T Magazine photos held to a different standard, New York Times says

New York Times

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has followed up on her May 13 post about photo standards in T Magazine following editor Deborah Needleman’s Photoshopping comments.

In the May 13 post, Needleman said she thought a cover model was too thin and “considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop,” drawing some criticism from readers and other journalists, Sullivan wrote. The verdict: News photos can’t be altered, but fashion photos are held to a different standard — and editors at the Times “are confident that readers know the difference.”

“That is inviolate, and the standards are very clear,” Michele McNally, assistant managing editor for photography, told me. The Times does not stage news photographs, or alter them digitally.

But Times editors see the fashion photography in T as an exception. “Fashion is fantasy,” Ms. McNally said. “Readers understand this. It’s totally manipulated, with everything done for aesthetics.”

Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, agreed. “This is a different genre of photography,” he said. “It has different goals, different tools and techniques, and there is a different expectation on the part of the reader.”

Sullivan added that Styles editor Stuart Emmrich said his features section has a definite policy on any sort of manipulation: “We strictly forbid any altering or manipulation of photos that have been shot for Styles, including fashion shoots.” Times Magazine photo director Kathy Ryan concurred, Sullivan said.

The differences in standards between T Magazine and the rest of the paper needs to be more clear, she wrote; Giving the paper’s audience the benefit of the doubt is not sound business.

Newspaper people sometimes assume too much about what readers know — for example, the difference between the opinions expressed in editorials and those expressed by a news-page columnist, or even the difference between a staff-written obituary and a paid death notice.

It would be best if all the photography produced by the Times newsroom could be held to the same standard. If that is deemed unrealistic for some parts of a fashion magazine, some transparency (and not the kind that has to do with gossamer fabrics) is needed. For example, a brief statement in each issue of T stating its photo practices would help.

Poynter tried to contact both Sullivan and Needleman as to whether Sullivan’s suggestion would be incorporated. Both referred us to Corbett, who was out of the office on Wednesday. Corporate communications director Stephanie Yera said she would keep us informed if news administration implemented the idea.

The Times offers guidelines for photo integrity online, stating “in the cases of collages, montages, portraits, fashion or home design illustrations, fanciful contrived situations and demonstrations of how a device is used, our intervention should be unmistakable to the reader, and unmistakably free of intent to deceive.”

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Pat Myers

    If the NYT considers T to have the standards of fashion magazines rather than newspapers, I wonder if that extends to the collaboration with/ sucking up to designers and fashion houses that fashion mags unabashedly take part in.

  • kell

    Wow!Great article,it’s so helpful to me,and your blog is very nice,I’ve learned someting from your blog ,Keep on writing,my friend,I will keep an eye on it,One more thing,thanks for your post!welcome to my website kitchen scrubber,kitchen

  • Nuschler

    When I opened my Sunday Times and found this magazine “T” I was appalled. These girls could not have been more than 12 years old…No hips, no breasts, no leg or arm musculature. They looked extremely unhealthy, anorexic, cachetic. Ycch!