The digital diet inflicted on Katie Couric, the new anchor of "CBS Evening News," isn't the most earth-shattering news of the week, but it raises a couple of interesting issues about news and American society.
For those who haven't heard, the people responsible for "Watch!," a CBS publication distributed at its affiliate stations and on American Airlines flights, made use of computer software to alter a photo of Couric that appeared in the magazine. The original photo of Couric was taken in May and distributed to the media as an official photo of the newscaster-to-be. The photo that appeared in the magazine, however, was digitally altered to shave about 20 pounds off Couric, apparently to enhance her figure and her image.
The first question to ask in this situation is why anyone at CBS thought it was necessary to alter a photo of the attractive Couric? Does trimming Couric give her more credibility as a news anchor? Or is the altered photo a blatant bow to the entertainment side of television news that demands anchor people look youthful and glamorous?
The other issue, that probably strikes harder at professional news people, is the matter of journalistic integrity. If CBS will alter a photo of its own anchor, is it also comfortable with altering news photos to make them more penetrating, more attractive or more sensational? Most news organizations, including the World Company, wouldn't consider making such alterations, and the fact that CBS would engage in such a practice, even in a promotional piece, is an affront to the profession.
The attempts of CBS and Couric to make light of the matter seems almost to compound the situation. For a news organization to alter photos - for any reason - is a serious matter, and CBS should be taking this situation and its reputation as a news agency more seriously.