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By thisistwitchy  •  March 26, 2005 08:38 AM

Sharon Bond of the St. Petersburg Times reports on a controversy regarding the cover of the March issue of Harper’s magazine:

Marine recruits so new that their hair hasn’t been cut don’t sound like the best models for a story about soldiers going AWOL – particularly since none in the group is a deserter.

But there they are, pictured on the March cover of Harper’s magazine along with a headline that reads, “AWOL in America: When Desertion Is the Only Option.”

Lance Cpl. Kyle Bridge of St. Petersburg is one of them. When the 19-year-old Marine reservist first heard he was on the cover of a national magazine, he thought it sounded cool. A friend teased him about being famous.

Then he realized the story was about soldiers who desert from the U.S. Army.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” Bridge said. “Most people that see me, if they know me, they know I wouldn’t go AWOL.”

The cover photo, taken at Parris Island, S.C., shows seven Marines lined up in their T-shirts, shorts and socks. They are not identified in photo credits or in the article. In fact, Harper’s says the Marines are not meant to depict people in the article.

“We are decorating pages,” said Giulia Melucci, the magazine’s vice president for public relations. “We are not saying the soldiers are AWOL. Our covers are not necessarily representative.”

A media observer said using real people as “decorations” for a story about deserters might go too far.

“Going AWOL is not a favorable or positive thing,” said Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the St. Petersburg Times.

Another issue is that the photograph was altered. One recruit’s image appears lighter than the others, as if he were disappearing.

Getty Images, the agency that sold the photograph to Harper’s, did not know it would be manipulated. The agency prohibits tampering with an image.

“It’s clear to me the customer has broken the rules,” said Michael Sargent, Getty’s vice president in charge of editorial.

And what of the soldier in the fading image?

Lance Cpl. Britian Kinder, an active Marine who asked that his base not be identified, is upset.

“It does make me pretty angry that they would do something like this. I’m pretty much upset that they would do this without my consent.”

Hat tip to Florida Cracker, who comments:

Giulia Melucci, vice-president for public relations for Harper’s says the cover photo is merely decoration. There’s no word on what her reaction would be if she were pictured on the cover of Time with a knife superimposed in her hand to illustrate a story on “Women Who Kill.”

Or if the HQ of Harper’s was pictured on the cover of Newsweek to illustrate a story “Does Media Profit From Child Porn?”

Or “Magazines That Suck.”

Related: Ed Morrissey, “NYT Gets Hysterical About ‘Un-Volunteering'”

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