Philly.com had a mixed message: coders noted positive elements (autograph signing, American flags, campaign posters), but evaluated the overall tone of most of the images as either negative (Paul appears to be depressed) or neutral (Paul appears isolated and vulnerable).
2012 Primary Election Coverage
During the 2012 presidential primary season Philly.com devoted a section under the “Politics” section titled “More Presidential Political News” where researchers found most of the photos collected.
PINTEREST: Philly.com synced well with Pinterest; the main images associated with articles were easily able to be pinned. The only limitation of the site was that images in slideshows were not able to be grabbed with the “Pin It” button. As a work around, researchers tried to take screenshots of key images to pin.
CONTEXT: Philly.com is the online home of both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. Both papers are owned by the Philadelphia Media Network. The Philadelphia Inquirer was first published as the Pennsylvania Inquirer on June 1st, 1829, and the website launched in November 1995.