Time's "People Who Mattered" Are Framed with Bias-Tinged Pictures and Captions

Veteran observers of media bias know that it's not just about the words. It's also about the pictures. Time Magazine deserves all the wrath that will be hurled its way in the coming days not only over not naming "The purple-fingered Iraqi voters" their 2005 Persons of the Year, but for totally omitting them from its 2005 "People Who Mattered" list. The Iraqi voter may not have mattered, but according to Time, actress Geena Davis, scifi character Darth Vader, singer Kanye West, and teenage golfer Michelle Wie all did. But as outrageous as the selections are, the pictures of those selected are often worse. Scroll through the "People Who Mattered" pictures at Time's Web site and here's what you'll see (some captions were so awful I had to mention them too):

  • George Bush-Dick Cheney -- black and white, shunted to the bottom right, sullen. Last half of caption: "On issue after issue, Bush and Cheney stumbled and saw their popularity drop. Although the team's numbers are improving somewhat, Republicans are facing next fall's midterm congressional elections with trepidation." Really?
  • John Roberts -- a bizarre color pic with his son in shorts, in front of what is probably the Supreme Court, with both of them too small to be recognizable, and his son running to him from a distance of 10 feet or so.
  • John McCain and Harry Reid -- black and white, in a bizarre (a recurring theme), Blair Witch-like setting.
  • Tom Delay -- black and white, 60-Minutes close, sullen, looking down.
  • Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame -- black and white, Wilson near the front looking put-upon, Plame in back in her PJs. Caption opener: "All marriages weather storms, but only this career diplomat and his outed spy wife know what it's like to be at the center of the year's biggest political scandal." A self-inflicted boo hoo.
  • Patrick Fitzgerald -- in color, taking questions, ultimate professional.
  • Cindy Sheehan -- in color (you wondered?), holding a heart, two doves, and a peace sign.
  • Ray Nagin -- in color, bizarrely shunted to the bottom left. What's really offensive is the description here: "Could he have done more to get his people out before Katrina hit? Probably. But once the levees broke, the mayor of New Orleans embodied the pain and frustration of his city, even cursing on the radio as he joined thousands of stranded residents in wondering why their government had failed them." Uh, Ray, you ARE the government!
  • Condi Rice -- black and white, this one tops them all. It's as if Time said "Let's use the worst pic we have of Condi as the ultimate witch." End of caption: "And she must be doing something right: she's far more popular than her boss."
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the pic of Iran's dictator is black and white, but he is in a very distinguished and polished pose. The first sentence of his caption: "He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot." Charming.

Meanwhile, in what must surely be totally unrelated news from last Tuesday, "Time lays off 105, including top executives." Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.