Monday, March 19, 2007
Today a Teardrop, Tomorrow Weasels at the UN
What's the difference between these two cover pages? The one in the New York Post is much less of an outrage than the bogus image used on Time magazine's cover this week.
That tear on Reagan's cheek was added electronically. Reagan wasn't actually crying when the photo was taken.
I had to come back to this issue because it astounds me that it is not generating outrage — among both journalists and the public. I wrote about this in an earlier post. In a comment to that posting, Barbara Woike, a picture editor at the Associated Press, notes that we are indeed heading down a slippery slope. (Credit goes to her for digging up the Post cover.) In fact, some publications, like the Post, long ago ended up at the bottom. If that cover photo is not enough for you, check out the lede: "Weasel so-called allies France and Germany will hear fresh evidence today of Iraqi stonewalling, at an 11th-hour showdown with the United States in the U.N. Security Council."
This is no joke. (It's not April 1 yet.) The Post really did run that photo, and that lede. But what they did is less egregious than what Time magazine did. Most folks know that the Post is a screaming tabloid and generally is not to be taken too seriously. And no one who saw the cover photo was misled into thinking that the French and German ambassadors to the U.N. really are weasels. By contrast, hardly any readers are likely to realize that Ronald Reagan really was not crying when that photo of him was taken. Hardly any will know that the tear was added electronically. And very few indeed will understand that the editors of Time intended for the cover to be taken symbolically, not literally. The N.Y. Post did not try to hide what it was it doing. Time hid it very well.
Where are we headed if journalists shrug their shoulders when confronted with the doctoring of a photo in the way Time magazine did? I won't reiterate the arguments I made in my last post. But I submit that mainstream journalism will be headed to a much worse place than the Post — a place where facts are optional and the truth is malleable.
Does anyone out there care about this? Where is your sense of indignant outrage?