It Is Not The Picture, Stupid!

October 10, 2008

Much has been said about the picture of Sarah Palin on the cover of this week’s issue of Newsweek. I was interviewed yesterday by Joe Mathieu’s Press Pool program on XM Satellite Radio’s political channel about this issue, which by the way, is all over the media channels. I told Joe that the funny thing about our business is that we are “damned if we retouch a picture, and we are damned if we don’t.” You all recall the trouble TIME magazine got into when they retouched O J Simpson’s picture for their cover back in the mid 90s. Yes, it is a fact that we use Photoshop and retouching on a lot of pictures in fashion magazines, men’s magazines, teen magazines, etc., but when it comes to news magazines that is when I draw the line. If we retouch or alter a picture, we owe it to our readers to tell them that this is a photo illustration.
Well, back to the issue at hand. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with Sarah Palin’s picture on the cover of Newsweek. It is in line with some other covers that Newsweek has been producing lately using tight cropping of the images on the cover. However, two things most media pundits have ignored and not commented on: The first is that the newsstand edition of Newsweek had an additional cover flap that covered half of Sarah Palin’s face and focused the attention more on How to Fix Capitalism, thus reducing the IN YOUR FACE impact of the cover image. The second issue, and this in fact is the main one, is the cover line and the byline on the cover. The cover lines present a statement (She’s One of The Folks) and a response to the statement (And that’s the problem) and the byline is that of Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham. In the newspaper world they call that an editorial and not a cover story or an article. What happened to the days where columnists used to editorialize and editors used to present a fair and balanced (in other words, non-biased views) of things to their readers? I know we all have our biases, but the so-called newsweeklies have always separated between the news articles and the opinions, until today… and that, my friends is the main problem. It is not the picture stupid, it is the content that is the main problem.


  1. One can only hope that in the coming recession Newsweek will be reduced to pulp.

  2. The reason behind this is that newsweeklies and news publishers in general are having to find ways to adapt and keep up with online media. People find other people’s opinions interesting. This has been proven by websites like The Huffinton Post, etc. You also have to consider that it’s the headline, not the content of the article. While, yes, the article is probably more of an editorial then straight news, headlines have always been used to catch attention. It is their job. So presenting the article in a ‘slanted’ way is sure to encourage people to react to it – either by agreeing or disagreeing – and, hopefully, read the piece.

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