JOURNAL WATCH: "Image Bytes" in Election Coverage

Scholars have long warned about the increasing sound bite nature of our media and political system, but overlooked is the visual nature of this trend. A new study in the Journal of Communication is the first to systematically track and contextualize this troubling tendency of the American public sphere:

Taking Television Seriously: A Sound and Image Bite Analysis of Presidential Campaign Coverage, 1992-2004

This study updates and builds on Hallin's landmark investigation of sound-bite news by documenting the prevalence of candidate image bites, where candidates are shown but not heard (as opposed to being shown and heard), in general election news over 4 election cycles. A visual analysis of broadcast network (ABC, CBS, and NBC) news coverage of the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 U.S. presidential elections finds that image bites constituted a greater percentage of total campaign coverage than sound bites, with candidates appearing in image bites significantly more than sound bites. Even as candidate sound bites continue to shrink over time, image-bite time is increasing in duration--and candidates are being presented in image bites almost twice as much as journalists. Sound bites are also found to be largely attack and issue focused. Based on these findings, we call for greater appreciation of visual processing, nonverbal communication, and voter learning from television news in the study of media and politics.

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Interesting, as a television photojournalist I often use vis of candidates as b-roll to cover voice overs because the issues discussed during that days news cycle are essentially non issues. They are personality based "he said, she said" reporting. Not what I consider to be news by any stretch of the imagination. As soon as an issue is brought up (increasingly rare) I get housing vis or Irap vis in order to better in form the viewer by matching up pictures with words... It is unfortunate to find that on the whole if you see more politicians as b-roll it means that the news is about them and not the issues.

By Christopher Dick (not verified) on 22 Jan 2008 #permalink

oh and please excuse above typos, I am on a blackberry... shooting politicians HAHA gotta love the new technology!!!

By Christopher Dick (not verified) on 22 Jan 2008 #permalink

Even as candidate sound bites continue to shrink over time, image-bite time is increasing in duration

I have stood in awe for decades by the ability of the spin masters to not report public opinion, but to actually make it! It's an expensive arena so I would guess if we see upticks like this that means they must be working and we will see more of it!
Dave Briggs :~)