ON JUNE 27, 1994, Time and Newsweek magazines published the same cover image of actor and ex-sports star OJ Simpson, who was on trial for the alleged murder of his wife Nicole. But there was one glaring difference between the two cover portraits. While Newsweek used the unaltered mug shot photo of Simpson supplied by the Los Angeles Police Department, Time digitally doctored the image for their cover — darkening Simpson’s face in what some commentators claimed was a deliberate attempt by the magazine to demonise him. The photo manipulation of Simpson rendered his blackness both unequivocal and menacing, in a murder case already infused with race — with Simpson, the black defendant, accused of murdering his blonde white wife.
TIME AND NEWSWEEK COVERS CONTRAST
The association of dark skin with innate evil has a long history, dating back to the early Christian Fathers of the third century. At the same time, within contemporary culture, dark skin is viewed as less attractive, particularly within the black, Asian and Indian communities, where large quantities of skin-lightening creams are sold every year.
Time’s controversial cover would probably have gone unnoticed if Newsweek’s version had not appeared simultaneously, allowing readers to instantly compare the two executions. When the cover was being put together, the bosses at Time gave the photo to graphic artist Matt Mahurin to “interpret”. “I wanted to make it more artful, more compelling” he suggested.
PHOTOSHOP MANIPULATION BIAS
The magazine received a barrage of criticism from all quarters. Their journalistic ethics were called into question — instead of unbiased reporting of the news, they were guilty of creating their own inauthentic version of it. Time’s managing editor, James R. Gaines stated that he regretted doctoring the cover photo, and that “no racial implication was intended, by Time or by the artist.”
In a rare about face, the backlash led to the company pulling the edition from the newsstands and replacing it with a revised cover. Time’s newsstand sales are small compared to its subscriber base, and so the original cover stayed in circulation throughout homes and offices.
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During his 1994 murder trial case, OJ Simpson appeared on the covers of the June 27, 1994 editions of Time and Newsweek magazine. Controversy exploded after Time (right), used photo manipulation to deliberately darken his face.
The O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: 'Time' Altered Image Via Photoshop
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OJ Simpson's original mug shot used in the Time and Newsweek covers.
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*THE OJ SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase “OJ Simpson photo manipulation” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “OJ Simpson case” each month.
*All figures for “The OJ Simpson Murder Trial According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.
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