The PJ Tatler

WaPo's Uses Celebrity Photo for new IMF Chief

The International Monetary Fund has chosen Christine Lagarde to serve as its first woman managing director.  The Tatler agrees this is a bit of glass-ceiling news.

However, it was interesting to see that yesterday’s Washington Post chose to transform Madame Lagarde — an accomplished lawyer and French politician — into a goddess of sorts.

Instead of using a news-oriented picture of her in a working setting, the paper’s editors posted a highly stylized page-one celebrity photo that was straight out of the pages of Vogue.

The photo credit says it was purchased from Getty Images, a commercial photo house that sells staged photos of models, actors, movie idols, sports figures and personalities for publicity campaigns.

In the posed photo used by the Post, Ms. Lagarde looks confidently into the camera lens with her hands clasped behind her back.  The background is the Parisian skyline.

A visit to Getty Images finds that the photo house offers a photo spread of 26 pictures of her standing in various dramatic poses.  The professional photo caption says she “poses on the heliport of her ministry” in Paris. The staged photos were caught by Martin Bureau, a photographer for Agence France Presse, on June 14.  Here is the picture:

Interestingly, the Post’s own web site refused to use the photograph. You cannot find this photo anywhere at WashingtonPost.com, even though the editors created a gallery of 17 photos of Lagarde. None of the photos included the publicity shot from the newspaper. The newspaper version of the photo has been officially airbrushed from its web site.

Instead, virtually all of the online photos were working photos of the Ms. Lagarde, featuring her gesturing in a speech before the European Union, in a press conference, meeting with European bankers, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Why did the Post run the adoring photo on its front page? Why did it decide to use a staged photo? Why did it buy it from a photo house rather than a news source? And why did WaPo’s online site refuse to use the prominent photo in its photo spread?

The Tatler contacted the Post for the reasons behind its choice of the photo. Unfortunately, the Post has not responded to our inquiry … yet.

My suspicion is that the newspaper’s pro-feminist editors got so caught up with the idea a woman was heading up the IMF that for them, a “normal” photo would not have done the moment justice. So rather than report the news, they wanted a coronation.

The question is, if the new IMF managing director had been a man, would they have used a staged publicity shot?  The chances of that are pretty slim.

In reality, by selecting their photo, they diminished Madam Lagarde’s accomplishments that landed her the job in the first place.  So in their eagerness to glorify her, they actually took her down a notch.

This is what happens when mainstream newspapers go beyond their mission of objectively calling the shots and they join in as a cheerleader for only one side.  They get carried away and lose all sight of the story.