September 26, 2004

Leading Photos: Slimes of the Times


When I laid out the NYTimes this morning, I was disappointed to find still another lead image (the second this week) clearly denigrating John Kerry.

Frustrated, I started hunting around for stories that might reveal some new (conservative) editorial slant to the Times photo coverage. I can’t say my search was that fruitful, but I did take notice of a late April story in Photo District News announcing the appointment of Michele McNally to the newly established title of NYTimes Director of Photography. After indicating that the role of photo head had just been elevated to a higher status (previous photo chiefs at the Times have carried the title of “Picture Editor”), the article offered a quote from Rik Kirkland, McNally’s former boss at Fortune magazine. (The new hire had been a picture editor at Fortune since 1968.)

“McNally,” Kirkland said, “has a strong news sense and an ability to find creative ways to illustrate analytical stories not driven by breaking news.”

If my complaint about the Times’ pictorial mini-me-ization of Kerry earlier in the week was based on a “stand alone” photo, what bothered me this morning was something a little more toxic. Specifically, it was a cheap slice-and-dice image (see above) used to illustrate an analytical story (“Kerry as the Boss: Always More Questions“) not driven by breaking news. (If you missed the story, the thesis was that Kerry is so obsessive, he reduces his staff to molasses.) With the folks from Clinton’s war room now grafted onto the Kerry operation (and Kerry having spent the past week nearly flaying the skin off of Bush’s body) however, it’s impossible not to question the timing of this piece (if not, it’s accuracy).

A reader, Martin, commenting on my previous “Photo” post, mentioned an AP shot of Kerry he recently saw on Yahoo. He said he called AP to inquire about the awkward image which showed Kerry’s head at the very bottom of the frame. He reported that, when he returned to the link, the photo had been changed. In it’s place was a shot of Kerry climbing aboard a plane. Taken from a distance, however, he looked like a tiny, solitary figure against the enormous aircraft.

I imagine receiving feedback (from the more conservatively persuaded) about the liberal bias of the Times. I can see entreaties suggesting I take a more realistic stance as the Times aspires to (or even, contrives) a more (fair and) balanced approach.

(This is where I would answer, I expect the Times to lean left. If I didn’t, I could be reading the Wall Street Journal.)


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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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