A fashion spread in the latest issue of the New York Times' monthly style magazine, 'T' has led to an interesting discussion about the newspaper's editorial policy on photo retouching. While New York Times editors strictly forbid any image manipulation beyond, 'minor color-toning and brightness for production purposes' in news stories, retouches and removal of blemishes are allowed in the style magazine's fashion photography.

This New York Timess T magazine cover image has sparked a discussion over the role of photo retouching in an news-branded publication. Click for a link to the online version of the magazine.

This all came to light when New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, blogged about reader complaints that the issue's cover model was, among other things, 'too skinny', promoting an unhealthy body image. Sullivan contacted T magazine editor, Deborah Needleman and got this response: 'She is rather thin for my taste...and I considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop'. The response drew rebukes not only from readers, but New York Times journalist Jonathan Schwartz responded via his Twitter feed that her comment was, 'jaw-dropping'.

In defending this exception to journalistic norms, New York Times editors argue that readers accept that fashion photography is about fantasy and do not bring to it the same expectations as they would for a news story. Yet, as Sullivan rightly points out, T magazine is still an, 'editorial product...produced by journalists who are a part of the newsroom structure'.

Does a newspaper risk credibility by allowing retouching on editorially-branded content? Or does the very nature of fashion photography merit an exception in a news organization? Let us know what you think in the comments below.