October 18, 2004

Which Times Gives Kerry A Better Time? (Or: You Wouldn’t Be Getting Statistical On Me Now, Would You?)

O.K., let’s give credit where credit is due. The NYTimes (finally) did better, photo-wise, by Kerry on Sunday. They not only had this shot on the website

(Kerry and crowd in the same picture)

…they also had a more unbiased shot of him in the dead trees edition.

Before we start passing out awards, however, I have to say that the Kerry shot in the right coast Times did not pay the level of respect as the same-day photo I found in the left coast Times. How do I know that? Because I created my own unscientific, yet statistical survey to better analyze Kerry photo bias(!).

So, let’s look at the data, shall we? First, let’s take a look at the image of Kerry’s day in Ohio from the Sunday L.A. Times. Yes, there’s John on page A30, at Mick and Larry Garringer’s pumpkin patch, out in Jeffersonville. Larry doesn’t look particularly thrilled, but Mick has a reception for John that would put the NYTimes to shame.


Now, let’s do some analysis. First, let’s take the criteria I’ve been bitching about for the past couple weeks now, and make a checklist out of it. Let’s make one checklist to evaluate more “Intimate” photographs of the candidate, and another to evaluate “Crowd” shots.

Then, let’s devise a simple scoring system so we can evaluate a particular photo based on our criteria. (I seem to recall something about this from “Research Methods.”)


Great. Now, let’s assign some numbers to that shot of JFK out there with the Garringer’s.


(Unfortunately, we have to award a bunch of .5’s, because Mick’s showing the love a lot more than Larry is.)

So, we add up those numbers and the LA Times photo of Kerry earns a score of: 5

Now, let’s take a look at the shot the NYTimes ran on page A19. Yes, the shot is a little dark and ominous, and Kerry is still not connecting interpersonally with anybody around him, but there finally are people around him (who aren’t just guarding him or taking his picture), and they do seem to like him (or, at least, like what he’s doing).


So, we run our evaluation of Kerry’s NRA homage just outside Wakefield, and the NYTimes photo earns a score of: 2


So, all in all, it’s not a bad day for Kerry. If our data can be taken even somewhat seriously, the candidate has actually scored a positive photo from the NYTimes.

…Let’s not get carried away, though. Because, if I’ve figured this right, the shot in the L.A. Times is actually 60% more positive.

(For previous posts on this subject, see the category “Leading Photos.”)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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