Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Image Doctoring, Without Photoshop

Screen Caps of Actual University of California, Davis websites on the morning of November 22, 2011:

(The English department's home page)

The image mavens of Roxie's World have a healthy respect for the work of universities' marketing and communications divisions. For all our snarking about doublespeak and gutlessness on campus, we appreciate the challenges of creating identities for institutions of higher education and promoting them like crazy in the marketplace. (Seriously, kids -- The Moms have drawers full of QTU tee-shirts, and Moose has a Queer the Turtle sticker on her laptop. She came up with that slogan and fought hard for the right to use it. Don Draper's got nothing on Moose.)

Truth be told, we even respect the need to protect the brand/reputation of an institution during a moment of crisis -- which explains why my typist was frantically screen-capping these images of UC Davis websites this morning before they disappear. They strike us as particularly compelling examples of institutional communication in a context of crisis. A click on that "I'm Here to Apologize" bubble superimposed on the photo of Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi speaking yesterday at an assembly on the Quad takes you to an information-rich page that includes a gallery of high-quality photos from the rally as well as links to reports on the latest developments in the unfolding story (e.g., reaction from UC President Mark Yudof, announcement that campus police chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave while the pepper-spraying incident is being investigated). Sure, it's all butt-covering and strategery, but to our eyes the whole package does a decent job of reporting on events in a fairly neutral fashion. We give Davis credit for giving such prominence on the home page to Katehi's apology with a strong image that bumps all the happy talk off the screen. We're not sure the effort will save Katehi's job -- but then again that's probably not the goal. The aim here is to show that the institution is making a sincere effort to make amends for an outrageously over-the-top response to student protest. Katehi is, for the moment, the face of that institutional response. It seems appropriate to feature her in this fashion.

The English profs, dog love them, take a different tack, using the home page of the department's website to echo demands for Katehi's resignation and the disbanding of the campus police department. It's astonishing, really, in the age of top-down message management, to see such a powerful example of off-the-reservation communication. Paws up to you, lit critters, for using your website to go all righteous and truth-to-power-y in the midst of crisis. We appreciate your candor, and we wish we had time to go trolling around to see what other Davis departments are doing with their websites. But we don't, alas.

We also sincerely regret that we didn't screen cap Penn State's home page at the height of the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Pa nightmare, but if you look at that (badly designed) site now you'll see a lot of tepid gobbledygook about "moving forward." It may be harder to talk about allegations of child sex abuse than a rogue cop with a spray can, but we think Davis kicks Penn State's a$$ communications-wise in this instance. What do you think, darlings?

Oh, and if you still haven't gotten your fill of Photoshopped images of the Man With the Can, go here, where you will find things like this to brighten up your day:

Don't say we never gave you nothin', my pretties. Peace out.

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