Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crossing the Line

I admit it. When I first saw the photo of Lisa Raitt on the cover of the Milton Champion last week, I laughed. And laughed, and laughed.

But then I started to think about it. And I stopped laughing, and I started to think like this person in the Letters to the Editor on Thursday:


I’m writing in response to last Thursday’s article entitled ‘Raitt moved in MP shuffle.’

I found the choice of photo on the front page of my community paper very disturbing. The picture of Halton MP Lisa Raitt is horrible — unflattering to say the least. I think it was extremely rude and downright juvenile and malicious. I’m not sure who chose and/or approved that photo, but in my opinion it was a form of bullying. I almost felt that I was reading a gossip magazine.

In the three years that I have lived in Milton and read the Champion, I don’t ever recall seeing a photo of any member of our community that I thought one would be embarrassed by.

I don’t know much about politics and haven’t voted in 10 years, but I do feel that no one deserves to have a silly picture printed of them on the front page of their community paper.

Don't get me wrong. I think that Lisa Raitt is a terrible MP and an even worse Minister, and I was thrilled to bits when she was demoted to Minister of Labour. I've illustrated my blog posts with the Indecisive Lisa, the Pointy Lisa, even the 'I Almost Forgot My Binder Again' Lisa. And yeah, I've teased her a couple of times about the white suit.

But that photo crossed the line. It crossed the line because they didn't use it to illustrate a point about her political or ministerial performance, and it didn't just appear in some blog post read by a bunch of political wonks. This was on the front page of the Milton Champion. And the Burlington Post. And they just used it to make her look stupid.

Not cool.

I'm just a blogger. I have very few constraints on what I write aside from those I impose upon myself. I don't have any hard and fast rules beyond simple human decency, and sometimes I get carried away with my own wit and wander into the realm of spite. But I won't go after the family, I won't post the 'fat photo', and I do my level best to keep my criticism within the boundaries of political discourse. That's just the way I roll.

BTW, I was in the neighbourhood today, so I thought I'd stop by Raitt's constituency office and let her know what I thought of the photo. She wasn't there, and her staff had no idea when she would be back in the office.

I think that's worthy of criticism, even without a photo.


  1. Well I don't would you expect her to look after she was demoted? But thank you for alerting me to the photo. I think I can use it... :)

  2. <span>It crossed the line because they didn't use it to illustrate a point about her political or ministerial performance, and it didn't just appear in some blog post read by a bunch of political wonks.</span>

    I disagree with the last half of this. Wrong is wrong, and whether you're the Milton Champion or the Globe and Mail or the CBC or the Policy Wonk Today blog with only 3 readers...if it's wrong, it's wrong.

    There are some places where there are differences between what should be accepted from blogs and mainstream media: they don't have the staff that a major media outlet has and they may not have access to the same resources, so allowances need to be made for that. But there is no legitimate reason why using a photo to make somebody look stupid is any more or less acceptable for bloggers than for the mainstream media.

  3. My one stipulation for bloggers is that they be allowed to use such images for parody or for editorial purposes.  Simon does that a lot - so does Rick Mercer, for that matter.  I have no problem with that because they are opinion pieces, not news. 

    But when you juxtapose an image like that with a serious news article - especially in a small, local paper - it brings in a powerful editorial element that skews the whole piece.  It's all about context.  I remember one blogger who did a great Photoshop piece of 'Lisa Raitt, Nuclear Mutant' that I found absolutely hilarious.  But I wouldn't want to see that on the front page of the Champion either.

    If the MSM is going to continue to insist that 'journalists' are of a higher class than bloggers, they need to be a little more consistant with their standards.

  4. OK....I suppose that's true. The picture did look out of place in a news story. And besides, while filing that awful pic in my archives I came across an even "better"...ahem...picture of Lisa Raitt. So I'm not complaining... :)