Eat The Press

marie claire.jpg

Marie Claire has had a bumpy road in the past few months since new editor Joanna Coles was brought in to give the magazine an overhaul: Ashlee Simpson's nose job, disappointing cover choices, plummeting circulation. Disappointing for a magazine with such high hopes and great early buzz — but when you start doing things like, say, photoshopping pictures of current 20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas breastfeeding at a news desk, well, it's hard to muster much sympathy. Drudge has the scoop as well as Vargas' reaction to the doctored photo, which accompanies an interview with her in the December issue. According to Drudge's source, Vargas was "more than happy to sit for the interview but was disturbed that the magazine would set aside basic journalistic standards to photoshop her head onto a fake image. Vargas did joke that her real baby is cuter, that she is proud to breastfeed her newborn but wouldn't do it at the anchor desk and that she wouldn't be caught dead in that ugly gold blouse!"

Drudge then offers reactions from a magazine spokesperson, who brushed off questions of journalistic integrity with the following statement: "We do not believe anyone seriously thought she would nurse and report the news the same time! This is an image illustration and is stated so with the byline of this story." While these are fair points (the fake Vargas appears to be at a schoolroom desk, not on set at ABC), running this picture still shows a serious lack of judgment and foresight, particularly in the wake of fury surrounding altered photos of certain other female anchors. The media furor surrounding Katie Couric's photoshopped-slimdown suggests that that running a doctored photo with "illustration" listed under it in fine print, all without consulting the photo's subject, is unadvisable, to say the least (not to mention potentially offensive in this case, given that Vargas' sudden departure from the anchor chair of ABC World News Tonight raised heated speculation that she was forced out because of her pregnancy, which Vargas denied).

Coles, who has already been battling rumors of her imminent departure, is no doubt feeling the heat to attract readers among her newly-targeted "elite," and a story on juggling a TV career with motherhood is certainly relevant to this demographic. But give your sophisticated female readers a little credit — they can tell the difference between eye-grabbing versus poor taste and bad judgment -- not to mention bad fashion choices.

— Melissa Lafsky

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