Magazines’ Photo Manipulations: Ethical?

Time and again professors have reinforced how important it is to present facts and photos in a way that represents the truth. When applying this principle to magazines, however, sometimes the photos displayed on the glossy front covers and inside pages fall short of reality. Individuals who admire these magazines and the celebrities that appear to be photographed with flawless skin, hair and bodies often compare themselves to these false personas. We should be informed, not fooled, ladies.

Take, for example, France’s Grazia magazineWith Megan Fox on the cover, editors must have decided that making both of her tattoos visible would complicate the cover. Then why did they print the same photo inside with the tattoo present? If they did not want it to show, they should have photographed her from a different angle or dressed her in a more full-coverage gown.

Photo manipulation can also cast individuals in a more sinister light, like TIME magazine did with this photo of OJ Simpson. By darkening his features, Simpson appears scary and suspicious which presents a bias against him. TIME should have used his original photo, untouched, to present a more accurate picture of him as a human being.

Below are more examples of photos that have been edited to fulfill the magazines’ idea of “perfection.” No wonder so many teens are being diagnosed with eating disorders and are unhappy with their bodies. Media are distorting truths and manipulating perceptions.

I, as a magazine lover and aspiring writer/editor, hold the principle of presenting truth in high regard and dislike such photo manipulation. Who else is with me?

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April’s Color Schemes

When I think “April,” I begin to think of the springy holidays, blossoming flowers and pastel colors abounding everywhere. Magazine publishers have much of the same images in mind when they are brainstorming what their cover pages should look like this month. Well… some of them, anyway.

Taking a peek at this month’s magazine covers, it appears that most incorporate and bring to life the very essence of the season and make our eyes gravitate towards the colors while we are waiting on line at the food store. Advertisers study consumer behavior and attempt to determine what makes us do certain things, in this case, pick up a magazine and leaf through it.

I believe it is extremely important to choose colors that will attract as many readers as possible. Most publishers comprehend this concept, but others put there own spin on their cover’s color scheme which spices things up and makes them unique.

I’m in the processing of coding my first professional website from scratch, and I’ve played around with the color scheme probably about 100 times. I’ve been using this color scheme designer site to help visualize which colors will complement each other best, and without it, my site would probably look like a Crayola crayon box.  Hopefully I’ve finally gotten it right, but while contemplating, I realized how challenging it must be for a magazine staff to choose which colors and design will best yield readership.

I’ve taken a look at some April magazine covers, and here is a list of the top 5 that caught my eye on the racks for good and bad reasons.

5. Seventeen: It appears to me as though Seventeen‘s cover is meant for a fall issue, perhaps September, although I do adore the fact that Jennifer Lawrence‘s tie-dyed shirt matches the text surrounding her. Nowhere does it mention the word “spring.” It focuses more generally on hair and fashion which is featured in just about every issue, so I definitely believe it deserves a spot on my list at #5. Sorry, Seventeen!

4. Marie Claire: Instead of taking a traditional approach and throwing a bunch of pink and purples into the mix, this one, with Leighton Meester on the cover, appears polished and sophisticated. Although this magazine is my ultimate favorite, I don’t quite understand why the colors resemble fall foliage, but nonetheless, I own this issue and am staring at it right now! Better luck next time, MC.

3. Glamour: Once again, because The Hunger Games is so hot right now, Jennifer Lawrence is featured on the cover and is looking fabulous. Although I do like that she is photographed on a green pasture and some text is bright and fuchsia, her outfit is not in sync with the springy vibe. It looks more like she is headed to a nightclub than an Easter dinner, but there is mention of “Spring outfits,” so I give them some credit.

2. Cosmopolitan: Let me begin by stating that Megan Fox looks absolutely gorgeous on this month’s cover! Her body language gives off the embodiment of a sexy yet successful woman ready to take on anything. The magazine did not go over the top with their color scheme but incorporated pink and gold accents that really made the cover pop for me. They even mentioned “Spring’s sexiest makeup” that readers can find inside. Kudos, Cosmo.

1. Lucky: It doesn’t get much more “springy” than this. Rachel Bilson‘s dress and the text that flows around her makes me want to join her for a day in the park on a sunny day. The word “spring” is in a large, bold font, and the light purple tree complements the darker text around it very well. Rachel looks like the typical “girl-next-door” in this outfit, and the cover screams, “READ ME!” Congrats, Lucky, for being lucky enough to be my #1 this month.

What are your thoughts on this month’s color scheme choices?

Living the Dream, One Idea at a Time

As a journalism student, I have thus far focused more on media ethics and the importance of projecting a professional online identity than I have on constructing interesting ideas and topics for stories. If you are a news reporter covering a local or national event, usually the current happenings draw you to a good story. In magazines that are tailored for a specific audience, however, how are you to know which topics to pursue and those that should be trashed?

I’ve began brainstorming how one pursuing a career in magazine writing (mwah!) would go about narrowing down an idea to make it both intriguing and relevant to a particular audience while simultaneously offering a fresh approach.

The process may seem confusing, as it was to me at first, but I am going to offer you my thoughts on this subject and a list of tips on how to write engaging material:

  • You can never do enough brainstorming. An idea that appears far-fetched and ridiculous to you could fascinate an editor and eventually attract loyal readership. Anything goes, and anything is possible.
  •  Scope out the competition. In no way should you be searching for ideas to steal or build off of, but doing your homework to see what has already been done to offer a new spin on a traditional topic will interest readers.
  • Seek out your audience. Defining who you wish to target and what their likes/dislikes are will help narrow your idea. Also, by identifying your audience, you can ask for their input on what they wish to read about and are interested in finding more about.

  • Go with what you know. It is never a good idea to attempt to write an article you have no interest in or have no information on. If you are an expert in something or possess a unique skill, use it to your advantage when magazine writing.
  • Incorporate quirkiness. Stories about peculiar or somewhat controversial topics draw in attention and make the reader want to know more about you are talking about. However, be sure to balance a controversial subject with both sides of the controversy. Don’t be biased.
  • Write something that’s relatable to a broad audience. Even though you might love a topic, if it is not relevant to a large audience, the article will nose-dive. Yes, it is good to have an interest in what you’re writing about, but don’t fall in love with your story.
  • Seek inspiration. Who are your idols, icons, role models? Research what they are writing about and what has made them popular in their profession. Don’t hesitate to ask for their guidance and for an opportunity for them to mentor you.

“The more you think, the more time you have.” ~Henry Ford 

Making Ethical Decisions

In an era of 24/7 news coverage that demands both accuracy and immediacy from providers, plagiarism and fabrication unfortunately appeal to those who feel tortured by looming deadlines and resort to these extremes to outperform the competition. Not only do these unethical choices damage the guilty individual’s reputation, but it stigmatizes all journalists.

In an effort to thwart such indecencies in journalism, many editors rely on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to present information in an authentic way and maintain loyalty to readers. With temptations lurking around every corner and technological advancements making these temptations all the more appealing and easier to carry out, journalists must also formulate their own moral compass to determine whether they are being ethical.

When analyzing just what the SPJ’s code stands for, it is important to understand its four aspects that it so noteworthy:

1. Seek Truth and Report it: Journalists’ primary obligation is to inform citizens about factual events and happenings that are taking place in the world around them so they can make their own decisions. Readers have the right to know the truth and nothing less. Being truthful is what some stressed out reporters forget to do when they choose plagiarism and fabrication over genuineness.

2. Minimize Harm: Although presenting truthful news is a must, journalists must also contemplate the possible consequences that will arise from their reporting. If disclosing an individual’s name and job description will jeopardize their safety, it is not ethical to report on it. By showing compassion for those discussed, readers will respect the news organization much more. Also, sometimes innocent people are thrust into the news, so journalists must do their best to treat them as human beings.

3. Act Independently: Conflicts of interests get journalists in trouble when they allow their affiliation to compromise journalistic integrity and thus allow biases to infiltrate coverage. Whether actual or perceived, conflicts of interest discourage readers from relying on news organizations for accurate material and will turn elsewhere for more objective coverage of an event.

4. Be Accountable: Journalists have a moral responsibility to their readers, first and foremost. Being as transparent as possible with them will strengthen loyalty and allow for open discussion when reporters make mistakes. Providing a forum for such discussion is key to attracting a devoted following.

In the words of Albert Einstein: “I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.”

Tammy Tibbetts AKA Alumni Idol

Attending college can be so monotonous sometimes, and oftentimes college students feel as though the light at the end of the tunnel is unattainable. When is this going to be over? As every internship brings you closer to your coveted dream job, it may be a good idea to research and get in touch with successful alumni who are thriving in your desired field.

That is exactly what I did. Being introduced to Tammy Tibbett’s  journey in class this semester, I could not help but feel inspired. After interning with Seventeen, Jane and Ladies Home Journal, Tammy became the founder of a non-profit organization named “She’s the First” that empowers women in underdeveloped communities to be the first in their families to obtain an education.

Reading about the many successes she has achieved after obtaining a Journalism degree from The College of New Jersey, it gives me hope that I will be able to take that same degree and transform it into the blueprint for my future. Being that we have such things in common, it helps put a face to the success instead of thinking about it in abstract, impersonal ways.

Tammy is also the social media editor of Seventeen magazine along with running her non-profit. She never fails to strive to empower women on a daily basis and serves as an example to all those whose dreams seem far-reaching and intangible.

Thank you, Tammy, for inspiring me everyday to pursue my dream of working in the magazine industry. Hooray for triumphant alumni!

*Be sure to check out her success story here.

The Convergence Phenomenon

As technological advancements continue to transform our means of acquiring information and staying up to date on current issues, we are finding ourselves to be increasingly reliant on our computers and smartphones. This defines our generation’s “convergence” phenomenon. Instead of seeking out various types of media to find out the marital statuses of the hottest celebrities and the latest fashion trends in hard-copy magazines or on entertainment news channels, we can now find out all of this information online with the help of a search engine and some clicking around.

Becoming the owner of an iPhone 4S only recently, I am beginning to learn just how imperative it is to have 24/7 access to just about anything imaginable. Instead of missing out on updates and responding to emails too late, all of this can now be done on time with the help of the latest technologies. Thank God for techies, eh?

While some abuse this technological luxury by being antisocial and glued to their devices, most of us (I hope!) know proper etiquette. If you haven’t realized already, our society is changing- drastically. What was commonplace just a decade ago is now becoming obsolete and rather archaic, and I am finding that if you do not change with the times, you will be left behind.

As magazine publishers offer websites for their readers to peruse, less are relying on print to fulfill their cravings. Is it the beginning of the end for print publications? Or are online media acting simply as supplemental material for larger publications?

Only time will tell. 

Gaining that Competitive Edge

Those who wish to write for a prestigious magazine someday (me!) know just how imperative it is to secure an internship early on, prior to graduation if possible. Despite the sometimes tedious act of devising a resume and organizing a cover letter that outlines your goals and honorable reputation, gaining that competitive edge over others that are also eager to work in the magazine industry definitely outweighs the possible headaches.

Internships, if you are lucky enough to actually learn something and not be the “coffee fetcher,” can be an extremely rewarding experience. It allows you to take the concepts learned in textbooks and during class discussions and apply them to realistic situations, all the while networking and establishing what could potentially be lifelong friendships.

A particularly comprehensive website that I refer to for internship opportunities is Ed2010. It allows you to easily scroll through the open internships which are updated nearly everyday to facilitate in landing your dream job. On their website, they explain that

Ed2010 is a community of young magazine editors and magazine-editor wannabes who want to learn more about the industry so we can fulfill our dreams of landing top editing and writing positions in the magazine industry.

That is where I recently discovered an opening at SarahScoop, an online blog forum that unites all women with an interest in fashion, beauty, fitness, recipes, and do-it-yourself projects.

If it weren’t for Ed2010, I would most likely not be writing for SarahScoop and meeting women whose goals are aligned with mine. Together we are planing for our futures, and what better way than to do so than continue honing our writing skills and participating in something we’re passionate about?

Thanks, Ed!

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