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May 11, 2011 • Rants and Raves

‘Where’s Hillary’ Update: Der Tzeitung Apologizes, Another Jumps into the Fray!

The other day I wrote about the Orthodox Hasidic Jewish newspaper Der Tzitung Photoshopping Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason out of the famous ‘Situation Room’ photo. The concern was that the alteration of the photo to meet their “laws of modesty” stepped all over the White House rules of usage and the fundamental rights of the individuals in the photo to … well, exist.

Today there is a large apology and clarification from Der Tzitung at the Gothamist, but you can read a relevant chunk here:

Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.

But just as that happened we get news of another Photoshop exclusion,this time from the weekly ‘De Voch’:

De Voch means “The Week.” It is a glossy magazine made up primarily of pictures, and it is published by and largely for ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, New York:

While my level of disgust remains high, should we perhaps be happier that at least De Voch did such a hack job that it is clear that stuff was altered? Or can we continue to feel that if a paper has a policy of no photos of women for their own religious reasons, they use images with no women? The White House made plenty of male-only images available, yet in what seems a blatant attempt to simultaneously capitalize on the famous photo (out of greed) while also keeping women ‘out of the picture’ (for whatever reason) … the result is the appearance that they DO in fact “denigrate women”.

Source: Gothamist

5 Responses to " ‘Where’s Hillary’ Update: Der Tzeitung Apologizes, Another Jumps into the Fray! "

  1. dbmurray says:

    You nailed it. There’s no law requiring them to use this particular photo in the first place.

  2. melvynadam says:

    Editing the picture was wrong, unnecessary even by the strictest understanding of Jewish law, and just plain silly.

    However I take major issue with your propagation of a racial stereotype in you comments.

    I think it would be amazing if you actually knew the reason for why they used this photo instead of a different one. I presume you haven’t interviewed anyone from either paper. By stating as fact that the choice must have been because they’re greedy Jews, you immediately cast a shadow over this post and over Gear Diary as a whole.

    • Sorry – YOU are the one with the issue here.

      Greed is something that crosses all religious, gender, racial, national, and age boundaries. I write about it *all the time* in the context of the music industry – in my mind publishers are publishers, and make choices based on what would sell. In my post I merely applied the same criteria I have in looking at music industry, game industry, and ebook industry publications in articles I’ve written here over the last two years.

      In this case there was a set of photos released, one of which has become iconic and others which are also pretty cool but less well known. Choosing the iconic one allowed the newspaper to get an immediate ‘face time’ reaction, which translates to sales.

      What is wrong with that? NOTHING – heck, pretty much every publication out there did that – this picture was everywhere and why? Because it is striking and gets people’s attention, leading to more sales. EVERY paper that featured this image was greed-motivated, because they are pushing sales, and using an eye-grabbing image to do so.

      The problem happened when the paper wanted the positive sales impact of the image, but couldn’t allow any women to be present in the pictures based on their beliefs. While I find that morally repugnant and indefensible, I respect their rights to practice their beliefs. However, they showed poor journalistic practices by failing to read the basic ‘terms of use’ that the White House published very clearly along with the images.

      I would have had an issue – and applied the same standard – whether the newspaper in question came from any other religion or race or nation of origin or sex or gender roles or sexual orientation.

      The issue was not that those who sought to alter history for their own profit were of the Jewish faith, but rather that they sought to alter history for their own profit.

      If you disagree that the choice of the photo was made based on using an iconic image to sell copies, then we simply disagree. But please don’t accuse me of doing something I simply did not do.

  3. melvynadam says:

    Of course greed crosses all religions: the choice of image was made by an individual who works for the paper. It may even be that the person isn’t Jewish.

    I don’t think choosing a recognizable picture equates to “greed”. In my opinion that’s such a lazy, “one hat fits all” explanation.

    The goal of a business is to make money. Are all decisions intended to further that goal therefore driven by greed? Is the choice of font on the page (clearly made to improve the readability and therefore increase sales) “greed driven”? Photoshopping out the women was a gesture to the paper’s demographic (therefore trying to increase sales) so is it “greed driven”? When the newspaper ensures their staff have parking spaces, they’re trying to keep employees happy and further their business so is it also “greed driven”? Do you see why I think ascribing “greed” as the motive in this case is wrong?

    When you speak of Apple and the 30% margin that they are taking from ebook retailers (thereby forcing the little guys out of business) attributions of “greed” are appropriate.

    Make a single sentence out of it and see how wrong it sounds:
    “Apple greedily demands 30% of the revenue from all publishers” (relevant and appropriate)
    vs
    “The publisher greedily chose this photo” (nonsensical)

    My point was that “greed” doesn’t make sense in this context and by crowbarring it into the blog post it sticks out as incongruous. An incongruous word, with no basis in fact, and with negative connotations often invoked to denigrate the very people under discussion in the post, comes very close to offensive.

    • I appreciate that you seem to understand that my intent was not offensive – and I apologize that my word choice of ‘greed’ triggered an apparent ‘litmus test’ wherein I appeared to be applying an offensive stereotype.

      I think we have a semantic nuance disagreement … because I see a fine line between ‘profit motive’ and ‘greed’. Yes all companies operate on ‘profit motive’, but ‘greed’ is when they take a step in a direction in which the pursuit of money takes precedence.

      As an example, much was made of how the top-line Grammy performers didn’t win their categories (Justin Beiber being the infamous one). The rationale of using those performers was either ‘profit motive’ or ‘greed’, depending on who you ask. I see it as ‘greed’, and that is the only way I agree with those who said Beiber should have won due to popularity …

      So I actually have no problem saying “The publisher greedily chose this photo” in this context – because they spent loads of time Photoshopping out women, yet failed Journalism 101 by not checking their source and giving proper respect to sources. Yes I am making a stretch and ‘assuming’ motive here, but *to me* it seems that expedience was a goal, which was based on trying to maximize sales by printing as soon as possible. Since you have a journalistic publication whose journalistic standards were compromised in order to maximize sales … I WOULD say “The publisher greedily chose this photo”.

      But thanks for the civil discourse. These sorts of things can get out of hand quickly. 🙂

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