An editor at The Economist
insists the decision to Photoshop a news photo for its June 19 cover was made for the sake of design, not politics. A version of the same photo was also used to illustrate an opinion piece critical of President Obama for being too harsh on BP.
Next to the headline “Obama vs BP: The Damage Beyond the Spill,” The Economist used a photo showing Obama alone on a Louisiana beach. The original photo, taken by Larry Downing of Reuters, shows that the President was standing next to a local representative, Charlotte Randolph, who was Photoshopped out of the photo. Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard was cropped out of the photo.
In the Photoshopped photo, Obama appears to be looking down, as if thoughtful or discouraged. The unaltered photo shows he was listening to Randolph, who is about a foot shorter than Obama.
Emma Duncan, deputy editor at The Economist
, told The New York Times
yesterday that she wanted Randolph airbrushed from the photo "not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers."
She wrote in an email, "I asked for Ms Randolph to be removed because I wanted readers to focus on Mr Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn't the point of the story."
If the Photoshopped cover doesn't make a political point, the cover story certainly does. Inside the issue, The Economist
ran a tightly cropped version of Downing's photo over an opinion piece
that describes "the President’s swipes at" BP as "anti-business." As The Columbia Journalism Review
noted in its critique of this "off the deep end" essay, The Economist writes the following under the subhead “Vladimir Obama":
“If he sees any impropriety in politicians ordering executives about, upstaging the courts and threatening confiscation, he has not said so. The collapse in BP’s share price suggests that he has convinced the markets that he is an American version of Vladimir Putin, willing to harry firms into doing his bidding.”
The opinion piece also says attempts by Obama, Congress and the Administration to get BP to pay for the oil spill clean up are xenophobic: BP is a British company, as is The Economist.
The essay, accompanied by a horizontal version of the Photoshopped cover shot, can be found here.