Warner should have known better

Warner should have known better March 15, 2006

Ann Althouse and Gawker and Jeff Jarvis are all talking about Mark Warner’s unfortunate – truly unfortunate – photograph on the cover of last week’s New York Times Magazine – a photo which the Times admits wasn’t quite accurate.

Okay, but he should have known better. The New York Times Magazine has madea habit of putting deplorable, awful, really cheesy pictures on its front cover when it comes to two sorts of people: Any Republican, and Anyone Who Might Run Against a Clinton.

Recall the shudder-inducing photo of Rick Lazio as he was running against Hillary Clinton. When the NYT Magazine was done with him, Lazio (who is pleasant looking in a Fred Savage sort of way) looked exactly like a 12 year old smiling too big, hoping for an ice-cream cone or something. “Little Ricky” was the inescapable – and careerkilling – nickname that followed him right out of politics. Recall the “extreme pores” shot of Bill Frist last year. Somehow, Ted Kennedy, I think, would never warrant a cover that basically shoves the camera up his nose.

So, Warner – as Hillary’s current “competition” on the Dem side – sat for a photo and he came off looking like a buck-toothed-Mr-Ed-sleaze-plus-dweeb. And for all I know, he may well be that. But for heaven’s sake, you politicians, pay attention! A NYT Magazine cover is only your friend if you are named Clinton or Kerry or Kennedy or Chavez or something along those lines.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse (thanks for the link!) suggests that perhaps the NYTimes Magazine covers are “like caricatures, only with photography”, and cites a cover of George Clooney which was out of focus and cat-eyed. I respect Ms. Althouse’s artistic sensibilities, because I admire her photography, so I will give that the benefit of a doubt – however, it must be noted that the Clooney cover was a tease for a whole photo gallery of Oscar-nominated actors who were photographed in wild and wooly ways, which suggested not caricature but “coolness.” The piece on Warner might have been flattering, but in truth for as many people who viewed the cover and went “ugh” how many then went in and read the whole story, or simply got their impression and moved on? The cover photo of a story can invite you in or give you “the whole story” a publication wants you to take from it. Nothing about that Warner-Goober photo invited you in. In Frist’s and Lazio’s cases, there was no flattering story to go with the cover shot – and one has to assume, given the careful way the Times covers Hillary, for example, that her someday-cover will be flattering, and not a caricature of the craven and ambitious Sister Frigidare we’ve come to know and love. I don’t recall if John Kerry got a cover, but if he did, it was not a “caricature” because I surely would have remembered it. I remember these silly covers. They stick to my synapses like photo-taffy! :-)

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