In this case study, the authors examined media representations of two Chinese female athletes—state athlete Ding Ning and professional athlete Li Na—in China, a nation undergoing social transformation and a sport-reform initiative. Analyzing stories from two Chinese web portals (i.e., Sina and Tencent), the authors analyzed how (a) gender, (b) nationalism, and (c) the individualism–collectivism continuum entered into media representations of these two female athletes. Notable differences emerged in all three conceptual areas. A fourth theme, which the authors have identified as the commercialized athlete, also emerged. Possible explanations and implications are discussed.
Qingru Xu and Peggy J. Kreshel
Qingru Xu and Andrew C. Billings
At the World Tour Platinum China Open in 2017, 3 leading Chinese table tennis players and two coaches withdrew from the Games to protest the sudden removal of Head Coach Liu Guoliang, triggering unprecedented public uproar online. Applying gatekeeping theory, this study explored how mainland Chinese media controlled information flow during the crisis. A thematic analysis uncovered 3 primary gatekeeping behaviors: repetition, selection, and manipulation. Findings suggest that the party-state, not media institutions, was the dominant gatekeeper in mainland China. The Chinese media system and sports system were both subject to strict government control during a crisis that challenged authority.
Qingru Xu and Andrew C. Billings
This study content analyzed 1,013 thumbnails of news episodes at the Olympic Channel through the lens of gender. By examining the percentage of pictures rendered to male and female athletes, themes, sports type, sexualization, subordination, and action level, this study uncovered that although some sex differences existed, the Olympic Channel—overall—showcased a high level of gender equality in visualizing male and female athletes in news thumbnails, especially considering that the pictures analyzed were collected from daily-based media coverage. This study is one of the first to explore gender differences in a media platform established by the International Olympic Committee, with implications outlined.
Andrew C. Billings, Melvin Lewis, Kenon A. Brown, and Qingru Xu
A national sample of 393 NFL (National Football League [professional]) fans were surveyed about their use of ancillary devices when consuming NFL media products. Results indicate that male, younger, and highly educated participants were more likely to use second-screen options. Such second-screen activities were just as likely to be used for distraction (multitasking other content not related to the NFL) as for enhancement (bolstering NFL consumption with other NFL-related content). Moreover, the more participants used second screens for multitasking and distracting purposes, the more they felt that second-screening helped build, interact, and maintain vast social networks; advanced social interactions among their social groups for a shared purpose; and made them feel psychologically present among other people. Fantasy-sport participation was also found to be a relevant predictor of second-screen use.
Bo Li, Olan K.M. Scott, Stirling Sharpe, Qingru Xu, and Michael Naraine
Media coverage in China and Australia examined a conflict between 2 Olympic swimmers, Chinese Sun Yang and Australian Mack Horton, during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. While both swimmers performed well, there were several conflicts between the 2 leading to both nations’ media coverage portraying the foreign athlete negatively. An analysis of 398 print-media articles revealed there were sharp differences between the 2 nations in both the amount of coverage and the valence of the information sources. From a theoretical perspective, the framing of this conflict showed an “us vs. them” dichotomy, suggesting that both countries’ coverage was strongly influenced to protect the reputation and honor of the home athlete. Coverage in both nations was markedly different, suggesting a home-nation favoritism. Implications for sport communicators are discussed.