ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In this part of the program, judgment calls in the media, and another version of our Photo-Op feature. You know you can go to NPR.org right now and see the picture that we're going to be talking about.

So yesterday in the New York Times there was an editor's note that began like this.

Unidentified Reader: The cover photograph in the Times Magazine on Sunday rendered colors incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner, the former Virginia Governor who is a possible candidate for the presidency. The jacket was charcoal, not maroon. The shirt was light blue, not pink. The tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon.

CHADWICK: The photograph of Governor Warner on the cover of the magazine was odd, even unflattering in a way that goes beyond the color of his tie. Kathy Ryan is photo editor of the New York Times Magazine. Ms. Ryan, welcome to the program. And that editor's note went on to say that the newspaper's policy rules out alterations of photographs that depict news scenes. That's not this. And that a photo illustration requires a credit. Is this cover shot a photo or a photo illustration?

Ms. KATHY RYAN (Photo Editor, New York Times Magazine): Well, it's a good question. In this case it's a photo, but the part that's more illustration is the change in color. In other words, there's a kind of tint to it overall that was the result of this older film that was used to get that change. In a way you might choose to shoot something in black and white, it was just the thought that it would give it a kind of stylistic tone, almost like a campaign poster that we thought was interesting, visually.

And we thought of it as a photograph, but obviously, the editor's note, the reason for running that was in the end the film caused the change in the color of his clothing and we didn't, we shouldn't have done that, because he's a newsworthy figure and we wouldn't change the color of the clothing, and there it becomes a photo illustration.

CHADWICK: Have you heard from the governor's office about that photograph? Did they call you up and say, hey, the colors are wrong and beyond that there's something else going on in this photograph that is odd, that is unflattering, that we don't like?

Ms. RYAN: Yes, and they contacted us, exactly, to say that the color of the shirt was different and the jacket, yes.

CHADWICK: Well, as photo editor of the New York Times Magazine, when you hear someone say that, it was the subject of your cover photograph, what do you think?

Ms. RYAN: Well, in this case I felt bad because we wouldn't, we shouldn't, I shouldn't have, I should have realized that the overall kind of tint on the picture wasn't clearly a pure aesthetic choice, like as if, for example, it were a black and white cover; that in this case it was subtle enough that it actually looked as if he was wearing a purple shirt and somehow my antennae were down and I didn't see that, so I regret that.

CHADWICK: Something more though. When I saw this picture, I almost yelped. What was it you were trying to say with that picture? When I saw it I thought, Ooh, what is that?

Ms. RYAN: You know, I think we were trying to make an interesting cover, I don't know. There was a kind of energy to it.

CHADWICK: It does, but sort of the energy that radiates out of that is this guy's gonna try to sell me a used car that I should not buy.

Ms. RYAN: Well, photography's subjective. So people see a lot of things in a photograph, you know, so it's always hard to kind of know and anticipate what each reader will see in it and clearly this one really hit a chord.

CHADWICK: Well, you know, as the person who's selecting that image for the cover of the magazine, hitting a chord is what you want to do, right?

Ms. RYAN: That's right. That's exactly what we want to do. And you know, with a magazine, a key thing is to get people to open it and be excited by it and that's what we try to do, is to be inventive and to try and kind of turn the tables on photography and maybe come up with something that others haven't done and come up with a way of looking at someone or doing a portrait that's different and unusual and provocative, but yet at the same time, have to constantly be aware of the mission of the magazine journalistically, and that's about, you know, a kind of straightforward reporting.

But with the photography it's also wanting to do something that, again, is inventive and playful and strikes that chord.

CHADWICK: Kathy Ryan is photo editor of the New York Times Magazine. Ms. Ryan, thank you for coming in and joining us on our photo op feature.

Ms. RYAN: Okay, thank you.

CHADWICK: And remember, dear listeners, you can see that picture of former Governor Warner. Head to our web site, NPR.org.

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