Say Something

closeup looking toward a woman who's holding a camera and about to take a photo

You can call this Crisis PR or simply using human decency. But, when something goes sideways with your life or business, it’s better to say something than let others speak for you.

Aristotle famously said that “nature abhors a vacuum”. Substitute “nature” with “social media” and you’ve got the makings of a rumour mill that’s hard to stop. Filling that void with an explanation or apology and a promise to do better might save a reputation.

Case in point. This photograph.

It leaped out at me from a page in Canadian Home Trends Magazine. Do you see it? The woman’s face and neck have been lightened but her belly has not. My emotional response was horror. I sent it to a professional photographer I know and asked for his response.

Jay wrote: “In post-production, they often bring up the mid-tones on a face to make it the focal point in the photo. If you look at the light hitting her hands it should be similar to her face. Whoever did the retouching of this photo should have increased shadow detail around her abs and hands to make it match. I would say they lightened her face way more than is realistic. White-washing or bad photo retouching skills? Hard to say!”

Unlike the way most of the rest of the world reacts, I didn’t immediately go on social media and call the magazine names. Instead, I sent an email to the mag and gave them the benefit of the doubt. The editor and I both used to write columns for Sun newspapers. I waited for more than a month. Not a peep.

And here I am, filling in the vacuum. Was this an intentional attempt to lighten her skin and they missed the abs? I suppose I’ll never know but, having no official explanation, I’m still a little pissed off.

I don’t want them vilified, but I would like to know how something like this happened. It is a bad job at best and horribly racist at worst. Right now, I have no idea where it falls in a range of reasons.

We experience this in business and in our personal relationships. Nature abhors a vacuum. If we leave someone else to fill in the blank spots, they will, and usually with wrong information.

I recently tried an iron supplement from Nature’s Bounty, described as “gentle”. Well, I’m going back to my old brand now because it upset my stomach terribly. I attempted to post an honest but negative review and received this in return:

Nature's Bounty response reads, "Our staff has read your review and values your contribution even though it did not meet all our website guidelines.:

Twits! I will not deal with a company that censors bad reviews and refuses to deal with the issue in question. They basically told me to shove off, we don’t want to deal with you. Poor form, Nature’s Bounty – poor form.

It’s (almost) always better to say something. Tell the client the project will be late rather than let your silence cause them to worry that it won’t get done at all. Admit you screwed up and promise it won’t happen again. And for goodness sake, respond to a subscriber who’s concerned about an awful photo and just wants to know how it got that way.

9 thoughts on “Say Something”

  1. It’s perfectly reasonable to critique a person/company publicly after you have made a private question and received no response.
    You are always fair in your assessments and it never comes off as a knee jerk reaction. Keep it up. The interweb needs more people with your journalistic integrity.

  2. There’s so much retouching done in magazine photos. I used to say about Playboy Magazine, “These women don’t exist.” And they don’t, in the form they are presented in the magazine. I think Derek is right, though — this is now an issue of journalistic integrity. We can’t have the same standards we used to always use when the world has changed so much. This company needs a lesson in PR because hoping something will blow over rarely works.

  3. I am always grateful for people like you Lisa, who, not only are aware of inconsistencies between races in our world, but have the guts to speak out. I am sure I am a good, kind, generous person, and I hate injustice, but I tend to fade into the background when it comes to speaking my mind. I also don’t always see the obvious. When I looked at that photo and tried to find the problem, I thought the carrot maybe looked like a penis. So an example of me not seeing the obvious….my daughter and I walk each morning around our subdivision and one morning, she pointed to something and exclaimed…Oh My God. I looked and could not really see what she was pointing at, only a statue on the porch….in my defense, it was early morning and not yet light, but it turned out to be a black lawn jockey. To make a long story short, from that, my daughter spoke to a few people in the area, and after a few months, the Thamesford Inclusion Collective came into being. Their mission is to ensure that everyone living in Thamesford feels included and valued. So the statue is no longer on the porch (they were a very lovely couple and had no idea of the racist connotations). I know this was not the whole point of your blog, but I just wanted to tell you how your words and actions affected me.

    1. Thanks so much, Robyn. I appreciate knowing that story and that the couple simply didn’t know. It happens. It’s more proof that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions without knowing the facts.

  4. Can help but wonder how the model feels about this? I have to admit I didn’t see the issue till you pointed it out. But I know this happens all to frequently. So sad that we cannot just accept people for who they are, no matter their skin tone. Here’s hoping that we can get there one day soon.

    1. That’s a great point, Liz. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to know whether it was a stock photo or one of their own.

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