The striking image on the cover of The Economist is of President Obama on one of his visits to the Gulf Coast to survey the BP oil spill. In the background is an oil rig. In the foreground, Obama is seen alone, head down looking forlornly at the ground. Only problem is, he was not alone – just cropped and photoshopped to appear that way.
The unaltered image shot by Reuters photographer Larry Downing shows Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard and Charlotte Randolph, a local parish president, standing alongside the president. But The Ecomomist cover cropped out Allen and completely removed Ms. Randolph.
Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist, had this to say about the cover.
“I was editing the paper the week we ran the image of President Obama with the oil rig in the background. Yes, Charlotte Randolph was edited out of the image (Admiral Allen was removed by the crop). We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers.
We often edit the photos we use on our covers, for one of two reasons. Sometimes – as with a cover we ran on March 27 on U.S. health care, with Mr. Obama with a bandage round his head – an obvious joke. Sometimes – as with an image of President Chavez on May 15 on which we darkened the background, or with our “it’s time” cover endorsing Mr. Obama, from which the background was removed altogether – it is to bring out the central character. We don’t edit photos in order to mislead.
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.”
Take a close look at both the original photo and the cover. They tell two different stories. Two different emotions. The cropped and photoshopped version is clearly the most compelling but it’s a lie.