Perhaps you've heard by now about Katie Couric's amazing weight loss. How can you get the same stunning results? By working for a news organization that believes in you completely and is committed to your smarts and skills as a journalist, evidently.
Here's what happened: A photo of Couric in the September issue of Watch magazine -- published by CBS -- is an obviously altered version of her "official" first photo from the network, circulated a few months ago. In the new version, her torso looks as if it took an extra spin in the dryer. Through the magic of Photoshop, her waist and arms, and even her neck and cheeks, have clearly been "slenderized." In other words, she morphs from looking great to looking "great." Your favorite role model, girl reporters, now with 15 percent less fat!
As one Broadsheet staffer noted, "I can actually picture a stodgy CBS broadcast doing a condescending 'exposé' on how 'tabloids' and 'fashion magazines' actually, gasp, alter the images of women in order to make them look thinner or prettier." But at this point, really, they're not allowed to run a story about the "mixed messages" being sent to women by television or magazines ever again.
We do know that in the time it took you to read the above paragraphs, models and celebs "lost" a collective 2,348 pounds at the hands of beauty/fashion/star magazine art departments. And as the New York Post notes, this kind of tinkering is industry practice in general. There's likely no conspiracy here: no orders from on high to "slim down what's-her-name, that new fatty at the anchor desk," just an art person doing what he or she does every day.
But still. Though well we've learned that there's a difference between news and "news," there's still something hard to stomach about this kind of thing coming from an organization whose mission is to present, you know, the truth.
We were also reminded, peripherally, of the StarJonesGate statement made by Barbara Walters, in which she stated that public relations Plan A was for Jones to construct whatever pretty story she wanted. Translation: "We'd urged her to lie to the press, which is such an OK thing to do that I, an accomplished journalist, am going to say so on the record."
So it's not just the manipulation (or wholesale excision) of facts -- and inches -- that we know happens, even on the part of "news" organizations. It's the shallow, shrugging doublespeak "So what?" that goes with it.