Tahlequah Daily Press


August 20, 2012

The heads on their shoulders harry page designers

TAHLEQUAH — If Mitt Romney wants to be president, he ought have reconstructive surgery on his skull. And if Barack Obama wants to STAY president, he should pin back his ears.

I’m not the only newspaper editor who feels this way, and my opinion is not based on lookism, racism, sexism or any other “ism.” It’s just that their heads don’t fit the standard boxes designed for mugshots.

Specific facial features of newsmakers are celebrated by editorial cartoonists. Folks with no defining features do not make good subjects for these artists, who home in on a particular aspect of a countenance, and exaggerate it so viewers will immediately recognize the caricature. Bill Clinton was depicted as far more jowly than he really was, with a super-bulbous nose. Richard Nixon’s olfactory organ looked like a ski slope that would have given Shaun White fits of ecstasy.

But what’s rich sauce for the editorial cartoonist can be messy gruel for the editor – or more specifically, the page designer. Some editors just edit copy, but those who wear many hats also design pages. That means to break up the “gray” of a news story, we might drop in a thumbnail-sized box for the facial photo of the subject. Facial photos, in journalese, are called “mugshots.” These should not be confused with photos taken when an alleged miscreant is booked into jail, with backgrounds showing the suspect’s height, both forward-facing and in profile.

Mugshot boxes are typically a bit deeper than they are wide, because human heads are typically longer than they are wide. As newspaper “webs” have decreased in width, pages have become narrower, and mugshot boxes have gotten smaller to accommodate the narrower “columns.” Our mug boxes are .8 inches wide and 1 inch deep.

Years ago, the owners of the Press brought in the chief photographer for the Oklahoman to teach us techniques, including mugshot cropping. We were using larger mug boxes, and were trying to get every part of the head – which sometimes included “big hair” – into the mug box, with a little air on all sides. The Oklahoman photog’s mugs zoomed in on the key facial features: the eyes, nose and mouth. It didn’t bother him to lop off ears, chins and foreheads. We were appalled. It seemed deceptive – immoral, really – to crop out everything but the central 6 inches of a face.

Now, we’ve resigned ourselves. If we want the average face to show up any bigger than a pinhead, we have to make concessions. So if part of the auditory organs must be sacrificed in the name of expediency and proper form, bring on the blade.

When Obama first came on the scene, we knew his side protuberances would be an issue. Cartoonists reveled in his slightly oversized ears, which are his trademark trait, along with his enviably skinny frame. And he’s black, of course, which is unique (thus far) to presidential renderings; the skin tone requires the editorial cartoonist to use more ink. The ink’s not a problem for the mugbox, though the ears are. Initially we clipped them a couple of times, and an uber-Democratic friend or two called to complain. But depending on Obama’s angle in the frame, they help offset the narrow head.

Romney is the biggest challenge to come along in years. He’s an attractive man, with proportionate ears, but the shape of his head could be compared to – how shall I put this to avoid getting unfriended on Facebook by staunch Republican friends? – a member of the “Mr. Ed” family. Mitt forces us to choose which feature succumbs to the crop: the hair or the chinny-chin-chin. Sometimes both, especially if he’s got his mouth open.

Fortunately, the Press is a community newspaper, so most of our mugshots are of local people. Given the nature of our population, many of these mugshots are also the OTHER kind – taken by a deputy rather than a reporter. But others are often handicapped by a coif or a chapeau. I’ve often worried about offending our sheriff, who, as far as I know, has never been photographed without a cowboy hat. He seems to be OK as long as the pic is the “one with the black hat,” as opposed to the one “with the lighter hat.” Then there’s the “big hair” quagmire. Puffed ‘dos with bangs that rear up like angry cobras are destined to slip out of frame, and more than a few local women have complained. One gal called to say, “Hey, what’s the deal? I just got my hair done up and dyed down to Cyndi’s for that pitcher.”

As Americans grow more obese, their faces will also grow wider, and we’ll likely have to revamp our standard mug box to a square format. There may even be a day when the box is wider than it is tall. When that happens, the ears will disappear, no matter how expensive the earrings.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

Text Only
  • Wild West pits U.S. government against “We the people”

    Unless one has been living under a rock over the past week, one couldn’t have missed the recent standoff in Nevada between a rancher and the U.S. government. It’s only one incident in many that has the government of the people pitted against the people.

    April 16, 2014

  • Bodily functions don’t belong in job interviews

    For all you soon-to-be college grads who will be trying to join the rest of us suckers in the workforce, I have a word of advice: Don’t pass gas during the interview.

    April 14, 2014

  • As Moore tornado anniversary nears, documentaries ask, ‘Where was God?’

    But one question put to readers in a publication that crossed my desk was a bit confusing to me. It asks its readers: “Where was God?”

    April 9, 2014

  • A pound of bacon is better than a pig in love

    Whatever happened to the cavemen in the Geiko insurance commercials? Those were some of the least-offensive TV blurbs I’ve ever seen, and they were original. But like any other good idea, this one fell victim to the kind of corporate tampering that always insists on fixing what ain’t broken.

    April 7, 2014

  • Escape from Auschwitz: To the 21st century

    One would have to question whether our world has gone mad in this, the 21st century, or if we are doomed to repeat the historical past.

    March 30, 2014

  • Volunteers needed to ‘Clean up Tahlequah’

    There’s a movement afoot that tugs at the pride of the folks calling Tahlequah and the rest of Cherokee County home. It’s an appeal for everyone – from the youngest to the oldest – to clean up the turf around them. Call it a campaign or a program, but what it really boils down to is a shoutout to all of us to resist contributing to the roadside trash we see, now that the snows of winter are behind us.

    March 24, 2014

  • U.S. debt threatens dollar as world currency

    March 16, 2014

    March 17, 2014

  • A sense of entitlement

    March 16, 2014

    March 17, 2014

  • It’s the publisher who sets the tone – and courage is key

    Daily Press readers should be gratified to know they have a publisher who brings courage and experience to our newspaper; who will stand as a bulwark against outside forces that might try to suppress information; and who believes in the tenet of “fair comment and criticism.” Anyone who knows me can attest I’ve always felt the same way – but the editor doesn’t get to set the tone, unless the publisher allows it.

    March 10, 2014

  • Putin switches attention from Olympics to taking over Ukraine

    Russia’s President Vladamir Putin, former head of the KGB before the Soviet Union splintered under the weight of the arms race, has taken up his old habits now that the international community has vacated Sochi and the Olympic torch has been extinguished.
    It seems as though Putin wants the old Soviet Empire to rise again.

    March 6, 2014


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later