Interesting play art on today's Your Life cover in the Star-Telegram: a photo illustration for the lead story, "Fall books preview." The art was a collage of photos of famous people whose books will be coming out soon.
Take a long look. Is there anything about the photo illustration that bothers you? Perhaps not. But I imagine that the paper's reader advocate phone line quickly filled with furious, outspoken conservatives provoked by an illustration that, in their view, deliberately slighted icons Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Instead (I can hear them say, because in my ombuddy days I got so many calls like this) the illustration by the liberal media glorified "arch liberals" -- Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand and some brunette who's probably just as bad as they are. And I can imagine the readers' accusations:
-- Your liberal editors deliberately tried to obscure Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
-- George Bush looks like a ghost. George should've been where Jon is.
-- I'm not letting my kids see this liberal-media propaganda.
-- I'm not letting my grandkids see this liberal-media propaganda.
-- I'm cancelling my subscription to the liberal media. I've had it with your liberal bias.
-- Rush Limbaugh's right. There's a "media crisis" in America.
-- This is a sad day in America.
There's no escaping political aspects of anything anymore, it seems. Not even authors. Perhaps there never has been.
In this area, the heaviest conservative market in Texas, the most provocative aspect of this photo illustration, I think, is not just the secondary place given to Reagan and Bush but the near-transparent treatment of Bush's photo. That's asking for trouble. I imagine trouble followed.
If you had been the editor in charge of pulling together this photo illustration, how would you have handled it? Would politicization issues have crossed your mind? If so, would that have made any difference in how you would have designed the piece? What other aspects would you have considered?
Given the demographic with which papers aim to connect (younger readers in general) and given Stewart's popularity among them, I may have kept Stewart as the dominant image for a boost in relevance.
But given the demographic of subscribers (older conservatives) and readers who expect fairness, I would've strengthened Bush's picture somehow to provide as much relevance as possible for them. I'm not sure I would've replaced that brunette, whoever she is, with Bush, because there are only two women in the collage and five men, and correctness dictates that some sense of equivalent prominence be given to the women.
Whatever. I'm sure those and Lord knows how many other issues got a thorough airing today on the reader advocate's phone. Did you think about calling? 817-390-7692