The image that sent Clay Yarborough to the fainting couch also bothered the newspaper’s newsroom enough to alter it — and that’s a problem


We told you yesterday how Clay Yarborough, Jacksonville City Council President/Self-appointed Guardian of Civic Virtue and Decider of All That Is Wholesome and Righteous, had wandered into MOCA, saw an incredibly benign image of a naked pregnant lady lying on a couch — this thing ain’t Mapplethorpe, y’all — and freaked the fuck out. Here’s the T-U’s version of that story, which tries very hard not to make Yarborough look like a hayseed dipshit. 

In that online version of this crazypants debacle, the T-U published on its website a quickly Photoshopped-censored version of this fine arts image that Yarborough has his knickers so in a twist about. And, seeing as how this image is very much art and not at all pornography or obscene — sorry, Clay — that’s a problem for our town’s paper of record. Are we saying that little Jimmy should glance across the morning breakfast table at Dad's tablet as he reads the morning paper and be horribly scarred for life by the image of a couple of well-lit breasts on a pregnant lady? (Little Jimmy, one presumes, was not breastfed, and does not have access to the Internet.) Of course not. But there are better, more responsibly ways to treat the subject matter at hand.

One of the very first rules of photojournalism is that a photo should NEVER be doctored. Repeat: A PHOTO SHOULD NEVER BE ALTERED. Especially if it’s a work of art. Doing so negates trust and makes you look dishonest. Yes, it was labeled as edited, but it's difficult to tell what was blacked out and what wasn't, which always raises questions. If anything, the censorship should have been much clearer. Furthermore, and more troubling, blacking out the naughty bits makes it look like the paper agrees with Yarborough that there’s something shameful here — and holy hell, seriously? Would they censor a painting by Titian or Rubens or Picasso? I can think of works by all of them that are much more scandalous than this one. 

A better way to handle the image would have been to not attach it to the story at all, but instead include a link to it. If the T-U needed an image to pull readers into the article, a cropped-in detail or maybe Yarborough's mug would have done the trick.

How a news site handles an image might seem like a small detail, but in journalism, that’s where the devil lives. 

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Not only is it toe-ing the ethical line to alter the image, but doing so makes the image seem more scandalous that it actually is. This is an image of a figure in repose. There is nothing dirty about it. But covering sections of the body that you think may be offensive, makes the image offensive. It looks like it is hiding more that it is. This does not even begin to touch on the other issues with this situation. Censorship, freedom of expression, and blatant ignorance all play a part here. I applaud Marcelle and the staff of MOCA for standing up against close-minded and unenlightened loud mouths. Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this


This is nothing new for the Times-Union, common practice. I used to make comments on some of their stories, a few times I used the letters "BS", I was informed that I was not allowed to used those letters, and prevented from making comments for about a week. For my 2nd strike some Guy name Jonathan said I violated the terms and to this day not allowed to login. I sent a letter to Mr. Frank Denton asking why I was not allowed to use the letters in question and cited others that used them on a regular basis(even on the same day I sent the email) and they were not banned. He explained that they could block comments they though offensive, blah blah, blah, but declined to tell me why mine comments where the only ones blocked. As for the Clay Yarborough, he is just probably pandering to those that voted from him, could be looking to see what reaction he gets for a future political run, or last but not least, maybe he is just a Leg man and dose not like other parts of the female body. Tuesday, December 2, 2014|Report this