USA Today: Unethical

I have to say, the pictures that Michelle Malkin has up of Condoleeza Rice put to rest any questions about the ethics of the people at USA Today.

USA Today's Fake Condi Pic

Compared to the actual photo.

Real Condi Picture

Touching up a picture to fix some minor things is one thing, but to change the appearance of the person in such an obvious and dramatic manner is quite another. Not only has USA Today whitened the whites of Condoleeza Rice’s eyes, but they have enlarged them. And while I am not sure, it also looks like they have done some other manipulation to the face, perhaps the jaw line.

Michelle points out that USA Today‘s Graphics and Photos Managing Editor and that his e-mail is rc*****@us******.com. I agree with Michelle that e-mailing him and asking what is going on over there is probably a good idea.

Update: Looks like USA Today has decided to cover its ass,

Editor’s note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY’s editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.

Sure, I believe them…don’t you? Simply ridiculous.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Media, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. bithead says:

    Don’t attribute to bias what can as easily be attributed to stupidity.

    I’m willing to bet that the photo was simply run through a sharpen routine.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    Not according to the people over at Michelle’s blog. Also, if it was to sharpen the image…how come the guy in the background is still blurry in both pictures? Or did they select just Rice’s eyes for sharpening?

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    It was for Halloween

  4. caltechgirl says:

    Sharpen wouldn’t selectively darken Dr. Rice’s face without altering the color of her lipstick (lower lip is the same) or earrings.

    Also, if you look across the jawline, it appears to have been widened or at least heavily shadowed, specifically look at the earring on her left ear, it’s a hair bigger in the doctored photo, and almost looks turned towards the camera, as if it was cut out and repasted inexpertly.

    This photo has been doctored. And VERY badly.

    I don’t know what it says about USA Today that they felt they had to darken her skin….

  5. bithead says:

    well, that depends on what\s used. If I think of it, tonight, I’ll do a spectral on each and see what we see.

  6. bithead says:

    And, no… if she was to look like MJ, wouldn’t she be WHITE?

  7. Arcs says:

    USA Today has since changed the photo on the web article and included an editor’s note.

  8. Anderson says:

    Looking forward to weeks of discussion at Power Line over the exact technologies involved, etc.

    But you are being a bit of a jerk to say that “THE PEOPLE at USAToday” are all unethical because one smartass got funny with Rice’s picture. That’s attacking a whole lot of professionals with no connection to the offense.

  9. Anderson says:

    Btw, Rice looks scary in both pix. That’s not USAToday’s fault. Lighten up, Condi! You didn’t get any target letters, didja?

  10. Steve Verdon says:


    I know what you mean.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Oh and if one “smartass got funny with the picture” they should have fired his smartass.

  12. exdem13 says:

    USA Today editors are stoopid.

    I don’t buy for a minute that professional graphics editing people with the latest in onscreen graphics programs on their computers who are checking on photo quality for the front page made a simple “oopsie” on a Bush cabinet official.

    Well maybe they could. But given USA Today’s usual Lefty stance and the smugness of some Lefty people out there, I doubt it.

    Lest anybody think this is just a 1-time “mistake” by MSM graphics people on African-Americans of note in the news…. Remember the TIME cover illustration of O.J. Simpson? It was “accidentally” retouched to make him look like a KKK recruitment poster. The MSM has gotten into the habit of “accidental” cheap shots at people they dissaprove of.

  13. What’s even more outrageous — we have the missing “third photo

  14. ultraw says:

    The actual manipulation is very simple. I created a virtual duplicate by selecting the whites of the eyes, whitening them, and then applying an unsharp mask function.

    The unsharp mask is normal practice when reducing the size of a picture that much. It recaptures some of the definition lost through the reduction.

    The whitening is the odd part, but I doubt malicious. Whoever was doing it probably thought the eyes were still largely lost after the reduction and came up with the whitening as compensation.

    It might even work on newsprint, but my first guess is that it was just a crappy job by someone not very talented under a time crunch. Like the first comment said – stupid’s more likely than bias.

  15. Sherri says:

    This touch-up reminds me of a recent image where they sloppily painted a headscarf on a woman in order to follow some religous rule that women’s heads should be covered.

    I’m not buying the sharpening story — the rest of her is not sharpened. I think they painted in her eyes with an unrealistically light color, and didn’t even shade the portion under the eyelid (a trick in most ‘learn to draw portraits’ books I’ve read).

    As far as whether they ‘allowed’ that doctored image to slip past them, I have NO idea. But it’s only a little bit scarier than the original X^0