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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Photogate, Daughter of Watergate 

There are so many angles via which the Katie Couric photo retouching story can be approached - the responsibility of a news organization, the proper control of low-level workers, etc.

First, the Couric story:

No, Katie Couric didn't suddenly lose 20 pounds.

The incoming "CBS Evening News" anchor appears significantly thinner in a network promotional magazine photo thanks to digital airbrushing.

The touched-up photo of Couric dressed in a striped business suit appears on the inside of the September issue of Watch! which is distributed at CBS stations and on American Airlines flights....

Gil Schwartz, executive vice president of communications for CBS Corp., said Wednesday in a phone interview the photo alteration was done by someone in the CBS photo department who "got a little zealous."

But he dismissed any notion of heads rolling over the matter.

"I talked to my photo department, we had a discussion about it," Schwartz said. "I think photo understands this is not something we'd do in the future."

My first reaction was that the mysterious "someone in the CBS photo department" is sending wrong messages to females - namely, that women have to be thin to have value. But I suspect that my reaction is only half right. Here is a reporter job description (emphasis mine):

Reporter - Long Island
Rainbow Media Holdings
Woodbury, NY
Looking for someone to generate story ideas, gather information, and produce and present stories and other content for all platforms and in a manner that is clear, relevant and meaningful to news consumers. Ensure all content meets News 12 Network standards for journalistic integrity and production quality. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of one year Full-time professional news reporting experience preferred as well as a Bachelor`s degree or equivalent experience. Should have on-air performance, effective news writing ability for all platforms and a knowledge of news gathering equipment and computers. Must maintain professional personal appearance as defined by News 12 management. An understanding of news production techniques, ability to develop engaging presentation and the ability to analyze news situations in order to provide accurate information, insight, and perspective are highly essential to position. Should have a valid driver`s license with good driving record and should be flexible to work any assigned shift. Must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to identify problems and develop solutions. To apply, please copy URL below into browser. Cablevision is an equal opportunity employer. Please forward tapes for review to: News 12 Long Island Att: Staffing Department One Media Crossways Woodbury, NY 11797

Maybe it's just because of the brief format, but the personal appearance requirement seems rather vague and arbitrary. It could mean that the employee will receive written guidelines, or it could mean that any executive could walk by and say, "Put some makeup on now!"

Of course, New York has a long way to go to catch up to North Korea (2005 article):

North Korea has launched an intensive media assault on its latest arch enemy - the wrong haircut.

A campaign exhorting men to get a proper short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run Pyongyang television.

The series is entitled Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle....

It stressed the "negative effects" of long hair on "human intelligence development", noting that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy.

Men should get a haircut every 15 days, it recommended....

State radio programmes such as "Dressing in accordance with our people's emotion and taste" link clothes and appearance with the wearer's "ideological and mental state".

Tidy attire "is important in repelling the enemies' manoeuvres to infiltrate corrupt capitalist ideas and lifestyle and establishing the socialist lifestyle of the military-first era," the radio says.

Military first era? Boy, patriotic Americans must have those Communists - reductio ad stalin, or sumfin. Perhaps not:

QUESTION: You've said that schools need to have enough structure and discipline to require certain behavior from children whether or not they have a natural interest in the subject being taught. Then you must favor a very structured, teacher-led program, where student behavior is rather tightly controlled. Why?

DR. DOBSON: One of the purposes of education is to prepare a young person for later life. To survive as an adult in this society, one needs to know how to work, how to get there on time, how to get along with others, how to stay with a task until completed and, yes, how to submit to authority.

In short, it takes a good measure of self-discipline and control to cope with the demands of modern living. Maybe one of the greatest gifts a loving teacher can contribute to an immature child, therefore, is to help her learn to sit when she feels like running, to raise her hand when she feels like talking, to be polite to her neighbor, to stand in line without smacking the kid in front, and to do English when she feels like doing soccer.

I would also like to see our schools readopt reasonable dress codes, eliminating suggestive clothing, T-shirts with profanity or those promoting heavy-metal bands, etc. Guidelines concerning good grooming and cleanliness should also be enforced.

I know! I know! These notions are so alien to us now that we can hardly imagine such a thing, but the benefits would be apparent immediately. Admittedly, hairstyles and matters of momentary fashion are of no particular significance, but adherence to a standard is an important element of discipline. The military has understood that for 5,000 years.

If one examines the secret behind a championship football team, a magnificent orchestra or a successful business, the principal ingredient is invariably discipline. Preparation for this disciplinary lifestyle should begin in childhood. That's why I think it's a mistake to require nothing of children: to place no demands on their behavior, to allow them to giggle, fight, talk and play in the classroom. We all need to adhere to reasonable rules, and school is a good place to get acquainted with how that is done.

I seem to have strayed from my original topic, but as long as I'm out here, let's consider this:

1 Corinthians 11:11-16 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

11In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

More here (warning: if you follow this link, you'll REALLY go off on a tangent and get embroiled in the consubstantiation issue).

So, back to the question re whether Katie Couric is too fat to be a news anchor. According to the Media Research Center, the only thing fat about Couric is her paycheck. Media Research Center presented this Couric quote, a question that she asked Joel Osteen:

"You signed a $13 million book deal, which I understand is bigger than Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, and Pope John Paul II, so how do you square your wealth with the tenets of Christianity?...[The Bible] said, this is Matthew 19, verses 23 and 24, ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth. It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."’...It makes you wonder about your claim that wealth is a positive thing."

Here's how Media Research Center captioned this quote:

NBC’s Katie Couric, who is poised to make $15 million a year as the new anchor of the CBS Evening News, to TV minister Joel Osteen on Today, May 9.

Pink Armadillo says the following about Photogate:

No wonder people prefer to get their news from The Daily Show. At least they admit their fakery! Gosh, I just don't know what to believe anymore. I'm so disillusioned with it all!

And Jolt! introduces the story as follows:

Can Katie Couric pull her weight as a news heavy hitter after years as a morning show host?

Jolt! goes on to say the following:

Couric claims she knew nothing about the photo doctoring. AAAAAAANT. Wrong answer! Airbrusing is commonplace in magazines and someone as media savvy as Couric should have known that it was a possibility. Most of my celebrity clients who have trust and credibility as cornerstones of their personal leader brands make photographers sign "no doctoring" clauses before a photo shoot even begins. Couric has had her photo taken enough to know what goes on in the magazine biz. I am very surprised she didn't take the necessary precautionary steps to protect her personal brand.

And I'll close with Keith Boykin's take:

Katie Couric starts her new job as CBS News Anchor next month and already they're working her to the bone.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Two thoughts:

1) I agree with your assessment that thinning Couric's body gives the wrong message to women.

2) Where can I get that digital airbrushing software?
"Photoshop" has now become a verb. Expect a lawsuit from Adobe shortly as it seeks to protect its trademark.
The local news radio stations in Southern California are associated with CBS. You can bet that they're quoting from Katie Couric's exclusive interviews with Bush and others every chance they get. It gets tiresome.
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