- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

Last week's Newsweek had on its cover a clean-cut, spectacled, tied and button-downed young black man. Superimposed over him was the question, "Do We Still Need Affirmative Action?" The accompanying articles, of course, were about the challenge to the University of Michigan's use of racial and ethnic preferences in deciding whom to admit.
But the young man was a model, not a University of Michigan student. Anything wrong with that? Maybe, maybe not.
In late 1999, the University of Wisconsin was greatly embarrassed when it had to admit that it had digitally added in a black student to the photograph of a group of UW students, the better to appear diverse. A couple of weeks later, the University of Idaho was revealed to have pasted the faces of a black student and an Asian student onto the bodies of two white students on its website-actual decapitation in the name of political correctness. Likewise, journalists are not supposed to stage events and then print photographs of them that purport to be unposed.
On the other hand, there wouldn't be anything wrong if Newsweek decided to have an artist draw a picture of a generic student, right? And if he did, then there would be nothing wrong if the model used to draw from were not actually a student, but just student-looking, right? So how is this any different? Newsweek created a student using photography instead of a paintbrush, that's all. And the magazine didn't say that the person in the photograph was a University of Michigan student, or a student at all.
When I raised this with my boss, Linda Chavez, her first question was, "Well, does Newsweek usually use models on its covers?" The answer is usually no, but not always. Looking at the last seven issues, we have the real Condoleezza Rice, the real Trent Lott, a "digital rendering" from "The Matrix Reloaded," the real Kim Jong II, a model with a fork in her mouth (story: "The Perfect Diet"), the affirmative-action model and an actual GI.
When I called up Newsweek to ask them about the cover, the first person I talked to said, flatly, that the person in the photograph was a student from Brooklyn College. At first I accepted that, but then became suspicious because, in the credit for the photograph, it says, "Eyewear courtesy of Ardee Eyewear." They decided that the black student they had didn't look studious enough and so they put some glasses on him? That really would have raised some issues. So I called back.
This time I got someone else, who said, no, the person in the photo was a model. He might also be, or have been, a student, but clearly that wasn't the reason he was chosen. We had a nice chat about how the photo came about. One reason they used the model was because of time constraints, the person said. They decided to go with a male over a female because the previous issue's cover (the lady with a fork in her mouth) was female; quotas are everywhere. The editor wanted someone who looked like he was good, solid college material. They shot some pictures with a tie, some without; same with the eyeglasses. Glasses are just a cliche, a symbol, a shorthand for studiousness.
At the end of the day, I have to say that I don't really feel misled by the fact that Newsweek chose to create a generic student rather than photographing an actual student. Others may differ. I report, you decide. There is one thing that bothers me though.
The obvious student for Newsweek to feature on its cover would have been … Jennifer Gratz, the very photogenic lead plaintiff in the Center for Individual Rights's (CIR) lawsuit against the University of Michigan's undergraduate program. Either that or Barbara Grutter, the plaintiff in CIR's suit against the law school.
But, of course they wouldn't do. They are the wrong victims, for heaven's sake. Those women are white. They would spoil the whole slant of the Newsweek story, and readers might be left thinking that the use of racial and ethnic preferences resulted in people being discriminated against. Can't have that. So get out there and find a bright-looking, clean-cut young black man, instead-you know, someone who looks sympathetic.

Roger Clegg is general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

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