Remember when Time Magazine printed a darkened photo of OJ Simpson on the cover? In 1994, two photos of OJ Simpson appeared on two magazines, Time and Newsweek. The photos should have been identical. However, Time Magazine’s photo illustrated a significantly darker and more threatening OJ than Newsweekly’s unfiltered photo. Time’s photo – a doctored version of a photograph made by the Los Angeles Police Department – was criticized by nearly every media outlet for exercising poor editorial judgment and racism. By printing a photo that was perceivably more sinister, Time Magazine was shifting public opinion. Whether that was their intention or not, their actions were considered unethical.
Time Magazine has been around for decades, reporting on hard-hitting topics, and therefore, is held to higher ethical standard than say, In Touch Weekly, which circulates entertainment news.
In Touch Weekly and other tabloids spread gossip. As is the case with gossip, it’s difficult to pin down sources in order to prove that the information is accurate. To that end, if the information doesn’t stand on solid ground, why are the tabloids printing the information? Moreover, why are publishers blatantly lying, and doctoring photos based on shallow assumptions? Last week, In Touch Weekly ran a cover photo of former Olympian, Bruce Jenner, in full makeup, with the headline: “Bruce’s Story: My Life As A Woman”. The article discussed Jenner’s transition from living as a man to realizing he is a woman. It didn’t take long before it came to light that the pictures and cover story were lies. It seems Jenner’s face was superimposed on British actress, Stephanie Beacham’s photo. As of right now, there is absolutely nothing indicating that Bruce Jenner is planning on undergoing a sex change. To that end, for In Touch to create their own simulation of Jenner as a woman, and try to pass it off as a real photo, based on shallow speculation, was an extremely poor editorial decision.
In 2010 Gawker ran a study testing the accuracy of multiple tabloids, in search of the most trustworthy. In Touch’s overall accuracy was 21%, beating Ok! and Stars, and losing to Us Weekly and Life&Style. When a tabloid’s credibility is already low, is it worth getting upset over that tabloid’s inaccuracies? In 2013, In Touch Weekly had one of the top five readerships by single-copy sales, which is likely due to their attention-grabbing headlines, featured stories, and pictures.
According to celebrities, gay rights activists, and social media postings, In Touch has crossed the line, reported The Inquisiter. Russell Brand posted a video on his YouTube channel, “The Trews”, expressing his disgust with the responses from entertainment media outlets like TMZ. He posted multiple clips, one of which featured TMZ staff members meticulously analyzing Jenner’s entire appearance from his clean fingernails to his long ombre hair. Brand is concerned with this issue as an act of bullying. After all, transgenders have been an object of ridicule, and the celebrity gossip vultures seem to be having a field day when given the slightest indication that the former Olympian who conquered the decathlon would go through such a procedure.
However, the rumor exploding to such an extreme is entirely due to In Touch Weekly’s fake photos. Furthermore, their actions were certainly unethical by any journalistic standard, but obviously not by any tabloid journalistic standard. So why is that okay? Will there ever be a tabloid that is capable of presenting the truth, or at the very least, holding on to their stories until there’s more supportive evidence? Will this constant lying and failure to fact check ever impact these tabloids? Or will they forever be associated with lies?