We're bonding, all right

August 31, 2008|By kevin.cowherd | kevin.cowherd,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Let's get this whole touchy subject out in the open, shall we?

You've been reading the newly reinvented Baltimore Sun for a full week now, right?

And you either love the new look or you hate it. But the one thing you've asked yourself more than anything else is: What's with all the big, full-body columnist photos? Do I really want to see that much of these people?

Well, dear readers, you're preaching to the choir. Because we don't want you seeing that much of us, either.

Look, there's a reason most of us went into print journalism instead of TV. And you're seeing that reason every time you open the newspaper and stare at our huge pictures.

You think I like readers seeing a head-to-toe shot of me, with those stubby little legs and the pants drooping and that pasty, just-out-of-Leavenworth complexion?

Are you crazy? If I had my way, they wouldn't run a picture of me at all.

Or else it would be a tiny head shot, like one of those grainy photos you get off a surveillance camera when someone robs a bank.

The point is, just like you, we columnists are trying to get used to seeing our pictures looming Jolly Green Giant-sized next to our copy, with every facial and bodily imperfection blown up to cringe-inducing proportion.

So we ask your indulgence during this difficult period.

Sure it's hard for you to look at our pictures every day. But believe me, it's even harder for us to look at them.

As you might have noticed, there aren't a whole lot of different poses you can strike when they take your column picture.

Basically, you have the classic arms-crossed pose favored by news czarina Jean Marbella, business ace Jay Hancock, blogging wizard Andy Ratner and Page Two goddess Laura Vozzella - at least in her first photo for the redesign. (More on that later.)

Or you have the timeless hands-in-the-pants-pockets look favored by, well, me and just about every member of the sports staff.

Or you have some hybrid variation of the two.

Taste guru Rob Kasper, for instance, went with one hand in one pocket and other hand resting outside the other pocket, as if checking to see that his car keys are still there.

Consumer advocate Dan Thanh Dang went with a one-hand-gripping-the-other-elbow look, the pose favored by patients at the ER waiting to have a broken arm set.

And my buddy Dan Rodricks, dressed in a snazzy blazer, jeans and tassel loafers, went with one hand in his pocket and the other outstretched in conversation mode, as if addressing his neighborhood association about a variance for a tool shed.

Susan Reimer went with a fetching pose, one arm cocked at her waist, the other hand resting lightly on one hip. It must have worked. A male reader e-mailed her: "Tell your husband I could see Eliot Spitzer paying $5,000 for you."

But my favorite new photo is the one of Ravens Insider Mike Preston, who is shown holding a football.

Yes, now we even have props at The Baltimore Sun!

If I'd known that, I would have had my picture taken with a Siberian tiger or a Maserati or something. Look, if they let you have props, you gotta swing for the fences.

But Preston was an all-state offensive lineman in high school, played four years at Towson State and tried out for a pro team in Canada.

Plus he looks like he could still put on the pads and knock Ray Lewis around.

So why not show him holding a football? It's not like we're putting a reporter on a horse and passing him off as a racing writer.

As to why the newspaper opted for these big full-body photos, editor Tim Franklin says it's mainly to tighten the bond between the columnists and our readers and to give columnists better display.

OK, that might be a little too much display for some readers' tastes.

But look at the extraordinary lengths some of us have gone to glam it up for you readers.

Rodricks went out and got a spiffy new haircut.

Sports guy Peter Schmuck broke out a new Hawaiian shirt from his vast Don Ho collection.

Vozzella bought a new black suit at Talbots for her first shoot, and a new brown dress at Ann Taylor for her second shoot.

By the way, they shot her a second time because they decided that there were too many columnists posing with their arms crossed.

Plus Vozzella thought the original shot - I'm trying to be delicate here - made her butt look too big.

I don't know if there's any way to say this without being brought up on charges, but Vozzella doesn't really, um, have a big butt.

She's a slim woman and it was just her jacket billowing that created the, well, aforementioned effect.

Now her new column photo shows her with her hands folded demurely in front of her - a visionary pose in our columnist lineup.

And people say we never take chances or try anything different!

On a serious note, one thing you should know is that all of us - editors, reporters, columnists, designers and photographers - are working hard to put out the best newspaper we can.

I've been in the business 32 years and have never seen people work so hard.

So don't judge us by how goofy we look in these new photos.

Judge us by what we put in the paper every day.

One last thing, though.

Does that sports jacket I'm wearing make me look fat?

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