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 V.17 No.43 | October 23 - 29, 2008 

Thin Line

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Pretty in Palin

The cover of Newsweek has spent its fair share of time under the microscope of professional scrutiny.

In 1994, O.J. Simpson dominated the national news. Newsweek was thrust into the media frenzy not for an error, but as a contrast to Time. Both magazines ran the same photo of Simpson on their covers, but Time altered it to accentuate its darker tones, garnering accusations of racism. Time pulled the cover and reissued a new one, but Newsweek stayed on stands as a reminder of how not to manipulate a photo for editorial purposes.

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But there are two sides to this coin. In 2005, Newsweek was slammed by The National Press Photographers Association for running a photo of Martha Stewart on the coveted glossy. The photo in question turned out to be two images, one of Stewart (about to launch into prime time after serving a little jail time) and another of an unnamed model. Stewart, it appeared, was unable to attend a photo shoot, so the Newsweek editors superimposed her face on the model's frame. The cut-and-paste job alone wasn't the problem—it was the lack of disclosure by Newsweek. NPPA President Bob Gould released a statement saying: "This type of practice erodes the credibility of all journalism, not just one publication." All the brownie points Newsweek earned for being the bastion of transparency with Simpson were eaten up by the Martha-model hybrid.

Fair and balanced anchor Kelly agreed, saying "any respectable magazine should be doing a little retouching" for those tight shots.

Enter Sarah Palin.

Gov. Palin is the topic of many conversations and political columns of late. Following the news wave, Newsweek released a cover story about Gov. Palin being "one of the folks" and included a close-up of the Alaska governor on the cover. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bad photo of Palin—she's a photogenic lady and there's no harm in that, you betcha. Newsweek did its job by presenting Palin as she is, unretouched.

But photojournalistic integrity wasn't good enough for Republican media consultant Andrea Tantaros. On FOX News’ "America's Newsroom" with Megyn Kelly, Tantaros claimed that Newsweek's refusal to edit out Palin's unwanted facial hair, pores and wrinkles—imperfections that "every human being has," Tantaros says—was a "slap in the face" to Gov. Palin. Fair and balanced anchor Kelly agreed, saying "any respectable magazine should be doing a little retouching" for those tight shots.

Photo manipulation is a slippery slope of journalistic ethics. If any "reasonable" magazine should edit out facial hair, then it's not long before any "reasonable" periodical starts taking off 10 years in wrinkles or pasting Joe Biden's head on the body of Michael Phelps. Editorial content—in both writing and images—should be representative of the truth. Models in ads aren't truth—they're art. Holding anyone in a feature story to that standard is unrealistic. Isn't Palin speaking to the everyday American woman with pores and peach fuzz? What is a slap in the face is feeding women the idea that we can't be considered beautiful as we are, flaws and all.

Here are some fresh-baked brownie points, Newsweek. Keep printing those dermatologist-approved facts.


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