Why an extra hand in Chicago Tribune’s photo of the Obamas?

Romenesko Misc.
A Romenesko reader inquired about the “extra hand” that appears in Alex Garcia‘s photo of the president and First Lady stepping off the plane. Questions are raised on the Tribune’s site, too. “Was this image Photoshopped?” asks a commenter. “Whose hand is Obama holding? You can see Michelle’s hand free behind his …” I asked Garcia about his photo. He told me via Twitter:

Michelle’s mother, a much smaller woman, was right behind her. …if u want a contact sheet of the images to cool down the forming mob, lemme know.

UPDATE: Garcia writes about the photo on his blog.

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  • herb

    GlennF, I know you want to stick up for Romenesko here, but you are wrong. The picture does not look suspect, and this entire silly episode is not the editor’s fault. The picture looks like what it is: a standard shot of two people exiting a plane and maybe somebody is behind them. I clearly said that readers aren’t expected to do the homework to see if a photo (or, for example, a story that you yourself may write) is fabricated, but Romenesko is a supposed professional media critic, with a high-profile position and reputation, and he IS expected to do that homework before he impugns someone’s integrity. He framed it here as a gotcha moment (just look at the title), without doing any real due diligence at all and it was a bust. Apparently you (and Romensko) are still smarting over that?

    I will credit Romenesko for linking to Alex Garcia’s blog response, but contrary to your glib assertion that there was somehow no harm done, are you really that naive? It takes a lot of work to put this kind of baloney back in the bottle.

    Here is how it could have been responsibly framed (no thanks necessary by the way):

    Title: No “extra hand” in Obama shot

    Text: Conjecture on the various parts of the internet regarding a supposed “extra hand” in a recent shot of the Obama’s exiting Air Force One are unfounded. The photographer responds here: link to Alex Garcia’s blog post.


  • http://twitter.com/GlennF GlennF

    That’s all kind of silly. I can’t speak for Jim, but the picture looks suspect. It is not. You (and he) are still smarting apparently from Jim writing up the fact that commenters on the photo first asked what the deal was. As a reader (and reporter) my question is: does that look fabricated? It does. Is it unreasonable to ask? No. Is it fabricated? No. Done.

    If you don’t ask the question, you’re trying to put the issue back on the reader that the reader should simply accept what’s seen as real, or that the reader should look at 10 different photos to ensure it.

    Really, the editor is at fault here. It’s a confusing photo to run.

  • herb

    This is another in a long and current series under the general heading of “….and the terrorists win.” Some group of tin-foil hatters, media-phobes, and/or cranks, peering deeply at individual pictures for telltale stigmata, cause otherwise sane people to blithely accuse professionals of fabrication, forcing those professionals to waste their time explaining why said tin-foil hat conspiracies are bunkum. And the terrorists win. See “Trump, Donald and Obama Birth Certificate”.

    Again, this isn’t about whether or not my brother is “an ethical man”. It’s not about personalities. The point is that this event was covered by the entire Washington and Chicago press corps. A cursory perusal of pictures taken by those groups would have shown alternate views of this same scene. Tin foil hatters and other cranks aren’t expected to do this homework, merely getting through the day challenge enough. But people like Jim Romenesko ARE expected to do the homework, he is a professional and this is his job. In this instance, he did his job in a sub-standard manner. Because of that, a well-regarded professional was forced to answer baseless and easily disproven accusations against his integrity. How would you like that to happen to you?

    And that is what is important here. People unwilling to do their homework question others integrity and the question is what sticks, not the fact it was easily disproven baloney in the first place.

    But again, what would be the motive to photoshop this picture at all? Especially with a large contingent of press already there already taking photos? It is a straightforward, garden-variety, exiting the plane shot. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen a thousand.

    I have an alternate theory, are you suffering from the heartbreak of not catching a fabrication? Are there others that are saddened that their supposed Eureka! moment was a bust? Would it be wrong for me to speculate, or wrong for me NOT to speculate?

  • Anonymous

    Keep moving folks, no story here. Jim, you embarrass yourself with seeing an issue here.

  • Glenn Fleishman

    It’s not that the third hand was Photoshopped in; rather that the question was: was this image manipulated and not well enough to remove the third hand.

    I tweeted a bit back and forth with your brother. The problem isn’t him. He claims Jim asked him about the photo in a rather rude way (although it seems more wry than rude). The picture looks artificial because there’s a trick of the angle in there.

    We as readers don’t know your brother. We do know, as readers, that many prominent publications and some well-established photographers have published photographs with small and large alterations in recent years. It’s a reasonable question to ask: did the photograph that has a seemingly impossible detail in it suffer from the heartbreak of editing?

    I’m sure your brother is an ethical man. But not being allowed to ask the question means that other photographers, who are unethical, would get a pass, too.

  • herb

    Jim Romenesko does himself no favors by squandering his credibility on a patently absurd non-story. To what possible purpose would the photographer photo-shop another hand in there? Not only does this idly bone-headed speculation not pass the smell test, it doesn’t pass a chimpanzee’s IQ test.

    Seriously Mr. Romenesko, you printed this, can you verbalize a single motive the photojournalist could have had to photo-shop a disjointed hand between the Obamas? Just one. Bueller?

    Full disclosure, the journalist in question is my brother, not that it means anything.

  • Anonymous

    This posting by Mr. Romenesko and Poynter is highly irresponsible. It should be taken down.

  • Glenn Fleishman

    Ah, so I do! I thought that was the backlit interior of the cabin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1337207522 Ed Murrieta

    As if by an occult hand?

  • http://twitter.com/king_kaufman King Kaufman

    No you don’t. You see the inside of Michelle’s coat through her legs.

  • Anonymous

    Mucho ado about not much.

  • Glenn Fleishman

    I don’t mean to start a “hander” movement, but I can see the inside of the plane through Michelle’s legs. Where’s the mom again? (Please do get another photo, if only to reveal the optical accident that happened here!)