John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Might be imagined by some people to be true

Peter Bronson, a writer at one of my former employers, The Cincinnati Enquirer, has published on his blog, Bronson Is Always Right, a photo of Al Franken, the new junior senator from Minnesota, in diapers, hugging a teddy bear. This illustrates, Mr. Bronson suggests, what the nation can expect from Mr. Franken on health care.

One problem: The photograph is a fake, clumsily doctored. Another problem: That the photograph is a fake has been documented in Mr. Bronson’s own newspaper. (Thanks to The Cincinnati Beacon and Romenesko for the information.)

Mr. Bronson has responded on his blog:

Yes, the photo of Franken in a diaper was apparently altered. But it’s not exacly a big reach to believe it could have come from one of his SNL skits. It resonates because people find it easy to see Franken that way.

When I was a brown-haired lad first learning the copy editor’s craft at The Enquirer, the paper did have some peculiarities — it once gave its editorial endorsement to a communicable disease — but those of us in its employ were expected to publish things that were, so far as we could determine, true.

Publishing something demonstrably false with the feeble explanation that it’s the sort of thing that some people might well imagine to be true lacks — what do you want to call it? — journalistic integrity.

The bogus photo is still featured on the blog.

Surely it can't be that difficult to discover genuine photos of Mr. Franken looking ridiculous.

4 comments:

  1. Amen. Looks like he has taken your advice. Oh, and there's a note: Note: This picture replaces an earlier one that was photoshopped (Franken in a diaper). We don't knowingly use false pictures.

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  2. In the Urban Legends usenet group alt.folklore.urban, this is known as "it could be true therefore it must be true."

    It's easy to find photos of him looking ridiculous, but apparently the idea of Franken as a baby who still wears diapers (he's Senator Poopy Pants!) is just too delicious for words.

    It's of a piece with another specialty of certain political opinionistas: elementary school-style name-mangling (e.g. Hitlery Klintoon, Madeleine Half-Bright).

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  3. Just wondering...did this writer/paper ever use any of the many photo-shopped pics of Gov. Palin? Somehow, I doubt it...

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