Nineteen years ago, a young co-ed named Gwen Jacob strolled topless down the streets of Guelph, Ontario. That hot summer day was destined to become even hotter for Jacob as her simple, impetuous act landed her in hot water for years to come.
The issue of public nudity raised by Jacob's actions and how it is covered by the media was revisited in this article written by Stephanie Dearing. Dearing posted a story to the Digital Journal, complete with photos, from a recent Guelph celebration held to honor Jacob's walk. Some photos from Dearing's report were taken down by DJ editors due to their frontal nudity, while other less revealing images were left to illustrate her story.
Jacob may have run afoul of our prudish laws in 1991 but it was not until 1996 that the charge against Jacob was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal, ending years of legal wrangling. It was a decision that let Jacob put the events of 1991 in the past and in proper perspective. It was a decision that was not handled with the same maturity by much of Canada's media.
The word rippled through Canadian newsrooms, "Women have the right to go topless!" Photographers, they like to be called photojournalists in the newspaper business, were dispatched to pools and beaches across the province to capture shots of the hordes of bare breasted Canadian women released upon the nation.
Even the respected New York Times noted the shock waves reverberating through the far north as Canadian moral standards were shredded, left in tatters by legions of half-naked women. The caption under their art read: "In Ottawa, women are allowed to go topless at beaches and outdoor pools. At a beach, Lisa Regimbal walked by a topless Connie Morden. (Canadian Press)
I have a black and white copy of that picture and Lisa looks properly put off by the chance encounter. The iconic image was shot by an award-winning Ottawa Sun photographer who later moved it to The Canadian Press. That is how the world found out that Ottawa women go topless.
A year later the Ottawa Sun ran another shot from the same staff shooter's topless-on-an-Ottawa-beach assignment, but there was one big difference between the two photographs: The blonde woman, so aghast at encountering nudity on a local beach in the first picture is quite relaxed as she chats with her half naked friend in this second image. Here are the cutlines used by the Ottawa Sun under the second picture: "Last summer, Lisa Regimbal, left, bear (sic) it all while chatting with Connie Morden." (Yes, that is the quote. Bares is spelled incorrectly and the young ladies have had their names switched.)
Ah, the persuasive power of the naked breast --- or maybe not. The pictures were set-up. It was so difficult to find naked women on the beach in Ottawa that the Sun had to use models. A clue is found in the cutlines that ran in The London Free Press, another Sun Media paper. The image is referred to as an "illustration." When contacted, the mother of one of the models confirmed that the Ottawa Sun topless-at-the-beach pictures were indeed fake; They were taken at an arranged photo shoot.
Note the two pictures running side by side that introduce this opinion piece. The young woman on the left was posing for an illustration to accompany a news story. The image on the right is from the recent DJ article. One picture is definitely honest and the other is highly questionable. Which picture was taken by a photojournalist and which one by a photographer? In this instance, I vote for the DJ photo.
I know the Toronto Sun moved a lot of images of topless lasses that summer so many years ago to other papers in the Sun Media chain, and I know that the editors at The London Free Press were duly thankful. These images were given careful consideration but after much soul searching they were always rejected.
Ample attention was always given to the more than ample number of images featuring young women who were shall we say "more than ample." The London Free Press editors always decided there were enough incongruities among the photos to cast doubt on their veracity. These pictures were all illustrations and not news photos.
It is interesting that the Digital Journal pulled the first pictures posted to their online newspaper from the topless event held this weekend in Guelph celebrating Gwen Jacob's triumph. Naked breasts may now be seen in public but naked breasts are still not going to be seen on the electronic pages of the Digital Journal, or on those of most other papers.
DJ replaced the offending images with honest, if standard, photos showing naked backs suggesting naked fronts. These pictures still told the story but in in a muted tone. The Digital Journal editors may be conservative but, unlike their MSM counterparts from the past, they are honest.
This may seem like a small thing but stories should report stories as found. Stories should not be twisted about to mesh with some foregone conclusion. And if you paid careful attention to the published cutlines you would have noticed that the names of the women shown were switched from one picture to the other. As I was saying, accuracy was not the focus here.