NBC Today show accused of airbrushing photo of trans gender swimmer

Mar 22, 2022

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

NBC Today show accused of airbrushing photo of trans gender swimmer

Mar 22, 2022

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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NBC’s Today show has attracted controversy after allegedly airbrushing an image of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas after she finished first in an event.

The University of Pennsylvania student was competing in the NCAA Championships when the image was taken. Twitter users quickly noticed the difference between the images and called out NBC for its apparent doctoring of the image. Further investigation, however, reveals that there is more to the story than merely that of a Photoshop misdemeanour.

Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win the NCAA title in the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the weekend. Thomas was born biologically male, although she transitioned to female in 2019 and has been taking hormone replacement therapy since then.

According to the NCAA, transgender athletes must have been taking hormones for a minimum of 1 year prior to competing, which Thomas had adhered to. Prior to 2019, Thomas competed in male races, placing 554th as male.

So what does this have to do with air-brushing a photo, you may ask? Well, in pretty much every way you look at this it becomes problematic. Firstly, why is a news outlet airbrushing any photos? Surely that is the number one rule in journalism. What was the reason behind the decision to change it? We have to hope that it was just a poorly made decision on the part of NBC and not done in order to try to make Thomas look more feminine, as many of the comments on Twitter have suggested.

The inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sport has become an increasingly hot topic, particularly since trans weight lifter Laurel Hubbard competed in the 2020 Olympics. Supporters of women’s sport argue that even after hormone replacement, the physical advantages of experiencing male puberty cannot be downplayed.

However, according to scientific experts, there is little or no scientific research regarding the performance of elite transgender athletes. The United Nations has called required hormone suppression “unnecessary, humiliating and harmful,” and there continues to be debate about the extent to which testosterone provides an advantage in athletic performance.

With all this in mind, it’s fairly obvious that there is already a considerable amount of controversy around the subject, both in support of trans rights, and support of women’s sport. The problem is compounded when a news outlet apparently changes an image and in doing so, appears to lend weight to one camp of argument over another. The issue is further compounded by the so-called ‘cancel culture’ where anyone who speaks out in favour of women’s rights as athletes is often immediately branded as “transphobic”. In turn, this can actually create more negative attitudes and illicit more violence towards the trans communities.

This is likely to be an ongoing controversy as gender rights and trans rights continue to evolve, particularly in the world of sport. Media outlets and photojournalists have a duty to report the facts, and not distort the reporting of events based on popular political points of view. As uncomfortable as it may be, the world needs to listen to each other and acknowledge differences in opinion without those opinions becoming weaponised or politicised.

As I said, gender arguments aside, why are they airbrushing any of these photos for anybody?

 

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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18 responses to “NBC Today show accused of airbrushing photo of trans gender swimmer”

  1. Max Headroom Avatar
    Max Headroom

    To simply answering your question, it’s quite obvious. They are trying to make him look more like a girl.

    1. Angelina Devine Avatar
      Angelina Devine

      That is not a him, that is a her, saying anything else is transfobic.

  2. Don Ashcraft Avatar
    Don Ashcraft

    There is no “true photography”. No camera or camera system can replicate what the eye and the human brain sees. Almost all modern photography is touched up edited and changed. Often it occurs within camera automatically.

    Even after the photo is taken, editors routinely use editing software to soften glare and many other aspects of photography that make people look unflattering. At times, they go too far and do more than they should. Certainly in this case they should have been more careful.

  3. Blues Dude Avatar
    Blues Dude

    Photos of athletes competing should never be retouched because they are “news.” The way that Thomas’ photo was changed suggests that NBC was being politically correct; NBC’s Today show is entertainment, not news, but it blurs the distinction between news and entertainment. FYI: I have over 30 years of experience as a journalist.

  4. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    I ain’t jumping on any gender bandwagon. As for the subject at hand, the changing of this photo, is NBC making her look better to show that she is a she to get more people to watch/look. I would not go as to far to say they may have done it deliberately and event pointed it out to get this attention they are getting. Clicks are money.

  5. Jane Foestry Avatar
    Jane Foestry

    Because they have zero integrity. What do you think got us into this mess?

  6. Il Pope Avatar
    Il Pope

    I find it ridiculous that my comment was removed. I just paraphrased Austin Powers and commented that he is a man. Why? I guess we are not entitled to express our opinions about the obvious fact that she is a he. Oh well.

    1. Angelina Devine Avatar
      Angelina Devine

      That you chose to call her a man – is transfobic and should be removed, just like this comment should. You should be ashamed of your self.

      1. John Albano Avatar
        John Albano

        It’s hilarious watching you genderpolice the posts in this thread. LOL :)

        1. Angelina Devine Avatar
          Angelina Devine

          I will always fight for basic human rights, this is one of them.

          1. John Albano Avatar
            John Albano

            Fight da good fight, girl. o7

      2. IlPope Avatar
        IlPope

        I think you are entitled to your opinion in the same way I am to mine. I’m also entitled to disagree with you the same way you disagreed. I will not, however, try to silence you in any way shape or form like is is routinely done (my original comment is yet another attempt to censure opinions).

        1. Angelina Devine Avatar
          Angelina Devine

          I think basic human rights shouldn’t be an opinion. So no, I do not think people are entitled to make transphobic, homophobic, racist or other hateful comments, ever.

          Removing hateful comments are not censorship, that is a private business, deciding they will not let you be hateful, in their forum.

          1. IlPope Avatar
            IlPope

            I see, It is OK for you to express your opinion but not for me. Got it!
            On a side note, My comment was removed yet again. Well done!
            I see no future in this discussion as my voice cannot be heard, even when I state the obvious.

          2. Pika the Lagomorpha Avatar
            Pika the Lagomorpha

            You’re being pretty hateful yourself. When will your comments be removed?

        2. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          FYI: Censor and censure mean two different things.

          And you can say whatever you like on your own website.

          1. IlPope Avatar
            IlPope

            You are right. I meant Censor but censure also fits in a way that I am expressing my disapproval of removing my on-topic comments.
            I think I will leave now.

  7. corey hutton Avatar
    corey hutton

    And Today in Worthless News only an IDIOT could care about…
    Hence the reason Women are acting like it matters and one “Wrote” this. HAHAHA!