The Political Image: Stand by Your Man

The news guidelines don’t make these news events any less morally confusing for all involved, however. In today’s New York Times Dana Matos McGreevy, former wife of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevy, explains why she stood holding his hand when he admitted to being a “gay American” and cheating on her. In doing so, however, she also urges the public (and the public’s representatives, journalists) to lay off. Frankly, all I was thinking about was my daughter. If I had to do it over again, I

Day two of the Spitzer scandal has produced no imagery to help shape the story—mainly because the governor and his family are in seclusion. But regarding yesterday’s post about whether the innocent spouse should be included in the photo coverage, the comments were illuminating. One reader wrote:

It’s our responsibility to show the reality in what is portrayed right in front of us…even when cropping is allowed in the world of photojournalism, it’s still honorable to show the whole situation.

I tend to agree. When the spouse steps into the public spotlight, the public will expect to see it. And the journalist's responsibility, finally, is with his or her audience. Those are ground rules. They are the rules that journalists, politicians, and the public are all well acquainted with by now. (NPR has a nice little portfolio of those moments on its website.)

The news guidelines don’t make these news events any less morally confusing for all involved, however. In today’s New York Times Dana Matos McGreevy, former wife of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevy, explains why she stood holding his hand when he admitted to being a “gay American” and cheating on her. In doing so, however, she also urges the public (and the public’s representatives, journalists) to lay off.

Frankly, all I was thinking about was my daughter. If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing. I did it for my daughter’s father. I wasn’t the first such person in this situation, and Ms. Wall Spitzer won’t be the last. This will happen again, and when it does, let’s skip the psychoanalysis and judgments heaped on the wife. She’s not the elected official. Let him face the cameras on his own.

Reporters, photographers, and public figures know what to do, but that doesn’t necessarily make doing it easy.Photo above by Timothy A. Clary for AFP/Getty Images.—David Schonauer

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