Wednesday, October 26, 2005

USAToday responds

Earlier today I wrote about a photo that appeared at USAToday's web site as part of a story on Condi Rice. The image was doctored and resulted in a very harsh, frankly evil-looking visage of Condi. Go ahead and have a look if you haven't already done so and you'll see what I mean. Attached to that post was a comment from someone I'm pretty sure isn't a regular reader: Kinsey Wilson, VP/Editor in Chief of USAToday.com. First, please let me extend my regards since, as I mentioned, we don't see much of the MSM around here. Secondly, I feel the reply is important enough to warrant posting it up front in a post of its own. So, without further ado, here's the response from USAToday:

::::::::I’d like to explain how that happened. USATODAY.com, like other news organizations, often adjusts photos for sharpness and brightness to optimize their appearance when published online. In this case, a USATODAY.com editor sharpened the photo and then brightened a portion of Rice's face. Those changes had the effect of distorting the photo and failed to meet our editorial standards for accuracy and integrity. The photo has been replaced with a properly adjusted copy and an editor's note has been published here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/was...- congress_x.htm. The photo did not appear in the USA TODAY newspaper.

The editors of USATODAY.com will make every effort to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

Kinsey Wilson
VP/Editor-in-Chief
USATODAY.com
::::::::

(Note: the text for the link in the comment was, for some reason, shortened but the link itself works fine.) If you follow the link given, you'll see that the photo has, indeed, been replaced and this note added to the top of the story:

::::::::Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.::::::::

OK, let's give credit where credit is due. Notified of a problem with their on-line presence, the Editor in Chief 1) fixed the problem and 2) noted that he had fixed the problem rather than just change it without comment like nothing had happened. This is the kind of behavior we expect from the best of the blogs out here in the blogosphere and it's good to see the practice followed at USAToday. Kudos, folks.

However, I would like to address this note to Kinsey Wilson in specific. Check out the 2 photos I linked here on my blog and ask yourself something. Does any part of Condi Rice's face aside from just her eyes appear to have been brightened in any way in the edited photo when compared to the unedited one? Check out the color of her cheeks, her eyebrows, the bridge of her nose. I'm no graphic artist, not by a longshot. (May I recommend Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs?) I cannot detect any alteration of color or brightness in any other part of Ms. Rice's face in the edited photo. If the explanation being given to Wilson from the staff at USAToday.com is that "a portion" of Rice's face aside from the whites of her eyes was innocently brightened, then I would submit to Wilson that perhaps some more digging is in order to verify that the middle management is passing along the whole, unedited truth. I appreciate the explanation and, again, I applaud the actions of the editor in both the comment here and at USAToday.com, but I'm having a hard time swallowing that someone airbrushing a photo without the intent I allege in my previous post would produce the photo displayed. Just my 2 cents.